Wednesday, June 1, 2016

POLITICS


Politics is a mug’s game, and by mug I don’t mean Donald Trump’s countenance that television would have me contemplate with scant respite. Mrs. Clinton looks more presentable, by which I do also mean electable, no matter which computer she used for whatever purpose. As for Bernie Sanders, the superannuated socialist, whose Vermont ill conceals his Brooklyn, and who uses his arms as if worked by a palsied puppeteer, I have my Harvard Ph. D. and no longer need free college tuition. And  I would hate to have to look at and listen to him for four years: his voice and visage are even less prepossessing than Trump’s.

But oh, politics in general! I am in total sympathy with the fine but undeservedly forgotten novelist Anatole France, whose autobiographical hero in that delightful novel “Le Lys rouge” declares, “I am not so devoid of all talents as to occupy myself with politics,” an enlightened view insufficiently shared.

Politics is one of the four high-stakes games along with sport, showbiz, and finance, each gambling for fame, wealth, and power. Yes, power. Think how barely slapped on the wrist are our leading footballers who beat the daylights out of their wives or girlfriends. And just how many women did Cosby have to drug and fuck before the Law finally got interested in his case, and may now—or still may not—pay some attention.

Well, who is or was more famous than Madonna or Sinatra, Beyonce or Michael Jackson? Who is or was more widely known and revered than Michael Jordan or Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth or Serena Williams? Would any of them have any difficulty getting a reservation at the fanciest restaurants? Even without CDs or old movies that won’t go away, these celebs are likely to subsist after the kids no longer know who George Gershwin and Emily Dickinson were.

You may wonder why I don’t include literature or classical music among the major games. It is because their representatives require some effort to make themselves known, some reading or serious listening. And the fine arts require visits to museums and galleries, for which one has to be prompted, and that also requires some effort. That and serious music also demand some sort of input, postulating education and tradition, unavailable to the lower orders and having little mass appeal, I remember how shocked I was when I read about “concerts” being something in arenas and featuring pop stars rather than in concert halls with classical music.

Back to politics. There are many problems with it. Take, for instance, dishonesty, which feeds into politics, combining with hypocrisy in a dreadful duet.. “Just because I lie,” says the politician, “I don’t want others to lie to me; just because I am untrustworthy, I don’t want you to be so.” How hypocritical even we nonpoliticians are. Let the politician be caught in a bit of adultery and his career is over. So, naturally, he hides things and lies. The mistress in South America does not exist, nor does the money come by illegally. More lies. The only reason Bill Clinton was more or less able to get away with the Monica affair is that there was apparently no penetration, only fellation, which, as Bill was first to tell us, is not sex at all.

But politicians have to lie. What adult human does not have an Achilles heel, some lapse or misdemeanor in the distant past, that a muckraker or rival can dig up and blow up out of proportion? What politician can shrug off some false step a rival with an eagle eye and sharp-edged spade can somehow detect?  How else can gossip columnists make a living? In France, to be sure, they are more civilized; there the married president or premier can have a fully recognized mistress and not be the worse off for it—perhaps even better.

The politician parades virtues that he does not in the least possess; he can appropriate illegal millions that he does not confide even to his pillow. Of course there are some honest politicians, sure enough; there are also some girls who are virgins, some men not prey to lust, some persons who find a stuffed wallet and somehow return it to the owner.  Thus when the editor of the New Yorker praised his star contributor Dwight Macdonald for having a hand that once shook the hand of James Joyce, Dwight replied with something like “But you have no idea what other hands it has shaken since.” What with such honesty, no wonder that Dwight’s magazine, “Politics,” did not last long.

I forget which famous person said that, in the street, we should sometimes wink also at unpretty girls. To be sure, nowadays the unpretty feminist might slap your face. Moreover, today’s politician would do more than wink at, even sweet talk, a monster, so long as the monster might contribute to his campaign fund. I wonder, by the way, why today’s politicians no longer seem to kiss other people’s babies. Could it be out of a more advanced sense of hygiene?

