Friday, March 20, 2009

"Sticks and stones, baby, break your bones..."

Okay, first things first: I don't believe the President of the United States belongs on a late-night talk show. Period. This belief has nothing to do with these shows' propensity for telling jokes many would consider "off-color" (and many others, including myself, generally just consider "unfunny"). It's simply that I like to believe that POTUS has better things to do with his/her time than appear on late-night TV shows. I certainly have better things to do with my time than watch them. Like read. Or sleep.

That having been said, the aspect of President Obama's "Tonight Show" appearance last night that most people are and will be focusing on is not the fact that he should be leading the nation rather than yukking it up with Jay Leno, but rather the Special Olympics gaffe, which I am going to rather uncreatively dub "Specialgate" (I also considered "Gutterballgate" since the comment was related to Obama's poor bowling skills).

The first I heard of it was on Facebook when Ploeger asked the amusing question, "Who loaded the "Special Olympics" comment in the teleprompter?" The comments on the status dismissed it as "an offhand remark" but also pointed out that Dubya would have been flayed alive for such a remark. (Ploeger's retorts to these comments were that the President is supposed to be a reflection of American ideals and if those ideals include making fun of the disabled well then that's just sad, which is true, and that Dubya probably would have mispronounced "Special Olympics", which is untrue but amusing.) (Also, I don't ever recall President Bush making a late-night TV appearance during his term of office, probably because, and this will likely be the only time I ever say this, he has more sense than that.) Ahem, anyway: both points are valid and probably merit discussion.

First off, to Obama's credit, he seems to have immediately recognized the inappropriateness of the comment and called Tim (Corporal? Lieutenant?) Shriver to apologize and further extend an olive branch by inviting Special Olympians to the White House. Is it enough? I don't know. I'd be curious to hear Aaron's thoughts... (Perhaps a good time to end the blogging hiatus, Turtle? Hmm? :)

Anyway, credit having been given where credit is due, on to the discussion: while I do not buy into the whole "liberal media" conspiracy B.S. spouted by many conservatives (notably Sarah Palin during the 2008 campaign), I do acknowledge they are generally at least slightly left-of-center. So it's pretty hard to argue that the media wouldn't have been pretty merciless with George W. Bush here. (I will be extremely curious, for example, how Jon Stewart handles this on Monday's "Daily Show". Certainly he would have eviscerated Dubya in similar circumstances. As a side note, here's an interesting article about Stewart I got from, as usual, Jacob.) It will be interesting to see how they handle it in general. Personally, I predict that FOX News will begin calling for impeachment, CNN (particularly leading candidate for devil incarnate Nancy Grace) will discuss how the comments relate to the latest missing attractive white girl, and MSNBC will proclaim that Obama made the statement to draw attention to such a wonderful cause and then take a commercial break while Chris Matthews cleans his shorts. Again.

As to the comment that it was an offhand remark, a failed attempt at casual humor, it's pretty clear that this is the case. What's more troubling is what that means. Who among us can say we've never cracked a "short bus" joke? Hell, I've callously referred to handicapped parking spots as "cripple spots". In my mind, I defend this as my own personal retaliation against the modern, overly politically corrected parlance, but is this really an excuse? People I care about use handicapped spots. What is the cause of such insensitivity? Is it a symptom of a larger national tendency or is it merely human nature? Or am I just making too big a deal out of it?

Ultimately, the incident will - and probably should - fall by the wayside. There are more important things to worry about. Which does beg the question of why I just spent a ridiculous rambling post talking about it. Yeah, well. Shut up.

P.S. As a follow-up to a previous post: Yay! (H/T: The Agitator.)

"Believe me when I call and I say
The next girl that I love wont be a saint"
- Army Navy, Saints


Anonymous Barzelay said...

I thought Obama was pretty hilarious, actually, and the most likeable and spontaneous he's been since before he started campaigning for the Presidency.

March 25, 2009 1:58 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Maybe I'll get around to watching it at some point. I still prefer my president stay away from the talk-show circuit.

March 25, 2009 4:51 PM  

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