Monday, May 04, 2009

More on the "Top Ten List" -- Why Obama
Was Furious Over the Air Force One Misadventure

Update: below
Los Angeles Times
entertainment writer, Greg Braxton, has noted in detail (ht, HotAir)* what many of us have been observing for quite a while now -- that most main-stream comedians have been very reluctant to poke any fun at President Obama. As many of their counterparts in the press have done in setting aside their critical faculties, many comedians have just dropped the "funny ball" when it comes to The One.

And most assuredly, we all know it is not for lack of good material!

The last post here was a bit of a "rip-off" of David Letterman's schtick, the "Top Ten List," in which we posted the Top Ten reasons President Obama was "furious" over the recent incident in which Air Force One and an F-16 fighter buzzed the New York harbor area, scaring residents, emptying office buildings, and threatening local officials with retaliation if they gave anyone advanced notice of the flight.

Our point was that David Letterman would never, ever do a hard-hitting "Top Ten" making fun of Obama. He's way too busy kissing up to the guy. So, as flawed as our post may have been, our top ten constituted a sarcastic impression of the late night host, much as so many comedians do impressions of others.

A few others, such as Scott Ott at ScrappleFace, have poked fun of the incident itself as well.

But as Braxton correctly points out, Letterman is decidedly unfunny when talking about Obama.
Meanwhile David Letterman, who regularly bashed Bush, has repeatedly praised the new president ("You gotta like this guy . . . by God, this guy is out there, doing stuff. He's always got stuff going on").

In fact, the CBS late-night host has used Obama to set up jabs at Bush. In one monologue, he noted Obama's recent trip to South America, where his lack of knowledge of Spanish prevented him from reading a book presented to him by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: "It would be like handing George Bush any book."

Writers and producers for "Late Show With David Letterman," "The Tonight Show," "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" declined comment for this story.
No surprise there!

But there is plenty of humor out there about this guy. And there is plenty to downright ridicule, including absurdedly bowing to the Saudi King, and the various antics of the thoroughly risible Joe Biden. In fact, Joe has been such a known object of ridicule for nearly his entire political life, that making his very selection by Mr. Obama is a ripe subject for humor. Barack Obama's Teleprompter Blog is but one recent example of the latest.

In any event, the reason the Administration cited for having taken the New York flight in the first place -- the claim that they were updating of the photo file -- was so laughable that it had to make anyone wonder what the real reason might be.

What self-respecting main-stream comedian would pass up an opportunity to take a shot at that sort of nonsense coming from the White House? Sadly, virtually every one of them.

But who knows . . . maybe Letterman was one of the "special people" that some of us suspect may have been aboard that flight. Why else would he lay off not only that one, but so many other juicy topics? E.g., Janet Napolitano creating a firestorm of bad publicity by singling out veterans as potential terrorists . . . and thereafter someone floating her name as a potential Supreme Court nominee!

Think about the possibilities for an easy laugh doing a simple skit based on the Administration's public version of events!
POTUS and Lou Caldera, head of the White House Office of Military Affairs. In the Oval Office . . .

POTUS: "Uhhh . . . Lou . . . take Air Force One up to New York early tomorrow, and fly all around the harbor area & the Statue of Liberty at a really low altitude, if you would. Kind of like you're buzzing them, you know? Take Fenster along and he's just going to snap some photos for the file. Oh, and see if you can't get an F-16 to go along and chase you around, too. In fact, take two of them with you, but you can have one of 'em peel off when you get there. Okay?"

Lou: "No problem. I'll get right on it, Chief! Oh . . . you want to take any video of say . . . crowd reactions?"

POTUS: "Nah . . . all they'll do is point and waive. They love me up in New York!"

Lou: "Yeah, you're right, Chief. Jeez . . . what was I thinking there for a second?!"

POTUS: "Oh Lou, mum's the word in advance. Don't want anyone to think we're grandstanding, or anything . . . ."

Lou: "Hey, you bet, Chief!" (He salutes as he backs out the door.)
Don't count on anything or anyone skewering The One any time soon. Perhaps some of them are afraid of being accused of being racist -- not that they would be, but that they feel the accusation alone might be enough to threaten their career.

Braxton strongly suggests that this is the primary issue:
But it's Obama's African American heritage more than any other single factor that has perhaps frozen comics' pens and keyboards. Political humorists, most of whom are white, have never dealt with a black president and aren't sure how their material will be received. Is an Obama joke truly aimed at the office and its policies, or is it merely a smokescreen for racial prejudice?
On that point, I'd disagree that poking fun of Obama would be a "smokescreen" for racial prejudice. In fact, I think that argument itself is merely a smokescreen for left-wing politics. As Braxton himself points out later:
Contributing to Obama's kid-glove treatment, too, are the political leanings of many comedy writers. Although it didn't ultimately help Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter, Winston, who wrote for Leno for six years, argues there's little doubt many joke writers are Democrats.

"You have to remember that most comedy writers on these shows are more liberal than conservative," Winston said. "It was much easier to write comedy when the enemy was the target."
Remember also that Barack Obama successfully exploited false racism charges during the campaign to blunt criticisms of himself. Now, there were some subtle and minor elements of racial division during the primary -- for example, Bill Clinton's comments mentioning Jesse Jackson following the South Carolina contest -- that Obama apparently concluded gave him a platform from which to raise the issue. But the only talk about race as an issue during the general election came right out of the Obama camp in June, in the form of utterly unjustified preemptory accusation made by the Democrat candidate himself, without any basis whatsoever for the accusation.

But no mainstream journalist called him on it. Was it their political leanings that tipped the scale?

And to this day, we now see that even long-established comedians are willy-nilly pulling their punch lines.

How far will this fear of accusation go?

I suppose the irony in all of this is . . . don't expect to hear any calls for the implementation of the "fairness doctrine" at Comedy Central . . . or, on late night TV!

Update: Christian Toto of the Washington Times weighs in on the topic today. He too observes the twin factors for the "reluctance" to joke about Obama -- political bias, and fear of "offending" racial sensibilities.

As Braxton did, Toto also notes the fact that many comedians have actually replaced jokes in favor of hero worship.

Christian further cites Glenn Beck for the observation that some main-stream comedians are so biased, that they are deliberately pulled their punches at least partially because they know the power of their humor, and political calculation is one motivating factor.

From the story:
Radio and Fox News Channel talk show host Glenn Beck, who kicks off a six-city stand-up comedy tour on June 1 in Denver, suggested that both fear and political calculation are inhibiting factors. Comedians like Mr. Letterman are "either afraid, or they know the power of comedy as a weapon and they like using it as that," he said.

"We're now into biased comedy. We can't even laugh without a political agenda," said Mr. Beck, who cites "The Simpsons" as a show that skewers both sides without fear or favor."
Toto also questions whether the reluctance on the part of left-leaning comics will open the door to those who more conservative, and willing to joke about Obama.

He quotes one up and coming comedian, who suggests the opening will not likely be made by people like Letterman, or his producers for that matter.
Can the vacuum of uninhibited presidential satire create an opening within the comedy ranks for a new breed of right-leaning comics?

Comedian Nick DiPaolo said that although the new administration provides an opening for conservative humorists, that won't mean they suddenly start appearing on Mr. Letterman's couch.

Mr. DiPaolo, who mixes conservative-friendly material into his act, said the people behind the major entertainment shows "aren't going to let someone right of center jump into the arena."



* Posted on HotAir, as "Gutless comedians won't go after Obama."

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