But how many people nowadays really trust a politician? Certainly those foolishly cheering young students who think Bernie Sanders will get them a free college education, as if that weren’t just one of his many socialist pipe dreams. They could never make it through the House and Senate. Not in many more years than may be left him after the stress and strain of his unrequited candidacy.

Which somehow made me wonder what Will Shakespeare, one of the smartest judges of men ever (I wish English could match the German Menschenkenner) had to say about politicians. In “Henry IV, Part One,” Hotspur refers to his arch enemy Bolingbroke as “this vile politician.” In “Twelfth Night,” Andrew Aguecheek exclaims in horror “I’d had as lief be a Brownist as a politician,” thus referring to a follower of William Browne, one of the first dissenters from the Church of England, and so a kind of heretic. In “Hamlet,” the Prince contemplates an unearthed skull and remarks, “This might be the pate of a politician . . . one that would circumvent God,” in other words a lowlife who would outwit God himself. And Lear warns, “Get thee glass eyes,/ And like a scurvy politician seem/ To see the things thou dost not”—in other words, a liar. That is a politician: vile, heretical, godless and a liar.
To be sure, an author does not necessarily believe what a character of his says. But such recurrent obloquy, so sharply expressed , does suggest authorial agreement.

Or consider what a fine poet nearer our own time had to say, E. E. Cummings’s “A politician is an arse upon/ which everyone has sat except a man.” How nice of Cummings to spell ass the classic British way, though perhaps he did so merely to emphasize that he meant a derriere, and not just a rather harmless thing, a donkey.

Does anyone of consequence have much good to write about a politician? In the nineteenth century perhaps, but hardly later. Certainly no such encomium makes it into any of the known dictionaries of quotations.

I once acted in the Harvard Dramatic Club’s production of Jean Giraudoux’s wonderful play ”The Trojan War Will Not Take Place,” unfortunately in Christopher Fry’s inadequate version. He called it “Tiger at the Gates,” thus impoverishing even its title. The director asked me what part I wanted to play, and I said Demokos, the cowardly lawyer who could just as well be a politician. It turned out that Fry had stupidly omitted the Demokos scene, and so the director asked me to translate it and play in it.

Incidentally, The Harvard Crimson ridiculed my version of Ajax, “le plus mauvais coucheur parmi les Grecs,” which I rendered as “the meanest plugugly among the Greeks.” But I still stand by plug-ugly, which the dictionary defines as “ruffian, rowdy, tough.” Something the Crimson should have blushed for not knowing.

This Demokos, a corrupt international lawyer who could just as well be a politician, finds for the Greeks in a disputed matter until Hector politely admonishes him, and the wretch fawningly adjudicates in favor of the Trojans. Or, closer to home, consider what our Donald Trump is up to. He speaks out of every corner of his mouth (surely more than two) whatever he deems his particular audience wants to hear, and there is not even a Hector around to threaten him. He’ll remain adamant about a few things, but about many others he goes whichever way the wind blows.

Yet the whole display of current politics, Clinton excepted, is a vast joke, and I can only hope that future writers will score easy belly laughs by reporting the shenanians. These Demokosian twists and turns need to be immortalized as a warning to future generations. The appalling Ted Cruz and a few lesser losers shall not go unremembered and unridiculed, which I hope to live to witness.

One other thing I’d like to ascertain: what is it with the Donald’s hair? Can it be natural or is it, as it looks to me, an ill-fitting, inexpensive wig? If that is all he allows himself, what favors can the nation expect from him should he be elected? Bernie’s white fringe is, I daresay, his own, and may even serve him as a flag of justice. What is it that Barbara Fritchie says in the famous poem? “’Shoot if you must this old gray head,/ But spare your country’s flag’ she said.” Hillary’s hair seems at any rate her own, ample and rather nice. What lodges beneath that thatch we cannot always tell, and perhaps not always approve of, but it is surely better than any other hirsuteness now on political offer.

