Linda McMahon’s Would-Be Spoiler, Rob Simmons, Is Straight Out of a Gore Vidal Play

A Hartford Courant editorial, headlined “Rob Simmons Too Coy On GOP Primary,” wonders “what role will Mr. Simmons be playing? Active candidate? Grudge-holding spoiler? A still-ambitious politician frozen by indecision?” See http://www.courant.com/news/opinion/editorials/hc-ed-rob-simmons-0725-20100725,0,2022258.story.

Simmons may be all of those things. But the image I’m surprised no one has yet raised is that Simmons sees himself as Bill Russell.

No, not the basketball all-time great — the protagonist of The Best Man, Gore Vidal’s classic 1960 play about the jockeying of candidates for a party’s presidential nomination.

Like Russell — and like Adlai Stevenson, the torchbearer of a declining and presumably more intellectual and substantive political generation, on whom Vidal loosely modeled the character — Simmons apparently believes he represents a different and more formidable brand of integrity. The push and pull of the apparent options, however, make him come off as wishy-washy and Hamlet-esque.

And as with the fictional Russell, who had to take drastic measures to bring down his nemesis Joseph Cantwell, Simmons is finding himself making compromises of a higher order. Consciously or not, “Mr. Republican” may be doing the Democrats’ work for them. But only he knows what is behind the  calculation that the risk is worthwhile.

Of course, Linda McMahon, who sits in the Cantwell chair, knows from low-rent drama. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Irv Muchnick

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