There are different levels of winning and losing. In the the lifelong, trans-generational and eternal perspectives and in the quarterly earnings report or even shorter term perspectives. I would say that by most standards I consider myself to be very far from either success or influence. The news is mostly about successful and influential people and that is not a bad thing in itself. This post is about some of the influential people who are very far from my daily life.
President Barack Hussein Obama who said his farewells in Chicago recently was just one of several people who has recently grabbed national attention with words about this transition. I listened to and watched this speech and also heard Meryl Streep’s speech on the occasion of winning the Cecil B. De Mille Award at the Golden Globes. In addition, I have been told about the Trump Tower Press Conference where Donald Trump laid out his plans for distancing himself from the Trump Organization while President of the United States. But I only saw the end of it and some clips and highlights over the last few days. One of the subjects of the press conference was the dirty dossier claiming that Trump was compromised by information collected by Russian intelligence. That report (it appears) was prepared by a former British intelligence officer for private interests.
Many people have chosen to way in on these varied acts of communication. Much of the Hollywood community has banded together in support of the nearly legendary Ms. Streep — although some, such as Mark Wahlberg have been critical of her effort to politicize the occasion. One person who did reach out to her in support was Robert De Niro. His letter has since been published in the media. “What you said was great. It needed to be said, and you said it beautifully. I have so much respect for you that you did it while the world was celebrating your achievements.” De Niro’s letter. Although MS. Streep is someone for whom I have the greatest respect as an actress she has been largely confined to her excellence in that field in my mind. I did not include her or very many other actors in my list published in 2011 of the Most Watchable People in the Coming Decade. Clearly not including her or Donald Trump seems to indicate some limitations to the list. However I did include Robert De Niro in the list the link to his biography is here. What follows is the totality of his biography as it appears in this post about five years ago:
4. Robert De Niro, Jr. was born August 17, 1943 and is an American actor, director, and producer. His father was a well-respected expressionist painter who was well-educated and whose own father was an Italian-American but whose mother was Irish American. Serious artistic respect runs in the family. This living DeNiro is widely considered one of the greatest actors of his generation and just a day or so before this posting he received the Cecile B. DeMille Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association ans that is a high ranking lifetime achievement ward presented at the Golden Globes. DeNiro’s first major film role was in 1973’s Bang the Drum Slowly. In 1974, he played the young Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, where he created a legendary niche for himself with an iconic character in a role that won him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He made the first of a number of significant films Martin Scorsese in 1973 when he played in Mean Streets. Later DeNiro worked with Scorsese and earned an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Jake LaMotta in the 1980 film, Raging Bull. Other Scorsese films for which he was nominated but did not win were Taxi Driver (1976) and Cape Fear (1991). In addition, he received nominations for his acting in Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter (1978) and Penny Marshall’s Awakenings (1990). This was one of the many roles he has done which was outside of the urban American tough guy. Outside of the Oscars he earned four nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy: New York, New York (1977), Midnight Run (1989), Analyze This (1999) and Meet the Parents (2000). He has made a large number of appearances in film and has succeeded as a director as well as an actor. However DeNiro makes this list largely because he founded the Tribeca Film Festival in 2002 with Craig Hatkoff and Jane Rosenthal. This festival is part of Deniro’s identity as a New Yorker and was founded in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the many faced loss of vitality and hope in the TriBeCa neighborhood and the rest of Manhattan. The festival has featured hundreds of films and is making the world more aware of New York’s significant role in world of film. DeNiro has tied himself into the story with which this series and this list is intimately tied.
De Niro did not make the top ten people on the list although he did make the list. However, two people much discussed in these days did make the top of the list. The truth is that these are strange times but Russia, Hollywood and the Presidency are predictably interesting parts of our lives in this society. Vladimir Putin has been the focus of a great deal of discussion and one wonders if there will still be and effort to nullify the election based on his alleged involvement. I say one wonders, we shall see what happens next before and after the Inauguration Day events.