26 comments:

  1. 99% of everything is bullshit, and that goes double for politics.

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  2. "I forget which famous person said that, in the street, we should sometimes wink also at unpretty girls."
    I believe it was H. L. Mencken.

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  3. Word for word:
    "If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl."

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  4. I've always compared politics to pro wrestling. There're so many similarities. Think of how both camps bluster at the camera/audience, banging fists and screaming promises to whomever will listen.

    (Can I use 'whomever' in the preceding sentence? No. . . grammar check says I'm an idiot. Fuck you, Grammar check, 'whomever' sounds better! It sounds better than 'whoever', plus it's fancier.)

    Anyway, politicians are always switching sides, and so are wrestlers. Wrestling is fake, as is politics. Wrestling has bad guys and good guys, and politics does as well. Both sides hold their "matches" in the same buildings. Sometimes it's the very next night. The first night, it's the Democratic National Convention, and the very next night it's Wrestlemania 7.

    Maybe they're the same people! The wrestlers wear masks, so they could be the politicians from the night before dressed in different costumes. I'd like to see politicians in the wrestling ring. Think of Trump (with that hair) in the ring with spandex! He'd be perfect!

    We could have had Hitler vs Roosevelt at Madison Square Garden. Hitler throws Roosevelt over the top belt---wheelchair and all making FDR paralyzed. Wait a minute, he was already paralyzed. We could have Trump (in spandex) vs Hilary (fully clothed--please!) winner takes all. When the ref isn't looking, Bill comes in and helps Hilary by smashing Trump over the head with a folding chair, and then he smashes the ref into unconsciousness thus winning the election by a landslide.

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  5. Mr. Simon wrote, "In France, to be sure, they are more civilized; there the married president or premier can have a fully recognized mistress and not be the worse off for it—-perhaps even better."

    Yes, Americans don't like a politician to have coitus with anyone besides his/her spouse; does this prove we're a puritanical people, a feminist people, or a weird hybrid of both? So for politicians, alternatives to coitus needs must be devised, leading to a phenomenon like Anthony Weiner with his sexting. Visiting a dominatrix is another non-coital way of keeping oneself out of the marital doldrums -- but most Americans wouldn’t believe that a guy would pay hundreds of dollars to be with a woman and then not even bust a nut.

    I used to think a man needed two women in his life: one a longtime spouse & mother to his children, and another with knowledge of art, literature, fashion, etc. Now I think a man needs at least three women: a longtime spouse, one with whom he can live out some kind of sexual dream life, and at least one with whom he can be bond as a friend, intellectually/platonically. Of course having all these women in one's life requires the man make some serious coin (for sexual dream lives don’t come cheap), and also be expert at compartmentalization, lest he end up like Hurstwood in 'Sister Carrie'.

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  6. "countenance that television would have me contemplate with scant respite"

    What that mean, bro? You white folks be talking in ways that we brothas cants wrap our head around. I have difficult time contemplating as it is but how one do it or not do it with scant respite?

    It be racist to be talking in ways that no Negro can understand. It be exclusive and triggering of folks who be oppressed and not get the kind of fancy learning that Simon did with his white ass privilege.

    "Mrs. Clinton looks more presentable, by which I do also mean electable, no matter which computer she used for whatever purpose."

    That's because you aint seen her fat ass that done look like two manatees making love.

    "Politics is one of the four high-stakes games along with sport, showbiz, and finance, each gambling for fame, wealth, and power. Yes, power."

    Power, power, black power!

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  7. "Politics is one of the four high-stakes games along with sport, showbiz, and finance, each gambling for fame, wealth, and power. Yes, power... And just how many women did Cosby have to drug and fuck before the Law..."

    Sheeeeeeiiiiiit. I done read Simon over the years to get me some fancy learning and dignified intellect, but the mofo done drop the F-bomb!!!!! I don't ever remember Simon using 'fuck' before. He be going crazy or he be thinking of being a rapper?
    Maybe Simon can redo all his reviews in rap style. He be the new Eminem.

