Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mark Sanford IS Don Draper!

Really, this explains everything.

For those who miss the reference, Don Draper is an exec at the Sterling, Cooper ad agency, on AMC's brilliant Mad Men, which is set in the early 1960s. He is rich, talented, and good-looking; he has a picture-book family (ex-model wife, one boy, one girl). He also lies, cheats, and -- most notably -- sleeps around. And in the second season, he took a business trip, in the middle of which he simply disappeared for a few weeks. Didn't call the office, didn't call home; just disappeared, and then re-appeared one day, expecting that nothing would have changed. (And why? Because of his secret other life, obviously).

We at the Egg have watch both seasons of Mad Men with an almost morbid fascination. While Draper is the most extreme case, almost all the other Sterling, Cooper execs are ethical catastrophes. They drink and smoke to perverse excess, cheat on their wives with barely a nod. The one obviously gay character has squeezed himself into an especially tight closet: he both deprives himself of sexual satisfaction and deprives his wife of any emotional connection. The two women are ... well, they're at least as messed up as the men. Hell, we don't even trust the priest.

This makes for some pretty good TV. But here's how it goes: Father and Mother Anonymous sit on the couch, alternately chuckling and screeching at the misbehavior of the characters, wondering if the well of depravity has a bottom. Then every once in a while, they pause the DVR and ask each other whether people ever actually lived this way.

Oh, we've all heard legends of the three-martini-lunch, and we certainly remember watching our elders chain-smoke. But even that seems like another planet. The Draper-world, a combination of money, male privilege, and utter moral bankruptcy, seems so alien that it must be an alternate dimension of time/space. We may lead sheltered lives, but it hard for us to imagine that people ever lived -- or might still live -- like Sterling, Cooper and Associates.

At least it did. Until we started to think about politicians.

Self-righteous rich kid who humiliates his wife? Is that Peter Campbell or Eliot Spitzer? Self-hating homosexual who punishes himself and everybody he meets? Could be Sal Romano, or it could be Larry Craig. (Or Mark Foley.) Troubled newcomer who sells out his team for a chance at unearned power? Well, there's Duck Philips -- and Hiram Monserrate.

You can go on like this. Roger Sterling is like a trimmer Bill Clinton -- the charismatic boss who really should keep his hands off the help. It would be unchivalrous to speculate which female politician, trying to make it in a man's world, has either slept her way to the top or abandoned her own progeny, but we expect that neither phenomenon is unknown in the corridors of power.

Yes, it seems that there really is an alternate world in which reasonably talented people with too much power live bizarre double-lives, acting the part of respectable citizens while simultaneously (and with the more-or-less tacit approval of their peers) behaving in ways that would scandalize the people who pay their salaries. That alternate world is called Politics.

All of which leads us to one inevitable question: Whose body did Mark Sanford leave lying in a trench, wearing the wrong dogtags?

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