One of the strangers I choose to mention in this post who has been in the news a lot lately is Vladimir Putin. Following this sentence, I quote in its entirety here my brief biography of him which appeared in this blog in a post in 2011 to be found here:
5. Vladimir Putin ,Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, Влади́мир Влади́мирович Пу́тин, born on October 7, 1952 is a vigorous probably more physically fit than I on almost every measure despite being almost eight years my senior at an age where that really matters. Putin served as the post Soviet Russian Federation’s second President and is the current Prime Minister of Russia, as well as chairman of United Russia and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus and he is a man of broad appeal among several segments of Russian society. He may be that kind of person once referred to as a reappearance of Aratos (a Greek politician of long ago) and because of who he is and his attitudes he will remain Putin while he remains alive. He became acting President as the world celebrated huge numbers of parties and even those disputing the calendric significance on all sort of bases had gotten into the act of a millennial party this happened on my ex-wife’s thirty-third birthday which was December 21, 1999, when president Boris Yeltsin resigned in a surprising move. Putin’s rise to office slipped under this worldwide camouflage in a way that would be worthy of a former intelligence officer. He then began consolidating his power in a way that combined traditional Russian, Soviet, progressive democratic elements into a new decisive style. won the 2000 presidential election and in 2004 he was reelected for a second term lasting until 7 May 2008.He has many hopes he still cannot really do anything to achieve but he keeps chipping away at the obstacles. Putin did not demonize Yeltsin and the recent regime nor set about abolishing its forms and reforms in a systematic and aggressive way. Most of his harshest critics would acknowledge his role in creating or restoring political orderly process and Securing the rule of law. His presidency included gains such as the fact that Russia’s economy avoided a terrible and developing crisis, the increase by over 70% in the GDP , and probably lifting half the Russian poor out of poverty as well as securing the fragile middle class and working class segments of the new Russia by seeing average monthly salaries increase from less than $100 to well over $500. While high oil prices were part of this miracle his management of the oil boom was among the better responses to such mineral driven influxes of wealth in a crisis which the world has seen. He likes healing and building better but could become a figure of destruction fomenting hate — it just depends on too many factors to sort out here. His conduct in office has not always earned the respect of independent evaluators and its faults have been shown forth by domestic political opposition. Mostly he can be criticized his record of both real and perceived restoration of some Soviet abuses which have violated human rights and freedoms; this has included improper conduct toward vocal opponents acts towards the former Soviet Republics both aggressive and of questionable legitimacy. He has shown a talent for balance, both in becoming Prime Minister and waiting to be able to run again and in his UN behavior with former Soviet Republics he seems to play a very hard game of politics rather than the great communist fault of abolishing civilized politics until the need becomes to great to avoid restoring them. He helped save what he could of socialist safety nets, bureaucratic expertise and tradition while securing emerging capitalism, free markets and private property. President Putin passed into law essential reforms such as a flat 13% income tax , a reduced profits tax, was well as credible and juridically workable land and legal codes . Based on his achievements, Putin is a man about whom pop songs have been written and performed. He is still exceptionally vigorous. There is little that can be done to contain his personal networks or his base of popular support within and around Russia.
He is a man with whom a new future could be negotiated for the world should that happen and that has not been true of most Soviet leaders in my view.
Another stranger who was also on the list of Watchable people and made the final ten was President Obama. His biography appears just after this sentence, the link here is the same as the one above Putin’s biography. The tone of both biographies written half a decade ago is what it is and i do not shy away from either one. The truth is that Obama and Putin are juxtaposed at the middle of this decade as they were at the middle of my list.
4.President Barack Hussein Obama This President of the United States of America will continue to set the tone for much of the American future and its policies for the foreseeable future. We face the future as best we can in a world where the election of Barack Obama has already shown us as profoundly weak in the eyes of so much of the world.Barack Hussein Obama it is to be noted is the descendant of an American mother and has married and had children with an American wife. The mother was white, the wife is black. Obama’s father was an African student and he also had an Indonesian stepfather. In a society where forty-one percent of children are currently born out of wedlock, Schwarzenegger has been Governor of California, Jindal is currently Governor of Louisiana, Granholme was Governor of Michigan until two weeks ago and tens of millions live here without documents Obama has a strong basic appeal to our society which is committed to its own utter destruction at this time. Obama is a man with a very impressive resume and a lot of lessons and experiences that have not come together in the same individual before. Obama does not have any desire to compromise with the vast complicated burdens of American History. He is less aware of them than most Presidents have been and is more committed to policies and procedures that will undermine this country than he would be if he did not have the background he actually does have.
President Obama has been the expression of decades of continuous confusion and staggering forward. What will happen to him and to the country before he leaves the Oval Office behind is not entirely predictable. Nor is it it clear what he or the Presidency will be like after his administration ends. If he leaves office alive after completing one or two full terms then the Presidency of the United States will be part of his impressive curriculum vitae which includes editing Harvard Law Review , traveling the world, authoring two very successful books, serving in the United States Senate and given many famous speeches. If a major constitutional change occurs in the United States of America after his retirement from this office he will be in a powerful position to broker part of this change. However, his own tenure in office has contributed to America’s inevitably worsening troubles unless it does seriously reform.
The Trump saga is trying to start. I will try to cover it here. One person who is not in any loop in or out of the Beltway who was on my list is myself the author of this post. Perhaps, the future will seem me yet more isolated and alienated or perhaps not. But I am like a lot of other Americans to some degree who are watching these events not entirely surprised by anything — but aware of the large events among influential strangers.