    "Well, who is or was more famous than Madonna or Sinatra, Beyonce or Michael Jackson? Who is or was more widely known and revered than Michael Jordan or Joe DiMaggio, Babe Ruth or Serena Williams? Would any of them have any difficulty getting a reservation at the fanciest restaurants?"

    I think Simon be confusing privilege with power. What celebrities gots is privilege. But it aint necessarily power. If you is famous and gots some dough, you done be treated real nice by people who want your money. But that's about it. Aint nobody gonna listen to you for advice on foreign policy or some shit. Muhammad Ali was famous and people roll out red carpet for him but he didn't end the cold war or some shit like that.

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  8. "That and serious music also demand some sort of input, postulating education and tradition, unavailable to the lower orders and having little mass appeal, I remember how shocked I was when I read about “concerts” being something in arenas and featuring pop stars rather than in concert halls with classical music."

    It depends on what you call lower orders. If you mean dumb hillbilly poor folks, Mexicans who subsist on chips and beer, and Negroes who done listen to rap all day long, you is right.

    But you will be shocked that many folks who be into high culture are economically part of lower order. Indeed, they be poor because they care more about books and art than practical stuff like money and business.

    Remember all them poor Jews who come out of Depression. Aint got no way to go to fancy college. But they still go to NY public library and read shit and learn about art and stuff.

    But over time, smart folks done rise high and while dumb folks fall low in meritocratic order, and that be some scary shit.

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  9. "Let the politician be caught in a bit of adultery and his career is over."

    That was how it used to be. But now, we have a different culture where there be massive parades that celebrate half-naked men grabbing each other's dicks and acting like they wanna be ass-boofing and all that shit. We have Obama saying Jenner be a courageous woman who can use the Ho's room in the white house. Sheeeeeiiiit.
    Adultery don't destroy no career.

    "The only reason Bill Clinton was more or less able to get away with the Monica affair is that there was apparently no penetration, only fellation, which, as Bill was first to tell us, is not sex at all."

    Bill got away because his balls were bigger than his dick. He be the first black president, so to speak,and he wasn't gonna let some white boy like Ken Starr bring him down. He told Ken, 'suck my dick, honkey', and Ken couldn't do much.

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  10. "In France, to be sure, they are more civilized; there the married president or premier can have a fully recognized mistress and not be the worse off for it—perhaps even better."

    That be legacy of aristocratic way, and if you find aristocratic privilege more civilized, then it done throw a monkey wrench into meaning of democracy.

    The French way be humiliating to woman. There, the hubby say, "I'm a great man, therefore, I can have a mistress, and you, little wife, you better take it."

    That be like a rapper having many ho's. At one rapper funeral, there be the widow and 20 mistress skankass ho's. But not sure if that be more civilized.

    I hope Simon is faithful. I hope he don't go to his wife the Hoag-lady and say, "I'm the critic of the century, so I get to fuck all these ho's and you better just take it, little wife."

    Maybe that is civilized but that aint fair to Mrs Simon the Hoag Lady.

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  11. Hillary be a monster. She done destroyed Libya and Syria. Now, Gaddafi was some weird dude but he was keeping order in the land of retardo Arabs. But Hillary done had him killed, laughed about it, and now the place is some shit. Then, she and Obama send arms to terrorists in Syria, and that place went up in flames.

    Hillary be a fatassed war criminal who need to be tried at the Hague along with Bush II and Obama.

    They is killers.

    Trump is a lying punkass fool, but if he is for peace with Russia and leaving the world alone, he be better.

    Besides, Democrats now against free speech. They be trying to appoint judges who on Supreme Court who say 'hate speech' aint free speech. But who decide what is hate? The powerful, that is who.

    Aint fair.

