Ask Matt Labash

Ask Matt Labash: Defending Charlie Sheen, and changing the GOP dress code, a new sartorial strategy

Matt Labash Columnist
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I just heard this Charlie Sheen rant. What is he doing and how can we make him stop? – Charlotte D.

You’ll forgive me for being loathe to jump on the ridicule-Charlie-Sheen bandwagon. Not only because it’s bad form to make fun of the mentally ill, but because I know firsthand the pain of being a Hollywood bad boy, having your every move scrutinized.

Also, I too listened to The Rant. And who wants to taunt a guy who has magic and poetry in his fingertips, even during naps and who will destroy you like an F-18, bro? And that’s just what he’s boasted of. Additionally, show business sources tell me Sheen once shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die. That he rode a tank, held a general’s rank, when the blitzkrieg raged, and the bodies stank. Also, that he’s actually been known to fart mustard gas. Before it’s all over, he could very well take out Burbank like Chemical Ali took out Halabja. So choose which side you’re on. Me, I’m going with Winning.

To be honest, Charlie Sheen doesn’t typically occupy this much disk space on ye olde hard drive. I mean sure, if he tries to snort the Parmesan cheese shaker at his local Sbarro or burns a dead hooker with a crack pipe while peeing on her chest, I’ll glance the headlines like everyone else. Like many, I once considered him a talented actor (“Wall Street,” “Platoon,” “Lucas”). Though I don’t think I’ve seen a film of his since “Hot Shots! Part Deux,” and then, only because my remote control had lodged under a couch cushion, and I’m really, really lazy.

Before he became a television star relatively late in his career, Sheen’s movie roles had degenerated to parts like “Barbie Loving Bartender” in “Loose Women,” and as the voice for Charles B. “Charlie” Barkin in “All Dogs Go To Heaven 2.” (Not that there’s anything wrong with that – dogs should have a voice, so that they don’t have to go around sniffing each other’s backsides like a bunch of animals.) But you’d think the guy would be grateful for a vehicle that resuscitated his career and pays him nearly $2 million an episode, which for Sheen, could keep him in porn stars and coke for two days, maybe even a long weekend if he budgeted tightly.

That said, we owe Charlie Sheen a great debt. For he’s managed to do the one thing that until this tiff, network executives were unwilling or unable to do – to get that atrocity, that monument to mediocrity,  that popularizer of bowling shirts, “Two and a Half Men,” taken off the air. It has plagued us since 2003. When it debuted, Saddam Hussein was still running around Iraq. And I think it’s fair to say that one of the fundamental failures of the Bush administration was that they forcibly removed the Butcher of Baghdad, yet left the equally dangerous Jon Cryer in power, where he was free to practice prime-time atrocities against his own people for the better part of a decade.

So is Charlie Sheen out of control, having a full-blown public meltdown, and probably two ticks away from becoming the full-time chemtrails correspondent for the Alex Jones Show? Yes, probably. And I feel for his family, particularly his anguished father, Martin Sheen, and his brother Emilio Estevez, assuming the latter is still alive. But let’s give the guy some credit. One 15-minute rant provided more laughs, some of them even intentional, than his milquetoast sitcom has in eight years. So long may he rage. Charlie, don’t let the sane people get you down.

Should the new class of Republicans adopt some sort of sartorial strategy? That is to say, how should they dress, and shouldn’t they all match? Maybe they could all where NASCAR type flame-resistant GOP jumpsuits? Or character-driven, KISS/GWAR-like outfits? Should they ride around the capital in motorcycles and sidecars? I feel this is a blind spot. I feel Grover Norquist should be heard from on the matter.  – Admiral Horatio Nelson

First off, Admiral, allow me to thank you for your service to our country. Second, you’re right. Though I’m not at liberty to consult Grover on the matter at this time (I borrowed some money from him, and owe some very heavy vig), it does seem like Republicans are going their own way sartorially a bit more  than they used to.

There once was a time – let’s call them the early nineties – when you couldn’t  walk through the halls of the Rayburn building without bumping into some member wearing a Newt Gingrich-yellow power tie. And who can forget the men’s Capri pants craze of the late nineties, popularized by Denny Hastert.

Since then, Republican fashion choices have run helter skelter, as they select from the Men’s Warehouse bounty, however it suits them. Since they are conservatives, of course, you’d expect them to be pro-individuality. But at what cost? Unit cohesion? Maybe it’s time to get on the same fashion page again.

The new kids need leadership. And maybe that should come in the person of House Budget Committee Chairman and former fitness trainer, Paul Ryan, who leads many congresspersons in daily P90X workouts – the arduous, muscle confusion-craze regimen. He told Politico that the workouts took him down to between 6 and 8 percent body fat. If I had 6 percent body fat, there’s two things I’d do:

1. Eat a Wendy’s Baconator  Double for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a couple Baconator snacks in between (eating five or six small meals a day keeps your metabolism firing).

2. Leave my shirt off, full-time.

For Republicans, maybe that’s the answer – just leave the shirts off. Why? As an act of intimidation, and because Jerry Nadler and Barney Frank can’t, at least not without smacking themselves black and blue with their moobs. Republicans are all about austerity budgets anyway. So what better symbol than taking the shirts off their own backs? To be sure, it’s gonna be tough, foregoing the Men’s Warehouse Versini blue dress shirts, now on sale for $13.99. (What goes with them? More like what doesn’t go with them?) But these are tough times, and tough times require tough measures, as Chris Christie’s film crew has probably caught him saying on YouTube, for fear of getting the crap beat out of them by Christie if they missed it (because that’s what tough people do in tough times – throw bones – preferably on YouTube).

Maybe it’s time for Republicans to put their money where their mouths are, and put on the team jersey – which is no jersey at all. This is admittedly awkward for congresswomen. So they shouldn’t be required to follow suit. But if Rep. Kristi Noem, for instance, examines her conscience, and decides to stand in solidarity with her male colleagues, I’m certainly not going to try to stop her.

Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” is now available in paperback from Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.