Last night over martinis someone asked me who I liked in the GOP presidential field. Like most conservatives I’m not very enthusiastic about any of the three front-runners. Maybe it was the martinis, but the thought popped into my head: “The problem with this field is that it is too much like the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.”
You’ll have to bear with me here, and follow the story line. The major premise is that Ronald Reagan was Captain Kirk. I know, I know, Kirk’s character was said to have been loosely modeled on JFK, but don’t forget that Reagan inherited the mantle of JFK’s Cold Warriorism (as well as JFK’s income tax cuts). Having grown up with Kirk (and Governor Reagan), I hated—hated—Star Trek: TNG when it came on in the 1980s. The first of many reasons for hating TNG was that they actually obeyed the stupid Prime Directive, which is the epitome of cultural relativism. Half the plot lines of the original Star Trek involved Kirk wantonly violating the Prime Directive in what constituted acts of democratic statesmanship. Let’s recall, for example, the episode called “The Apple,” where Kirk revels in destroying the planet’s oppressive false god Vaal, and then explains to the stupefied inhabitants that their lives are going to change: “That’s what we call freedom. You’ll like it a lot. . . You’ll learn something about men and women—the way they’re supposed to be.” (The best analysis of this topic remains Paul Cantor’s wonderful book Gilligan Unbound, especially chapter 2, “Shakespeare in the Original Klingon.”)
TNG, on the other hand, was wholly bureaucratic—Star Trek as imagined by the UN General Assembly—and Captain Jean-Luc Piccard seemed more like the UN Secretary General than a commander. More to the point—and here we get back to the main thread—the problem with TNG was that it split Kirk’s character into three people: Piccard the authoritative but rule-abiding commander; First Officer Will Riker as the impetuous and womanizing swashbuckler, and Counselor Deanna Troi representing analytical reason and intuition. No one of them alone could effectively lead the Enterprise. The result was unwatchable. (How many times did Piccard surrender the Enterprise in that first season? Kirk would never have done that.)
Well, this describes the GOP front-runners. The parallels are not exact, of course, but generally break out something like this: Giuliani is Piccard, with his brusque, “make-it-so” personality; McCain is the impetuous and volatile Riker; and Romney is clearly an analytical Betazoid. Each by themselves has obvious limitations and defects. Combine them and you’d have something about right.
So forget this Fred Thompson boomlet. I have a better idea: William Shatner for President.