In what was a generally unspectacular episode of Real Time With Bill Maher last night, we were treated to a visit from our national conscience, David Simon.
Simon, the creator of Homicide: Life On The Street, The Wire, and Treme, says the only way to judge an administration is over the course of history. The former newspaperman-turned-cultural storyteller thinks that "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" is the most loaded question in American politics and diminishes the election:
Whether it's Bush's mess, or Obama's mess, or even Clinton's (who got the bank deregulation ball rolling) is immaterial to Simon. There is no quick fix. Campaigns need long-term solutions, but they are handcuffed by projections and results in the prism of the 24-hour news cycle. Is it any wonder that they've reverted to lying when they can't conform to the impulsive demands that the media has forced upon the people?
That business of four years being the metric for anything? We have a political culture that everyone plants annuals, they plant pretty flowers that come up the next spring. What we need is a political culture where somebody plants a fuckin' olive tree, which doesn't even give you an olive for seven years. That's how you fix an economy...When that olive tree becomes an orchard.
And in regards to his own personal crusade, the drug war, it is too combustible a topic for any President to tackle in his first term. Half of a president's first term is about trying to fulfill missions from the campaign, while the other half is about getting reelected. Only in the second term can a president take on the nation's overwhelming incarceration rate as it relates to non-violent drug crimes. And even then, he's not certain Obama's the guy to do it:
It was Nixon that went to China, and it will be some reactionary Republican that actually looks at the drug war and says, "You know what? This isn't cost effective."
While we know on which side Simon's politics lie - it's really with an asterisk and a gun to his head. He thinks both sides are corrupt and the system is broken. You saw the evolution in The Wire of Tommy Carcetti the crusading mayoral candidate, and then the selling out of the mayor in office on his way to becoming governor.
Maybe David Simon's next project will be to portray an unconventional president. Judging by the above quotes, the dialogue alone would send Aaron Sorkin's The West Wing into TV oblivion.