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  12. I envy you

    Anyone who might
    Find the sight
    Of Hillary endearing
    And the tone of her voice
    Seemingly not hearing
    Might toward total blindness
    And deafness be nearing

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    1. Sometime in the 1990s Gore Vidal said, “The last time I voted for President was 1964, when I voted for Lyndon Johnson, ‘the peace candidate.’” Amazing how Hill the Pill has avoided any blame for her Iraq War vote, ditto for Joe Biden – I guess it goes to show that, unfairly or not, the Prez is the one who gets “stuck with the buck.”

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    2. I think Simon’s premise may be that everything is relative. For instance (and apologies to those with weak stomachs): Imagine, if you will, a choice between (say) Barbra Streisand and Jabba the Hut, for a long, enforced session between the sheets, no Vaseline. No faint hearts allowed: You must force your mind’s eye (and nose) into each nook and cranny--every sweaty, purulent, squirming excrescence--of your choice. Even Simon, for all his night-terrors about Miss Streisand’s “cleaving” proboscis, would go for the Nose in a New York second, I think. He’d close his eyes, don a fencing mask--to protect against slashes and thrusts--take a Zofran, and think really really hard about England. (Or Paris). As would I - or any rational being. Comparisons may be odious, but not as odious as a “President Trump.”

      Unlike some other commentators here, I don’t think Simon is weak on politics at all. He treats it (and the impending election) with all the seriousness it deserves.

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    3. @Aldo da Fe, great writing! Mr. Simon pays his taxes so can tawk about politics just like anyone else -- although I often think the only people who *really* understand politics are the Roves, Carvilles, Atwaters, and other masters of GOTV manipulation.

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    4. Hillary be da yoko ono of politics.

      She crazy.

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  13. "Politics is a mug’s game, and by mug I don’t mean Donald Trump’s countenance that television would have me contemplate with scant respite. Mrs. Clinton looks more presentable, by which I do also mean electable, no matter which computer she used for whatever purpose."

    It may be not politic for me to say: Mr. Simon, please stick to your strengths -- theater, film, literature, music, higher brow culture -- and stay away from politics.

    For, for one thing, the ostensibly uncouth Trump, dismissed by Simon in his opening salvo of an aside, seems to have kindled popularity like wildfire among the Great Un(brain)washed precisely because he is perceived to embody a giant (let us say "huge") middle finger to the establishment of Politicians whom Simon in the rest of his essay goes on to pillory.

    As for Hillary being presentable; sure -- in a remake, A Thousand And One Arabian Dalmatians, as Cruella De Vil.

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    1. Simon be an elitist and the fancy pants folks he hang around with all be Democrats and shit. Simon turn up his nose at hoi polloi who support Trump to save they's jobs.

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  14. So what would be the "nightmare scenario" outcome of this election: maybe Trump winning the electoral college while Clinton wins the popular vote?

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    1. There would have to be a “hair-off” on the floor of the US Supreme Court. (What could be more salon-like than all those gowns?) Pelo a pelo, Wave vs. Weave… I foresee Hillary’s butch follicle barrage making mincemeat of Drumpf’s mousse-and-shellac hairricade by the second round.

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  15. white folks music never made no sense to me

    http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2016/06/postmodern-music-groans-wrapped-in-mathematics.html

