Another Perspective

Courting Disaster

Brooke Shields, Barack Obama, and buyer's remorse.

By 3.15.10

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In Andre Agassi's Open, a must read for tennis lovers, there is an unforgettable moment when the tennis star and his girlfriend Brooke Shields arrive in Paris just before the start of the 1995 French Open. 

Brooke is all aflutter.  Somewhat in the fashion of Jacqueline Kennedy making her triumphant visit to Paris in 1961 with JFK, the young president, in tow, she wishes to take tout Paris by storm. Andre, on the other hand, is all business. He hopes to win the only one of the four grand slam tennis tournaments that has so far eluded him and wonders how he can break it to Brooke that "this is not, even partially, a vacation."

The denouement (apart from Agassi's early exit from the tournament) is described in this scene:

We eat at fancy restaurants, visit out-of-the-way neighborhoods I'd never venture into on my own. Some of it charms me, but most leaves me cold, because I'm loath to break my concentration. The owner of one café invites us down to his ancient wine cellar, a musty, medieval tomb filled with dust-covered bottles. He hands one to Brooke.  She peers at the date on the label: 1787. She cradles the bottle like a baby, then holds it up to me, incredulous.

I don't get it, I whisper. It's a bottle. It has dust on it.

She glares, as if she'd like to break the bottle over my head.

This moment -- involving a 200-plus year-old bottle of wine that almost certainly turned to vinegar long ago -- marks the first time that the scales fall from Andre's eyes and he begins to see that the French-speaking, Princeton-educated starlet, who first won fame in the movie The Blue Lagoon, is not the one for him.  It is the beginning of a terrible case of buyer's remorse.

The American people are now getting the same sinking feeling in their relationship with Barack Obama. They see that they elected a president who -- trusting in his own innate wisdom and mental superiority -- doesn't know or care what they think, and who seems strangely indifferent to their well-being.

With his decision to use the misnamed "reconciliation" process in Congress to ram his hugely expensive and wildly unpopular health care legislation down the throats of the American people, the president, in a metaphorical sense, is holding up a dust-covered bottle… and telling us that we must drink from it.  He is doing this even though most people, after prolonged consideration of the matter, are convinced that the contents of the bottle are bad, and that it comes at a price that might just drive the country into bankruptcy.

Again, give the American people credit -- as Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi clearly do -- for being complete imbeciles. Pelosi nailed it when she said, "We must pass the bill so you [the public] can find out what's in it."

To borrow the famous line from an old movie, being a progressive in the mountebank Obama/Pelosi mode is an awful lot like "love": It means never having to say you're sorry. With Obamacare, the president knows that he will never run out of other people to blame for the failure of his policies. He can drive up the cost of health care through a vast new entitlement program, complete with new mandates, a whole new premium subsidy program and compulsory coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, and then turn around and blame the "greedy" insurance companies and the mindless pursuit of profit for the inevitable rise in premiums. Everything that goes wrong will become the rationale for more government intervention and control. 

Last week Barack Obama went out onto the highways and byways to sell the impending government takeover of health care as an act of personal benevolence and great political courage. But this was not like Daniel going into the lion's den.  To the contrary, as Michelle Malkin pointed out in one of her columns ("Desperate Dems Cling to Human Kiddie Shield"), it was more like a visit to Romper Room with assurances from the teacher that all the bad kids had been sent home:

On Monday, Obama surrounded himself with a ticketed-only crowd of Arcadia University college students in Pennsylvania (sprinkled with purple-shirted officials from the Service Employees International Union). The Washington-based commander in chief traveled outside his Beltway bubble to a campus bubble to trash the political climate, which he leads.

"That's just how Washington is. They can't help it," he pontificated as the idealistic young students nodded like empty bobbleheads. "They"?

You won't be surprised by Obama's biggest applause line in the speech: peddling a Big Nanny provision in the Senate-passed health care bill that requires insurance plans that cover dependents to provide benefits to children up to age 26. "If you're a young adult, which many of you are, you'll be able to stay on your parents' insurance policy until you're 26 years old." Whoops and huzzahs erupted from the eager wards of the permanent, ever-expanding Nanny State.

Thank you, Mr. President, for letting our college-age children know that we will be there for them, so they don't have to be in any hurry to go out and make a living. 

In his choice of a running mate in 2008, it seems a pity that the Mr. Obama did not pick black-haired Brooke instead of white-haired Joe. Not only is she younger, prettier and better educated (with no known record of plagiarism or telling tall tales about her achievements), but she is almost equally goofy (the quality that endears our globe-trotting veep to the likes of Nicolas Sarkozy and Vladimir Putin) and she has the undoubted advantage of speaking a second language. Moreover, when it comes to knowing how to stage-manage an event in the most artificially contained and self-flattering of ways, she is almost without rival -- brooking (no pun intended) comparison with the president himself.

Shed a tear for any man who is as miserable at his own wedding as Andre was when he married Brooke in 1997 "in a tiny church that's stiflingly, criminally hot," with four helicopters filled with paparazzi circling overhead. This is his amazing description of the scene:

As the priest drones on, sweat drips from my brow, from my chin, from my ears.  Everyone is looking.  They're sweating too, but not like me. The jacket of my new Dunhill tuxedo is soaked. Even my shoes squish when I walk. They're also fitted with lifts, another non-negotiable demand from Brooke. She's nearly six feet tall and she doesn't want to tower over me in our photos, so she's wearing old-fashioned pumps with minimal heels, and I'm wearing what feel like stilts.

Before we leave the church, a decoy bride, a stand-in for Brooke, leaves first. To throw the paparazzi off the scent. The first time I heard about this plan, I tuned it out, refused to pay attention. Now, as I see the Brooke look-alike leaving, I have a thought no man should have on his wedding day: I wish I were leaving too. I wish I had a decoy groom to take my place.

Serious tennis fans will wonder how in the world this same Andre Agassi -- who kowtowed to the actress bride -- could possibly have had the mental toughness to whip the great Pete Sampras on some big occasions, as he did in his five-set comeback win over Sampras in the 2000 Australian Open (for the record, Sampras had a career edge of 20-to-14 over Agassi in all matches and a 6-to-3 advantage in Grand Slam events). 

If there is a lesson for the American people in Andre Agassi's life's saga -- which is told throughout his book with an unsparing honesty and humor that leaves no embarrassing rock unturned -- it is that life is filled with second, third and fourth chances. You can make all of kinds of mistakes, as Agassi does -- snorting crystal meth, dropping out of the top 200 and being forced to play on challenger circuit -- and still recover to lead a normal and productive life. Following his trials and tribulations, Agassi made it all the way to No. 1, and of course he completed his grand slam by winning all four of the biggies.

Most of all, by his own account, he found joy and happiness in his second marriage -- to the laconic and level-headed Steffi Graff, considered by many to be the greatest female tennis player of all time.

Don't believe Glenn Beck, the Fox News pundit who has been hyper-ventilating of late with all kinds of doomsday predictions. Even if Obamacare is passed into law in a couple of weeks, it will not spell the death of American capitalism or democracy. Voters will have other chances to rectify the situation, beginning with the November elections. It won't happen overnight, but we can replace today's political leadership.

However, if you feel you need some bucking up in these strange and perilous times, take heart from the same words that Steffi spoke to Andre whenever he was going into battle --

"Go kick some butt."

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About the Author
Andrew B. Wilson, a frequent contributor to The American Spectator and a former foreign correspondent, writes from St. Louis.