Paul Greenberg

For an actor, the talented Morgan Freeman doesn't have the best sense of timing. At least when off-camera and talking politics. There's a lot of that going around. It figures. A presidential election approaches and folks are heating up.

For example, Mr. Freeman chose the eve of the GOP's straw poll in Florida to describe both the tea party and Republicans in general as racists. Mr. Freeman was particularly vociferous on the subject of those terrible Republicans who were always putting party above country. The only thing they're really interested in, he explained, was denying Barack Obama a second term in the White House. Or, as the talented Mr. Freeman put it, the Republicans' general attitude is: "Screw the country. We're going to do whatever we (need to do) to get this black man out of here."

Whereupon, the next day, the results of Florida's straw poll were announced, and, sure enough, which presidential candidate did those awful Republicans and tea party racists endorse, and by an overwhelming margin at that?

You guessed it: Herman Cain, who, as the current phraseology has it, happens to be black. (You can tell by the way he sings gospel.)

Stars of stage, screen and Democratic politics like Morgan Freeman and Alec Baldwin sound so much better when they let others write their lines. Rather than expose their prejudices. They can be so intelligent when following a well-written script. But left to their own clumsy devices off camera, they can say some fairly idiotic things. Sometimes that's not clear for a while. In this case, it was clear within 24 hours.

Just the other day, Mr. Baldwin was bashing Ronald Reagan as a "failed actor." If only the Republicans could find as great a failure to nominate as their next presidential candidate.

Au revoir and bonjour, Marianne! According to dispatches, the mayor of Neuville-en-Ferraine has revealed that a bust of Marianne, the emblem of the French Revolution, has been toppled because authorities there decided it was, well, too busty.

Apparently, every town hall and courthouse in France gets to choose its own version of Mlle. Marianne, often cast in the likeness of a media star of the moment. This new version resembles fashion model Laetitia Casta, who's a favorite of L'Oreal, Chanel and Dior ads, Victoria's Secret catalogue covers, and the like. In France, fashion still trumps all. And since fashion changes regularly, so do Mariannes.

It's as if this country were to replace the Statue of Liberty with a new one now and then, say in the style of Diane Keaton or Angelina Jolie as times and tastes change. It's no easier keeping up with France's changing images of Marianne than counting the number of French Republics. Out on the frontier here in rustic America, we prefer our national symbols to stay pretty much the same, like our republic.

It was a clue even Inspector Clouseau couldn't have missed:

When one Kevin Daly of Coram, N.Y., was charged with a DUI after colliding with a police car, he was wearing a T-shirt bearing the message:

I'm not an alcoholic

I'm a drunk

Alcoholics go to meetings

Would he had gone to some.

If at first you don't succeed ... At first Jon Corzine did his best to bankrupt New Jersey when he was governor of that fiscally troubled state. Then he moved on to MF Global Holdings Ltd., a once successful investment firm. Once ensconced there, he began making big bets on those big bonds European countries were issuing. They proved bad bets. (See Greece and all the other Europeans countries now lined up for default behind it like so many dominoes -- Spain, Italy, Portugal....)

Result: MF Global Holdings filed for bankruptcy, and Mr. Corzine left investors holding the bag -- and his worthless regrets. At least he's been consistent as both a politician and investor. A consistent failure. And on no small scale.

Mr. Corzine, formerly The Hon. Jon Corzine and even talked up as a presidential candidate at one point, graciously declined to accept $12 million in severance pay from the company he drove into bankruptcy. But it's unlikely those who had their savings invested in MF Global, which used to be a solid investment firm pre-Corzine, will be overwhelmed with gratitude.

Politeness counts: Gregory Paul Hess, aka The Polite Robber, has been caught and convicted in Seattle after a video showed him robbing a gas station with the utmost courtesy. "Sir, I'm robbing you," he thoughtfully explained, apologizing profusely for the inconvenience and promising to pay the owner back -- "if I every get on my feet again, sir." He was sentenced to 60 months in prison. He needs to serve every day -- ever so politely.

Today's vocabulary lesson: In his rave review of "Take Shelter," the Weekly Standard's John Podhoretz noted "the writing and directing of a 32-year-old named Jeff Nichols, who has come out of nowhere to make something of a masterpiece -- a perfectly controlled, conceived and paced work with a genuine intelligence built into its structure, its plotting, and its dialogue."

Nowhere must be East Coast for Little Rock, Ark.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.