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  16. I had the pleasure of lunching with Mr. Simon once, and owe to him more than to my university whatever education I have, merely by reading his criticism and chasing forever after word definitions, unknown authors and composers, what have you. And despite the violence of his writing, in person he is a model of civility and grace.
    On politics I once asked him why it did not interest him. He replied that one cannot come away from it unsullied.
    There you have it: it is not for the purist, not for those who loathe the circus, a ballgame, a sprawling opera, a raucous debate.
    To dismiss politics out of hand, when Aristotle said in effect that homo sapiens is a political animal is to indulge in purism. One may as well write a diatribe against doctors. Doctors kill people on the operating table. Doctors use triage. Doctors must cover their mistakes and often fail. They do what they can. Shall we denounce doctors?
    And Bernie Sanders? Aside from the habitual contempt for the Brooklyn manner and nasal accent, which I and many people find charming and which Mr. Simon clearly does not (that's is teutonophile right, one supposes), an informed look at Sanders' politics does in no merit such dismissal.
    Did Sanders vote for a war in Iraq that caused the tragic and criminal deaths of hundreds of thousands? That led us to today's catastrophic shambles of order in Syria and its neighboring states? Hillary did.
    Does Sanders coddle criminal Wall Street financiers who wrecked the American economy, destroyed the lives of millions, made millions homeless and degraded our faith in our institutions? Hillary did and does.
    Is free university a pie-in-the-sky idea? Not in the northern countries of Europe it's not. Sanders himself was educated virtually tuition free -- and United States senator! Hillary's against that.
    Is a measly $15 minimum wage -- a living wage, FDR called it -- pie in the sky, too? No. Even $15 would be well below the relative minimum extant in the 1960s.
    Is Sanders wrong to demand accountability from all the banks that got a mulligan after robbing the country blind? Not one bank has been indicted under the Obama administration, nor will be under Clinton.
    Not even to speak of the mass incarceration of black and brown people in my lifetime.
    Bernie Sanders is a good man. Had he been smart in 2015 perhaps he would have been a great man.
    John Simon is brilliant aesthete on the level of Michael Jordan's basketball game; his political analysis reminds me Jordan's baseball.

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  17. I had the pleasure of lunching with Mr. Simon once, and owe to him more than to my university whatever education I have, merely by reading his criticism and chasing forever after word definitions, unknown authors and composers, what have you. And despite the violence of his writing, in person he is a model of civility and grace.
    On politics I once asked him why it did not interest him. He replied that one cannot come away from it unsullied.
    There you have it: it is not for the purist, not for those who loathe the circus, a ballgame, a sprawling opera, a raucous debate.
    To dismiss politics out of hand, when Aristotle said in effect that homo sapiens is a political animal is to indulge in purism. One may as well write a diatribe against doctors. Doctors kill people on the operating table. Doctors use triage. Doctors must cover their mistakes and often fail. They do what they can. Shall we denounce doctors?
    And Bernie Sanders? Aside from the habitual contempt for the Brooklyn manner and nasal accent, which I and many people find charming and which Mr. Simon clearly does not (that's is teutonophile right, one supposes), an informed look at Sanders' politics does in no merit such dismissal.
    Did Sanders vote for a war in Iraq that caused the tragic and criminal deaths of hundreds of thousands? That led us to today's catastrophic shambles of order in Syria and its neighboring states? Hillary did.
    Does Sanders coddle criminal Wall Street financiers who wrecked the American economy, destroyed the lives of millions, made millions homeless and degraded our faith in our institutions? Hillary did and does.
    Is free university a pie-in-the-sky idea? Not in the northern countries of Europe it's not. Sanders himself was educated virtually tuition free -- and United States senator! Hillary's against that.
    Is a measly $15 minimum wage -- a living wage, FDR called it -- pie in the sky, too? No. Even $15 would be well below the relative minimum extant in the 1960s.
    Is Sanders wrong to demand accountability from all the banks that got a mulligan after robbing the country blind? Not one bank has been indicted under the Obama administration, nor will be under Clinton.
    Not even to speak of the mass incarceration of black and brown people in my lifetime.
    Bernie Sanders is a good man. Had he been smart in 2015 perhaps he would have been a great man.
    John Simon is brilliant aesthete on the level of Michael Jordan's basketball game; his political analysis reminds me Jordan's baseball.

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. As he was a supporter of Eugene McCarthy in 1968, Mr. Simon might be more open to Mr. Sanders as a candidate if he had a realistic chance of winning, but it looks like his chances are even more remote than Mr. Trump's. One betting website has Mr. Sanders' odds of winning at 33/1, compared to Mrs. Clinton's 1/3 and Donald Trump's 5/2:

      http://www.paddypower.com/bet/politics/other-politics/us-politics?ev_oc_grp_ids=791149

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