Ben Stein's Diary

The Speech Obama Failed to Deliver

A return to L.A. coincides with a growing sense of doom.

By 8.27.12

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Friday
I keep thinking about our man, Barack Obama, and especially about his promises in 2008. There have been many Presidents. But has any President ever had a wider gulf between what he promised he would do and what he actually did or did not do?

What if, at his momentous moment at Grant Park in Chicago on the night of his win, he had said this speech:

"Now, friends, thank you for electing me. To tell you the truth, I am a good speaker as long as I have a prompter in front of me. But I have absolutely no clue at all as to how to get us out of this recession. None at all. I will, however, spend the money of the people who pay taxes to give out a lot of money to people who are either union members or do not pay taxes. I will spend a trillion dollars in a year and I have no idea of what, if any good it will do.

"I'll also get my captive Congress, led by the most pitifully weak Speaker ever, and a man who gives the word 'party hack' a bad name, to pass a health care bill that will dramatically raise taxes, cut Medicare payments, cram patients into doctors' offices, create complete chaos -- and I will do it in the dead of night without even showing the Republicans what's in the bill. I won't show anyone else either! That's the gag! We'll be passing a bill that will cost trillions and NO ONE will know what's in it! NOT EVEN ME!!!! "They didn't call me 'Good time Barry' at Punahou for nothing!

"Plus, you know how we have only one reliable ally in the whole world, and that's Israel, probably the most militarily significant power after us, Russia, and China? Yes, the Israel that's the only democracy in the Middle East, where Arabs have more rights than they do in any Arab country? We're going to take that country's premier and HUMILIATE the SOB right outside my office, make him cool his heels like a job seeker at a union hall and then I'll tell him what a loser he is!

"That's how I'll show my Jewish friends what I think about Israel.

"Then, Britain? That 'special relationship' country? I'll humiliate them, too. I think I'll just hug the Queen like she's my Mom. Then when they give me a magnificent gift, I'll give them a CD of my speeches -- in a plastic box.

"And the deficit? I'll double it in three and a half years. With nothing to show for it.

"Plus, if we find Osama bin Laden, I think I'll have the SEALs take all of the risks and then I'll go on TV and pretend I did it all myself.

"Plus, did you see about those thugs who threatened anyone who didn't vote for me at some polling place somewhere? I am not going to prosecute them at all. Not one bit. Not even for a second! What are friends for?

"Well, anyway, it's late, so let's PARTAY HEARTAY!"

He didn't give that speech. Too bad.

Saturday
Now, this has been a difficult day. I have some kind of deep fatigue, probably from travel. I spent most of the day in bed in my office with my Julie Goodgirl next to me. I just listened to a Mozart disc over and over again. Piano concertos. Just great magical stuff. How can anyone be that brilliant?

Then, I worked on my endless filing of material for my income tax. I looked at checks (cancelled checks). As always, they make me sick because I make myself sick with my extravagance. It is just a miracle that I am not destitute. However, I have been thinking that I will soon be destitute for decades so maybe something is wrong with my thinking. Or maybe God always saves me, so far.

My son and his staggeringly beautiful wife and our stunning little granddaughter, the Coco Puff, came over. Kitty, the daughter-in-law, helped my wife to file. That was a completely wasted exercise since I will never look at the files, as I told them both, but I guess it made my wife feel good to do it.

Our son watched TV. He is super good at that.

Then my wife went out to supper with an old pal, all the way to Topanga, about thirty miles away.

An iron rule: stupid people choose restaurants very far away from where you and/or they live. Obviously, my wife, a smart woman, did not make the choice.

(I have a lot of iron rules and laws. Most have to do with facial jewelry and I.Q. Some have to do with eating habits.)

I rested for a while, then went out to a meager supper at a Thai place on Sunset Strip. I could see the rock fans coming and going on the sidewalk outside my seat. ("In the room the women come and go and talk of Michelangelo...." and also how to gas the Jews, T.S. Eliot, you pretentious scumbag racist fraud two bit con man.)

It interests me how much variety there is among the women passing by. Some are shapely and beautiful. Some are not. The physical actions of the non-beautiful are invariably, and I mean INVARIABLY, about ten times as animated as the serene motions of the beautiful. Beautiful women know they are beautiful and have a certain calm about them. The non-beautiful have to fake a twisted enthusiasm. The difference in world outlook between these two types of human beings -- ceteris paribus -- is fantastic.

The restaurant was almost deserted until a middle-aged couple deposited by a Range Rover came in. I am guessing it was an internet J-Date blind date. The woman, I would say in her late 30s, had a simply maddeningly sharp, high pitched voice. She almost immediately began to lecture this poor man on his eating habits, about how he should never take any medicine but must instead eat raw fruits and vegetables from Whole Foods. When he talked about eating bread, she became literally hysterical. "You eat BREAD?" she demanded. "That has GLUTEN. I never eat bread. Not pasta either unless it's gluten free."

If I were that man, I told my companion, I would just get up and leave the table.

The woman was actually fairly attractive except for being emaciated. But her voice rang of insanity. Her hectoring him about his eating habits.… That's criminal.

