Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Democracy is better off when comedians step in where journalists fear to tread

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Originally published on on Thu, 09/25/2008 – 9:36am

But where are the clowns?
Quick, send in the clowns.
Don’t bother, they’re here.

Send in the Clowns, Stephen Sondheim, 1973

While I don’t watch much late-night broadcast TV lately (and virtually no Jay Leno), I always appreciate having David Letterman around. Last night proved why it’s crucial to have him on the air.

Yes, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert do commentary and political humor much better and much more often than the traditional late-night hosts. But Letterman, Leno, Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson, and Conan O’Brien draw much larger audiences on broadcast TV than Stewart and Colbert do.

Leno has been in the tank for Republicans (McCain, Schwarzenegger) not out of philosophy, but rolling with the status quo. And you can say Letterman is over the top against Bush, but when Letterman speaks, you know it comes from the heart.

Letterman spoke highly of McCain last night, calling him a hero when there aren’t that many heroes left. But he kept focusing on “why would you suspend a campaign.” Even when distracted, Letterman bounced back to this theme, and noted that something smells in this decision. At this point, the blame went to unnamed McCain campaign advisers, not the candidate himself.

But the tone changed as the show went on.

“You don’t suspend your campaign,” Letterman added. “Do you suspend your campaign? No, because that makes me think, well, you know, maybe there will be other things down the road — if he’s in the White House, he might just suspend being president. I mean, we’ve got a guy like that now!”

The fun really kicked in during Keith Olbermann’s second segment. Olbermann, the pinch-hit guest for McCain, looked uncomfortable as the second segment began. This is because Letterman and his crew discover during the break that while Letterman is taping his show at the Ed Sullivan Theater, McCain is still in New York City, taping an interview with Katie Couric not too far away at Black Rock, home of CBS News.

If you are ditching school or work, don’t put yourself in a position where someone can see you. If McCain was on with Brian Williams or Charlie Gibson, Letterman wouldn’t known about it. But if you set up an interview on the same network, it’s entirely possible you will get caught.

“He doesn’t seem to be racing to the airport, does he?” Letterman said, shouting at the television monitor: “Hey John, I got a question! You need a ride to the airport?”

When you suspend a campaign to appear non-political, you should suspend everything. Here was the McCain campaign priorities:

cancel Letterman appearance
cancel meeting with Prime Minister of India
postpone debate


do interview with Katie Couric at the same time as Letterman
do a scheduled speech for the Clinton Global Initiative in New York

Besides the premise of suspending a campaign, well sort of, anyway, Letterman’s fury was that he was told, presumably by McCain, that he had to go back to Washington to do his part. This from a Senator that hasn’t voted in the Senate for anything since at least April, and isn’t even on the committee looking into the bailout deal. And McCain knew he wasn’t leaving New York.

Merriam-Webster defines “suspend” as “to cause to stop temporarily <suspend bus service>, to set aside or make temporarily inoperative.” Doing some things and not others doesn’t fall into line with suspend. It would be like suspending a child from school, but that child could go to 1st period math.

The one troubling element to the media was the sheep-like reaction of the MSM to the horror that George W. Bush created, the fear, the scare tactics, the constant mendacity. No matter how bad things got, they were afraid to speak up, give perspective, or challenge that perhaps something from Bush Administration people could be wrong.

It is tragic and pathetic that comedians, who don’t have the classic training, are the ones who aren’t afraid to speak the truth. Letterman spoke in a way that Couric, Williams, Gibson, et al can’t on won’t. Their inability to speak up has helped cost us rights and lives. Thank goodness for the “clowns.”


Written by democracysoup

September 25, 2008 at 9:36 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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