Liz Smith: The Virtue of Selfishness?

Ayn Rand in New York City, 1962. (AP) THE VIRTUE of Selfishness. That’s the title of one of author Ayn Rand’s controversial books. It urges us to practice “rational self interest” and not be seduced by self-sacrifice.

The icy capitalist philosophies of Ms. Rand very much influenced Paul Ryan, the man presidential candidate Mitt Romney has chosen as his running mate. That is to say, up until about six or seven months ago. Then, he reportedly turned his back on Rand because he found out she was an atheist.

Okay then ...“Found out?” Good grief, Rand’s lack of religiosity was as famous as all her other philosophies. This vice-presidential hopeful is 42 years old. Please don’t try to make me believe he didn’t know Ayn Rand was a godless woman.

I’m telling you, if the Democrats can’t devise some scathing ads on this flip-flop, they deserve to lose. Certainly anything they do on Rand/Ryan will be better than that absurd “Romney killed my wife” TV ad, which blamed him for a woman’s death from cancer.

I don’t agree with the Obama adviser who likened Paul Ryan to Sarah Palin. Ryan is a much smarter cookie, though, like Palin, his good looks are an asset. Not that Mitt Romney isn’t a handsome man, but he’s like a giant Ken Doll who never comes to life, rather muting his attractiveness. Ryan is livelier. And apparently has a wicked six-pack under his crisp dress shirts. I know, so superficial — but visuals count.

In any case, I’m glad Ryan is in because the campaign can begin in earnest. Up to this point it hasn’t been really bloody. Mostly petty, even downright silly. Now, with two against two, the long knives are out.

Romney & Ryan

PROVING THAT movie stars over the age of fifty can still draw a movie audience, the Meryl Streep/Tommy Lee Jones comedy/drama about a couple in crisis, “Hope Springs,” did remarkably well over the weekend.

Hope Springs and The Bourne LegacyIt couldn’t beat Jeremy Renner and “The Bourne Legacy” but it exceeded expectations. I’m so pleased. And I think both Jones and Streep might cop Oscar nods, as well.

Speaking of Mr. Renner, what a voyage he has taken — from unusual-looking Oscar-nominated character actor to the sexy action star of an established franchise. Now that Renner’s a hit, the next film will probably ditch the name Bourne altogether. His character’s name is Aaron Cross, and that would look good on a marquee.

As for Jason Bourne himself, Matt Damon — who has not been killed off, so don’t be surprised if he pops up again, teamed with Renner — he is busy shooting “Behind the Candelabra” for HBO. This is the tale of Liberace and his much younger lover Scott Thorson. Liberace — Lee to all his friends — is played by Michael Douglas.

I have to admit, I never thought this project would get off the ground, especially when it was originally being shopped as a big-screen feature film. But on HBO? It’ll go over like gangbusters.

Damon and Douglas in "Behind the Candelabra."

TONIGHT, a gaggle of New Yorkers will be the first to see Whitney Houston’s last film performance in “Sparkle.” This is the remake of the 1976 film based loosely on the rise of the Supremes. (A worthy forerunner to “Dreamgirls.”) The Cinema Society will host the special screening event, along with Circa and Alice & Olivia — of jewelry and fashion fame. But I can’t say where the event is. I will however, tell all, later this week.

I WATCHED the wonderful Sigourney Weaver with Piers Morgan the other night. The star of the current USA network soap opera “Political Animals,” is such an intelligent, no-nonsense woman. However, I had to snicker a bit when she said, “I admire Hillary Clinton so much. I hope she’s not irritated by the show, which really isn’t about her!” Oh, Miss Weaver. Stop.

I have to admit that the lurid nature of this limited series has its charms. Especially when put side-by-side with HBO’s “The Newsroom,” which purports to be a serious look at TV journalism — an oxymoron for the ages! “The Newsroom” has improved but remains as pompous and self important as “Political Animals” remains “Dynasty” in D.C. Both shows feature strong performances (and some wretched ones, but that’s fun too.) Jane Fonda and Sam Waterston had a nifty confrontation on Sunday night’s “The Newsroom.” Listen, nothing’s perfect. But both shows are preferable to watching the “real” news most of the time.

Sigourney Weaver in Political Animals

MILEY CYRUS has cut her hair short and bleached it an aggressive shade of blonde. She looks like 1960’s/70’s sex-kitten entertainer Joey Heatherton now. That’s not a bad thing.

Miley Cyrus / Joey Heatherton

“I HAVE so long and so often seen the evil effects of the presidential fever upon my associates and friends that I am determined it shall not seize me. In almost every case it impairs if it does not destroy the usefulness of its victim.”

DestinyDoes this quote seem to refer to the presidential fever of our times? It was said actually back in 1879 by James Garfield, an exemplary soldier of the Civil War who wanted to avoid “the grasp of other men’s ambitions,” and to be given a chance to (as he termed it) “wait for the future.”

When Garfield “accidentally” won the Presidency, he shunned the whole idea and this great and good man was shot only months later by an obsessed crazy person.

So much of the recent book Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millardresonates with us today. Garfield was a prominent Abolitionist, fighting for rights for whites and blacks alike. The subtitle of this Random House/Anchor Press book, now out in soft cover, is “A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President.”

Would that this Civil War hero had been permitted to serve. Chaos followed his death. We could use his like today. He has been called “one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president.”

The Garfield story would make a great movie, especially with the true story elements of the ignorant doctors who really killed him by torturing him for months without antiseptics.

James Garfield

This column originally appeared on on 8/14/12

5 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Baby Snooks says:

    It’s interesting to see people waving the Bible in one hand and Ayn Rand in the other isn’t it?

  2. avatar JCF4612 says:

    Good looks? Many of us think Mitt Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan looks like an aging Eddie Munster.  

  3. avatar Belinda Joy says:

    Paul Ryan – America is now laying witness to those of us from Wisconsin have known all along, Paul Ryan is NOT the brightest crayon in the box. Why he is receiving so much praise and accolades about being smart is beyond me. He is definitely a male version of Sarah Palin. True he may read more than she does, but in terms of how he views America, Americans and politics….they are very much alike. The one caveat however would be I think Paul would look at Palin and her clan as trailer park trash.

    Paul Ryan and his family are wealthy beyond words.  All of his complaints about Obama are a joke. He was all for stimulus bills up until President Obama took office. He voted for them repeatedly under Bush. He rails against Obama and government intervention in our lives. But neglects to share the fact he and his clan made MILLIONS here in Wisconsin off of federal/government contracts. MILLIONS of DOLLARS! Yet he doesn’t want anyone else to have it. His grandmother is collecting medicare, yet he feels medicare is a form of welfare and that it needs to be cut and privatized.

    Paul Ryan is just like Palin in that he can’t speak on his feet. As you are all seeing the moment he is asked a question he was not briefed on by the Romney camp he becomes flustered. This is only the beginning folks, get ready for an interesting couple of months….his true colors are just coming into view.