Well, small wonder she's single. It's hard to be single at her age and she bought it and paid for it with her nuttiness. Iron law: those who seek to control other persons' eating habits end up alone. IRON LAW!!!! Well, wait. There was my mother....

When I got home, my wifey was already home. I was so happy to see her I can barely tell you. She is as close to perfect as a being can be. I'm not. I'm not at all. She never tells me what to do. Never.

We watched a documentary about the Nazis, as usual, and then we went to sleep. I was up most of the night from my Thai food. But I used the time to begin an amazingly informative book by a scholar named Jean Sedlar about the Nazi Empire in East Central Europe.

This astonishingly gifted scholar is the late mother of my dear friend, Eric Sedlar, a software genius at Oracle. He is the very pained widower of the beautiful Tatyana, who died on roughly July 4. What a smart family they are. How he has suffered. Heart rending.

Sunday
More fatigue. I awakened and felt as if I had been hit on the head by a sledge hammer. But I dragged my fat old ponderous bulk out of the bed and, with Julie Goodgirl by my side, swam in our pool. The way it works is that I throw a ball for her. She runs after it and catches it and brings it to where I am in the pool. I throw it again and resume swimming until she gets it to me again. Then throw, retrieve, swim, throw again. That's how it works.

I clambered out, showered, shaved, dressed, went off to the Santa Palm Car Wash to meet my pal M. It is a ritual. We get a car wash and a sandwich and watch the people go by.

M. was once a high official at a major studio. He was incredibly, unbelievably kind to me. He often bought stories from me and helped keep me afloat. His late wife, also M., was a dear and generous friend. Much of my life in Hollywood happened because of M. He put me in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and helped me sell the book, 'Ludes as a movie. He was as kind as can be.

Time passed. He retired. His wife passed away from just plain exhaustion. Now, he's living a modest life, mostly walking his dogs. He is an amazingly handsome man, even at 65, and still razor sharp. He made two giant mistakes: He did not save enough when he had a good income and he did not tell his wife how much he loved her anywhere near enough.

He is still a truly great guy and I love him a lot. He is a dear man.

I met him through a man named Steve Greene, who had an enormous impact on my life, all for the good. Now, he's far away in Florida and I miss him.

I spend a lot of time thinking of friends who are gone. For some reason, I think constantly of the stupendously talented John Gregory Dunne. He was a simply incredibly gifted writer, married to an equally great talent, Joan Didion.

When I first moved here, 36 years ago, John and Joan were devoted, helpful pals. They just showered me with attention and kindness. I worshiped them then and still do even though John passed away some years ago. John was an old school type, always needling me about being Jewish, but also had almost all Jewish friends. I recall our lunches together at the Palm, when he would tell me about his triumphs and I would wring my hands in envy. What a waste of time that was.

But what a fantastically kind couple they were to me and to my wife. He was just a shining star in my life.

Well, anyway....

I came away from the car wash and went to the Pavilions grocery store. My wife had wanted me to buy some Diet Snapple for her. She loves that stuff. I moseyed around the store looking for it. I saw two astoundingly beautiful young women shopping. Both were surely actresses. They had perfect posture. They were just super humanly beautiful. Exactly right features. Goddesses.

In the checkout line, my poor pitiful brain, no doubt overwhelmed by the prospect of eating an immense apple pie I had just bought, made me drop a six pack of Snapple on the floor. It shattered, tossing glass and Snapple all around.

Embarrassing. But to shift the blame a bit, the packaging of Diet Snapple could hardly be worse. (Possibly on purpose, by some sadist on Madison Avenue?) It is almost impossible to pick up Diet Snapple in its carrier. So, I'll blame it on them.

I came home, unpacked, explained to my wife about why I only had a dozen Diet Snapple, went to my bed and called my pal, B., one of my closest pals. He is about to go to prison -- yes, PRISON! -- because of allegations of fraud. A state prison! He's 57 and not strong. He told me he spent the day at prayer at a predominantly black church, even though he is white. He said he's turned it all over to God. But he's terrified and I am terrified for him. He is a saintly man. How can he be cast in that lions' den?

Like M., he made some big mistakes. Mainly, he did not save enough in the good times. This is a problem I often worry about in my own life.

We humans do not anticipate adversity sufficiently. This is a huge failing. We have to do better at it.

If we don't, we have to pay the price. The price can be immiseration or it can be prison.

It is cruel how unprepared we humans are for our fates.

I got a series of texts from a lovely middle-aged woman who is worried to death about money. In total terror. How did she spend the day? Getting a manicure and a pedicure and then shopping at a shopping center. I am not kidding.

I got a million texts from my pal J., who is also terrified about money. She spent the day helping her 87-year-old mother, WHO SURVIVED TWO YEARS OF SLAVE LABOR AT SIEMENS AND TWO MORE AT AUSCHWITZ!!!!, pick out new carpeting. The mother is having her house remodeled. That's the spirit that got her through Auschwitz. God bless her.

The rest of us are doomed. Except for Alex and Julie Goodgirl.

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About the Author

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.