Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Big Kerry-bowski

James Taranto at OpinionJournal.com has been looking at movie characters that favor John Kerry, and it seems he's finally hit on a perfect choice: Walter Sobchak in "The Big Lebowski".

Over the weekend we watched "The Big Lebowski," the Coen brothers' 1998 comedy, in which John Goodman plays Walter Sobchak, "a man full of bad ideas whose every utterance contains a reference to his days in Vietnam," as reader Tom Thomas puts it.

Sure enough, we picked out numerous passages of dialogue that are reminiscent of the Kerry campaign. For example, this bowling-alley confrontation with a competitor called Smokey (Jimmie Dale Gilmore) calls to mind Kerry's petulance over the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth's ads:

Walter: Over the line!

Smokey: Huh?

Walter: I'm sorry, Smokey. You were over the line, and that's a foul.

Smokey: Bullsh--. Mark it 8, Dude.

Walter: Uh, excuse me. Mark it zero. Next frame.

Smokey: Bullsh--, Walter. Mark it 8, Dude.

Walter: Smokey, this is not Nam, this is bowling. There are rules.

Walter pulls a gun on Smokey, who backs down. Later, in the parking lot, Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski (Jeff Bridges) confronts Walter, in a scene that sums up Kerry's 20-year Senate career:

Dude: You can't do that, man. These guys, you know, they're like me, they're pacifists. Smokey was a conscientious objector!

Walter: You know, Dude, I myself dabbled in pacifism at one point. Not in Nam, of course.

This exchange between Walter and The Dude nicely describes Kerry's populist campaign strategy:

Walter: Those rich f---s! This whole f---in' thing--I did not watch my buddies die face down in the muck so that this f---in' strumpet, this f---in' whore, could waltz around town--

Dude: Walter, I don't see any connection to Vietnam, man.

Walter: Well, there isn't a literal connection, Dude.

Dude: Walter, face it, there isn't any connection.

And in a restaurant scene, Walter inveighs against the stifling of dissent:

Waitress: Excuse me, sir, could you please keep your voices down? This is a family restaurant.

Walter: Oh please, dear? For your information, the Supreme Court has roundly rejected prior restraint!

Dude: Walter, this is not a First Amendment thing.

Waitress: Sir, if you don't calm down, I'm going to have to ask you to leave.

Walter: Lady, I got buddies who died face down in the muck so that you and I could enjoy this family restaurant!

Dude: All right, I'm out of here.

Walter: Hey, Dude, don't go away, man! C'mon, this affects all of us, man! Our basic freedoms!

On education policy:

Walter: Look, Larry. Have you ever heard of Vietnam? You're entering a world of pain, son. We know that this is your homework.

And then there's this exchange with The Dude and Donny (Steve Buscemi), back at the bowling alley, on the Iraq-Vietnam comparison, and the rise of the blogosphere:

Walter: This whole f---in' thing is nothin' but nothin' about oil. . . . I'm sure we're gonna see some tank battles. But fighting in desert is very different from fighting in canopy jungles. I mean, I was a foot soldier . . . whereas this thing should be a piece of cake. I mean, I had an M-16, Jacko, not an Abrams f---in' tank. Me and Charlie, eyeball to eyeball--

Dude: Yeah.

Walter: --that's f---in' combat. The man in the black pajamas, Dude. Worthy f---in' adversary.

Donny: Who was in pajamas, Walter?

Walter: Shut the f--- up, Donny. Whereas what we have here? Bunch of fig-eaters wearin' towels on their heads, trying to find reverse on a Soviet tank. This is not a worthy f---in' adversary.