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July 28, 2015

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WHERE I STAND:

For some people, it’s all about red meat

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It is all about red meat.

I spent a little time last week at the movies and in front of the television learning about the benefits and detriments of red meat. Neither event, by the way, included Dr. Oz, who has his own opinions on that subject.

My experience with red meat included a wonderful two hours at the movies watching “Life of Pi” and many hours watching or listening to the congressional hearings with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regarding the tragedy at Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed. In both cases, red meat was the main attraction.

Without giving too much of the movie away, it centers on a young man named Pi and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The two of them wind up shipwrecked and forced to live together on a lifeboat for a very long time. One of them, the human, is a vegetarian, and the other one, guess which, lives on red meat — and lots of it.

Oddly enough, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there is an extreme shortage of both vegetables and red meat. Pi is the closest thing to a hearty meal for the tiger, which presents a big problem for the movie’s namesake and an opportunity for the better angels in the animal and human kingdom to do their thing.

In Congress, there are no tigers but there were a few senators and representatives who never missed a chance to growl and roar when it was their turn to try to take a bite out of Hillary’s immense credibility, stature and likability with the American people (and the rest of the world, for that matter). It was to no avail. What they did do, however, was diminish themselves and their party — yes they were all Republicans fighting amongst themselves to see who could be the most outrageous in their questioning. Instead of trying to understand from the secretary of state the issues surrounding the deaths of American diplomatic personnel, they chose instead to play political games.

The biggest disappointment for me was Sen. John McCain’s non-fact-based rant in which he suggested that Clinton, who has taken full responsibility for the deaths — a huge burden for anyone in public service — was not convincing enough for him. Although I understand his pain in losing his friend, Ambassador Chris Stevens, that doesn’t give him the right, especially as a respected senator, to suggest that the secretary of state was not forthcoming. Ambassador Stevens was her friend, too.

Madame Secretary, of course, handled her friend John in a most diplomatic way by using the standard, “Well, we just have to agree to disagree” retort, which I agree can be frustrating for a fellow looking to pick a fight.

The hearings continued downhill for the GOP members when Sen. Rand Paul told the world he would fire Clinton if he were president. That, of course, evoked a few different responses. For his right-wing base of supporters, it was the red meat they crave on a daily basis. For most of the rest of the country, which knows him for the bully he tries to be, it was music to their ears to know that he wasn’t the president — and probably never will be given his childish rants from the political fringes — and that Clinton, a woman who has given so much in service to this country, would not and could not ever be touched by the likes of him. I am reminded of the story about the gnat and the elephant.

The day went according to script, especially after Clinton went to the House side for more of the same and the plaintive and unmet plea of an outgoing secretary of state for the congressional action needed, but not taken, to make sure a Benghazi will not happen again. Red meat for those who are hungry for another election cycle.

In the end, the public’s desire to know what happened and, more important, to be assured that our government was doing all it can to make sure it wouldn’t happen again, was probably left a bit wanting, mostly because of the political theater being played by those who seem to have forgotten why the people elected them.

They gave in to the allure of red meat and fell to the lesser angels of base politics by failing to do their jobs.

Back to “Life of Pi.” In a movie adventure in which an adequate supply of red meat would have made a difficult journey much easier, a tiger’s instinct to take his nourishment where he finds it gave way to a greater survival instinct in which both he and the vegetarian on the boat realized that for either to survive, they both had to live.

That is all I will say about the movie except that you should see it if you get the chance.

“Life of Pi” is up for an Academy Award because it is an extraordinary bit of filmmaking and storytelling. But it is, after all, a movie.

The real-life adventures of people such as Rand Paul and others who would try to elevate themselves by tearing down a woman of the stature of Hillary Clinton deserves some other kind of recognition.

Perhaps those folks deserve a Bronx cheer. With apologies to the good people of the Bronx.

Brian Greenspun is publisher and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.

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