Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 12

a thing or two. They never ask my advice about a damned thing, and do you know what? I’m getting pretty sore. Why, I look like a fool in front of the press” (48-51). But, inspired by a visit from the ghost of St. Nicholas, Clift undergoes a surprising spiritual transformation, echoing Ebenezer Scrooge’s in A Christmas Carol. St. Nicholas transports Clift by elevator to America’s own Dantean hell, where he sees former presidents burdened with guilt for government-sponsored crimes committed while they were in office. Dwight D. Eisenhower is haunted by the CIA-sponsored assassination of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo in 1961, Harry S Truman by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and Nelson A. Rockefeller by the massacre committed by police during the 1971 Attica Prison riot. Like the frightful ghost of Christmas future in A Christmas Carol, these spirits spur Clift to a moment of self-recognition. Clift is also deeply moved by St. Nicholas’ ethic of generosity and selflessness, as captured by his legend, and, later in the novel, even more so by Clift’s visit to the crippled grandson of his African American butler (i.e., the novel’s Tiny Tim). As a result, Clift decides that he will renounce publicly the wanton greed, militarism, racism and corruption that mark his administration. This speech is foreshadowed early in the novel by one character’s speculation that one day the President could “pull a Mr. Smith on them . . . [In] that movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington . . . Mr. Smith gets up and makes a speech in Congress in which he exposes all of the corruption in the land, and this one Senator, played by Claude Rains, becomes so agitated he leaps to his feet and confesses it all” (13). Part One of the novel, "A Past Christmas," is set in early 1980, at the time that Reed wrote the novel in the wake of Reagan’s victory. The much longer Part Two, "A Future Christmas," is set in the 1990s. In Part Two Reed elaborates his dystopian vision of a future neo-fascist America in which the chief executive is manipulated by reactionary corporate, military and Christian Evangelical power brokers, all enabled by a pliable news media whose former head, Krantz, now wields near-absolute authority in the White House. Reed did not, in 1980, imagine the rise of Fox News, a news network that CNN-founder Ted Turner and many others have equated with the Nazi propaganda machine; but Krantz’s character clearly anticipates the roles played by Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon in Trump’s presidential campaign. As all of this suggests, The Terrible Twos fuses together a dizzyingly eclectic mix of high, popular, vernacular, ethnic and national cultural traditions, an example of what the 7