Keeping Religion and Campaigning Separate

Jay Riemersma is campaigning for Congress in Grand Haven and Holland today on a Christian Fundamentalist platform. Here’s a better attitude about mixing religion and politics from a great but fictional Republican–Senator Arnold Vinick, played by Alan Alda on The West Wing.

(The original video is no longer available, with the original clip present at the end of the longer segment posted above.)

M*A*S*H Writer Larry Gelbart Dies At 81


Larry Gelbart died today of cancer at age 81. Among his achievements was writing for the television version of M*A*S*H:

Set in the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War, TV’s “MASH” grew out of director Robert Altman’s hit 1970 movie written by Ring Lardner Jr., which was based on the 1968 novel by Richard Hooker (the pen name of Dr. Richard Hornberger, who had been a military surgeon in Korea).

Gelbart and his family were living in London, and he was producing the British TV show “The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine” in 1971 when producer-director Gene Reynolds called him about writing a pilot script for a TV series based on “MASH.”

In writing the pilot, Gelbart recalled in his 1998 memoir “Laughing Matters,” he knew that it “was going to have to be a whole lot more than funny. Funny was easy. How not to trivialize human suffering by trying to be comic about it, that was the challenge.”

“MASH” debuted on CBS in 1972, with Gelbart serving as executive script consultant. He and Reynolds were both executive producers of the show — and shared Emmys — when it won the award for outstanding comedy series in 1974.

Gelbart’s influence on “MASH,” Reynolds told the New York Times in 1989, was “seminal, basic and enormous.”

“Larry not only had the wit and the jokes,” Reynolds said, “he had a point of view. He not only had the ribald spirit, he had the sensibility to the premise — the wastefulness of war.”

As for the regulation-breaking surgeon Hawkeye Pierce — the lead character played by Alan Alda — Gelbart told the New York Times, “I didn’t have to think of why he was saying what he said. He was saying what I felt. I mean, he is an idealized me.”

Hawkeye, he said, “is capable — that is, at work, at what he does. He’s an idealist. He’s a romantic. Somebody who cares about himself and other people. He’s often frustrated by whatever particular system he finds himself fighting against.”

“MASH” ran for 11 years. But Gelbart’s involvement ended in 1976 after four years and 97 episodes. As he later told The Times, “After four years, I had given it my best, my worst and everything in between.”

In a statement Friday, Alda said: “Larry’s genius for writing changed my life because I got to speak his lines — lines that were so good they’ll be with us for a long, long time; but his other genius — his immense talent for being good company — is a light that’s gone out and we’re all sitting here in the dark.”

M*A*S*H was one of the greatest anti-war shows ever (as well as one of the greatest television shows of any type to ever air). If George Bush had spent more time when younger watching M*A*S*H instead of drinking, perhaps he would have thought twice about going into Iraq.

Martin Peretz Weakens Claims To Being a Liberal

I’m not one of those liberal bloggers who feels the need to always trash The New Republic. At time I agree with them, and other times (such as with their position on Iraq and obsession with Kerry-bashing) I disagree. On occasion I’ve even defended them. During the last Kos vs. TNR war I received a number of links to my posts at The Democratic Daily commenting on how I reported the strengths and weakness of the arguments of both sides.One TNR writer even quoted one of my quips.

During the disputes with Kos, TNR editor Martin Peretz gave a list of his positions to defend his position as a liberal (despite his foreign policy views) which I quoted. Here’s one position he didn’t mention–supporter of Scotter Libby. Peretz is listed as a member of the Libby Legal Defense Trust.

Most of the others on the list are prominent Republicans and their inclusion is no surprise. Another person worth noting is Ron Silver, who can no longer plead temporary insanity for his support of Bush in 2004. (Silver also played Bruno Gianelli on The West Wing, a Democratic operative who worked for Republican Arnold Vinick, but Vinick was one Republican I’d have no qualms about supporting. Alan Alda won an emmy for his role as Arnold Vinick.)

Emmy Night

The Emmy Awards are coming up tonight. Even though it was greater during the Sorkin years, I’m rooting for The West Wing to go out with some major awards. Its a shame that the Lauren Graham Rule didn’t do enough. Some deserving shows and individuals are not going to be recognized tonight.

I’ve already reposted some of my old blog posts on Gilmore Girls and several science fiction shows. To get in the mood for the Emmys I’ll add some other old television posts, including The West Wing, 24, and Alias, below the fold.

UPDATE: Alan Alda wins as Arnold Vinick