September 4, 2010 - August 28, 2010
Monday, May 11, 2009
was a time nobody remembers... apparently.
. Since class warfare has been initiated, I'm prepared to defend
the unpopular position of, well, class. Since it's been entirely
forgotten by all sides.
Just not by me.
It interests me that conservatives are struggling with why they were
offended by the White House Correspondents Dinner last night. On the
one hand, they know they were offended by Wanda Sykes's monologue and
by the fact that Obama laughed at it. On the other, they think they're
trying to be fair, trying to put it into perspective, not getting all
bent out of shape by it because Ann Coulter is mean too, etc. Oh, and
yeah, they're above it all somehow. Or just plain tone-deaf. Which?
Here's HotAir's Ed
Comedians like Wanda Sykes are almost
literally a dime a dozen. They like to make headlines by being
outrageous, but otherwise have as little relevance to everyday life as
Baywatch does to Shakespeare. She belongs in the same category as
Janeane Garofalo, who apparently can’t gain attention any other way
than to play the race card by yelling “White Power” on stage at
conservatives. Neither that nor calling Rush Limbaugh the 20th
hijacker is witty, funny, or incisive. It’s at the same level of
intellect as babies playing with their soiled diapers, and about as
I’m not particularly exercised by it, although it did lead to an
interesting Twitter exchange today between myself, Patterico, Steven
Den Beste [see update below], Atrios, and a few others. About
halfway into it I grew bored and watched Night at the Museum with my
granddaughters. It was a much better use of my time.
Anyway, why did I think it was awful?
For starters, the hotel is under renovation, so the traditional
pre-dinner reception in the courtyard was gone this year. This meant
that everyone had to congregate indoors which turned the place into a
steam bath. Also, neither The Weekly Standard nor NR had a reception
this year, which was too bad.
As for the dinner itself, I thought Obama was fairly good for most of
his talk, though I have my quibbles. I thought Wanda Sykes had some
funny lines, but was generally pretty bad. Yes, I thought the Limbaugh
stuff was particularly awful, not just because it was offensive, but
because it was unfunny. Biting humor is fine at events like this, so
long as it's humorous. Sykes's schtick was a cliche wrapped in a lefty
talking point. There are funnier lines in lefty blog comment sections.
Enough. I could go on citing conservative lack of response, including
the weekend and weekday Fox &
, who basically had no idea how they felt about about
Wanda Sykes wanting Limbaugh's kidneys to fail given that they thought
Obama himself was "self deprecating" and "funny." The fact that he was
neither escaped them entirely.
I'd probably have let it all go except for Philadelphia talk show host
, who's as dumb
as they come and therefore put it
all in perspective for me. (He has a talent for that. Thank you,
Michael.) This morning, he -- impassioned moderate
that he is --
was asking his callers to rate the degree of offense represented by 1)
the golfing writer who recycled an old lawyer joke to declare that in
an elevator with Pelosi, Reid, and bin Laden and possessed of only two
bullets, he'd shoot Pelosi twice and content himself with strangling
Reid and bin Laden, and 2) Wanda Sykes's jokes at the White House
Correspondents Dinner. His whole demeanor suggested they were the same
and was trying to get his callers to admit it. He seemed (as usual)
pleased with himself for having posted a self-cancelling question: Yes,
obviously they're both wrong, so harm on both sides means no harm, no
foul, net net a lawyer's wash for the attorney Smerconish. BUT: He
apologized to a caller who didn't know that the Sykes comments occurred
at, uh, the White Correspondents Dinner. He admitted he hadn't been
clear about that. Which is why I finally decided to comment.
Context matters. I grew up in the generation between the one that
called tuxedoes "dressing for dinner" and "monkeysuits." Pretty big
connotative difference. "Dressing for dinner" means you're going to
live up to some standard. "Monkeysuit" means you're blindly imitating
some standard you don't feel any real respect for.
I imagine the White House Correspondents Dinner once meant that you
were going to step things up a notch. If you were a scathing White
House reporter, you'd have to elevate yourself by being both polite and
witty rather than deadly. An elementary point that seems to have
escaped new adherents to the calling: there is more than one gradation
of wit. What determines the change in degree? The occasion. The office.
attire. The attire
, even if
it's at the local Rotary or country club. This is why ladies
are important. They are at
their goddess best, lovely, gowned, made up, high-heeled, perfumed, and
faultlessly polite. The tuxedo is designed as a backdrop to them, as is
the repartee. More than one gradation of wit. There's the
murderous go-for-the-throat variety of newspapermen and political
advocates working in their shirtsleeves in the trenches. Then there's
the high-flown variety -- clever, allusive, luminous, numinous,
so light and seemingly benign that it takes days to see where and
how it struck to the heart. The kind you do in the company of ladies in
The White House Correspondents Dinner was once conceived as the latter
-- a dress-up occasion to which newspapermen could take their wives.
Sparring with the president, who would don the same lightweight gloves
and trade stinging jabs with his foes that might hurt but draw no
blood. At least not tonight.
But note what has changed. Women are no longer ladies. Men no longer
live up to their tuxedoes. And with the loss of these elemental
traditions, all others go by the wayside too. In fact, the whole
purpose of the exercise is lost. What's left is mean, political,
stupid, crass, and even violent. Clods in monkeysuits. Laughing at
In the best of worlds, some gentleman would have taken Wanda Sykes
somewhere in dress-up ere this -- a wedding, a graduation, a rite of
She would have learned how to live up to an occasion without squatting
in her evening gown to shit on the stage for the purpose of attracting
attention. In the best of
worlds, someone would have done the same with the Obamas, taught them
there are times when being polite is
the point. In a smarterr world, someone would have briefed the Obamas
that watching a woman shit on stage with a big smile on your face is
kind of gross.
Pardon me. Pardon me all to hell. We did
have a president
who knew all this stuff. We chose to hate him for
having class. He never laughed at a cruel joke. He never thought it
funny to wish for someone else's death, not even a political enemy. We
put him to the ultimate test. We forced him to smile through a
at a White House Correspondents Dinner. He
didn't even wince. He didn't pretend that his own arrogance was self
deprecation. Rather, he was truly
self deprecatory and made no
self-congratulatory jokes about what he would do after his hundred (or
seventy-two) days of creation. He made fun of his verbal infacility
without ever reminding any of his critics that he knew how to fly a jet
fighter better than any president since the one who saved the planet in
You may yet feel nostalgic for it. You won't. But you should. Because
mediocre is always better than better. And GWB's secret was always that he was much much better than mediocre. Obama's secret is beginning to look like the exact opposite.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
A Modest Suggestion:
A Statue of Al
you could build it. With a few tons of
bronze and all the carbon it would emit...
It would be hard to make this stuff
To Vote On Al Gore Statue
Resolution Previously Passed House
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A resolution urging the creation of statues to be
built on the Tennessee Capitol grounds of the state's two Nobel Peace
Prize winners, Al Gore and Cordell Hull, is on its way to a full Senate
The Senate State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday advanced the
measure supporting the privately funded statues on a 9-0 vote. The
resolution previously passed in the House unanimously.
Gore was awarded his Nobel prize in 2007 for his work on global
warming, while Hull received the award in 1945 for his role in creating
the United Nations and improving international trade relations.
Both men served as Democratic congressmen and senators from Tennessee
before moving on to the executive branch, Hull as secretary of state
and Gore as vice president.
I doubt whether Cordell Hull cares much about the whole thing, but Al
Gore should be very concerned. Creating and installing a statue of a
man his size could be incredibly wasteful in terms of carbon usage. I
mean, what does he weigh now, 350 pounds? Translate his current volume
into bronze or granite and you're talking a mega-load of fuel for the
trucks and railcars that would have to transport it, not to mention the
pollution from the furnace fires required for smelting the copper, tin,
phosphorus, manganese, aluminum, and silicon it takes to produce
bronze. (Don't even think about the larger-than-life
favored by most crazed demagogues of his stripe. The mind
That's why I'm so pleased to offer a clever and economical workaround
that won't waste nearly as much fossil fuel and other
planet-incinerating resources. It so happens that there was a doomed
project called the President's
, for which a sculptor named Adickes produced a significant
number of monumental statues. One of them was a statue of our hugest
president (by far), William Howard Taft.
see where I'm going with this?
It's true that Taft had more hair than Gore, but otherwise the two of
them are, frankly, dead ringers for each other, hugely enormous fat men
with giant heads and carefully groomed eyebrows. So all that's really
required is "rebranding" the Taft statue and moving it from its current
domicile in South
Dakota to whatever heavily reinforced piazza in Tennessee the
legislators think could bear the weight.
What's more, I think I could also minimize the carbon, uh, footprint
the transport effort. Forget the trucks and railcars. If our aspiration
is really to return to a simpler, greener way of life, now would be a
good time to get started. Let's transport the Taft/Gore statue the way
the Easter Islanders moved their
stupid, phony, multi-ton godhead
sculptures into place.
That's right. You get a bunch of true-green environmentalists to drag
the damn thing all the way
from South Dakota to Tennessee. (That sort of choking sound you hear is
a cough, probably a touch of the Tennessee Giant Swine Flu. It's
definitely not laughter.)
Then you let them figure out how to raise it upright and glue it in
place. (Hell, you could charge admission just to watch them try to
figure it out...)
You have to admit it's a pretty perfect plan. And all Al Gore has to do
to save all the energy that could be saved is to grow a Taft mustache.
I feel that a man of his prodigious intellect could just about manage
Or am I being too optimistic?
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