Monday, May 11, 2009

Speaking Truth to Power, 2009 Edition

It was a pretty slow news weekend and perhaps the most noteworthy event was the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, especially the performance of comedian Wanda Sykes. You can see the whole thing at the link if you wish. The commentary from Nikki Finke discusses the bravery of this performer, who dares to speak truth to power:

I've been to the White House Correspondents Dinner. And, if history is any judge, then comedians asked to perform there seem to do best when they joke with gentle jibes rather than go for the jugular. Someone should have reminded Wanda Sykes about that before tonight. Because not since Don Imus roughed up Bill Clinton at the annual event has a comedian been so mean-spirited. Certainly, Stephen Colbert wasn't to George W Bush. But, unlike Imus or Colbert, Wanda Sykes didn't lay a glove on the sitting president Barack Obama. Instead, she reserved her barbs for people who weren't there: Dubya, John McCain, Dick Cheney, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.

What to make of this? I strongly believe we need our jesters, especially ones who are willing to make fun of people who are actually in power. Maybe someday we'll get a few who are actually willing to make fun of the present administration. For now, we'll just have to do with these warm thoughts from people like Ms. Sykes:

Sykes was at her most vicious on the subject of Rush Limbaugh. "Rush Limbaugh said he hopes this administration fails. That's like saying, 'I hope America fails.' Or that 'I dont care if people are losing their homes, their jobs, our soldiers in Iraq.' He just wants the country to fail. To me, that's treason. He's not saying anything differently than what Osama Bin Laden is saying." Then, turning to the president, Sykes added, "You might want to look into this, sir. Because I think maybe he was the 20th hijacker. But he was just so strung out on Oxycontin that he missed his flight."

Realizing she shocked the crowd with that remark, she said, "Too much? But you're laughing on the inside..."

But she wasn't done. "Rush Limbaugh [says] 'I hope the country fails." I hope his kidneys fail. How about that? He needs some waterboarding, that's what he needs."

Yeah, I'll admit it. Wishing for someone's kidneys to fail makes me laugh on the inside. But then again I'm just a coldhearted bastard. And if my kidneys should ever fail, I'll be sure to let Wanda Sykes know, because I'm sure she'll get a good chuckle out of it.

(H/T: Instapundit)

24 comments:

W.B. Picklesworth said...

"Hi, my name is Wanda Sykes and I'm a sycophant and a coward. Try the kool-aid. It's excellent."

Brad Carlson said...

Wanda Sykes is just another person in a long line of insignificant people who call out the names of folks who matter. People like Al Franken, Keith Olbermann, etc. all invoke Rush Limbaugh's name to sell books and/or enhance their TV ratings. Rush is right not to give these grubby little parasites the time of day.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this must have been a slow news weekend if you guys got your panties in a bunch over this. I wonder if you got this upset when Big Boy mocked Michael J. Fox's Parkison's Disease. Somehow, I doubt it.

Rich

Mark Heuring said...

Let me help you with this, Rich. The point isn't Limbaugh -- the point is that this event has always, always, always been about mocking the President. Not his antagonists.

Like I said in the post, we need jesters. This president especially needs jesters. When the jesters turn into just another member of the Praetorian Guard, it's problematic. It was a Good Thing when Stephen Colbert went after George W. Bush at this same event a few years ago. Even though I didn't find Colbert's performance especially funny, it's healthy to call b.s. on our leadership. And you know that. And if our jesters can't bring themselves to do call b.s. on this leader, we need better jesters than the one on display the other night.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how these roasts went with Chairman Mao?

Right Hook said...

For the record, Rush did not mock MJF's illness. He pointed out that Fox was exaggerating his normal condition for political purposes. MJF later admitted that he intentionally modified his usual medication dose for a couple of days specifically to make his condition look as pitiful as possible specifically for the commercial shoot. And then in the commercial Fox (via the writers) flat out lied about the Republican position in order to help get a liberal elected. Rush merely pointed this out and the libs went nuts when they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.

Maybe you should listen to Rush on a regular basis - you may learn something. :)

Rush is a big boy - he can handle it. It's just the double standard that the liberals and their media cheerleaders promote is so blantant and seldom gets called.

Mark Heuring said...

Anonymous,

As Glenn Reynolds would say, heh.

RH,

Yep, that's how I remember it, too. It's possible that Rich didn't know all that. One thing worth noting -- Fox is now back to acting and since Parkinson's Disease is a progressive illness, it is passing strange that he would have sounded so bad in 2006 and so much better now. Perhaps the very aura of our new political leadership has proved a palliative?

W.B. Picklesworth said...

Rich,

So, you are saying that criticism of Michael J. Fox was out of bounds and should have made us angry? Let's just say, for the sake of argument, that I was really ticked off about that. Then would it be alright for me to criticize Wanda?

No, of course not, because this really isn't about Wanda at all. As with many news stories these days, it's about journalists and other supposed truth-tellers in society (jesters were supposed to deliver the uncomfortable truth that others were afraid to say) abrogating responsibility and unquestioningly supporting this president.

They are free to support him all they like, come hell or high water. That's fine. But in so doing they forfeit any claims at professional integrity. I do not listen to the majority of the media anymore because their own actions have indicated that they do not take their job seriously. Similarly, an awful lot of folks with bully pulpits have suddenly lost interest in speaking truth to power. Is that because Obama is above reproach? Or is it because they were never that interested in the "truth" part?

Night Writer said...

Ironically, days before the roast went Syke-o, golf announcer David Feherty wrote a column repeating an old joke that if a U.S. soldier found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Ladin but only two bullets the soldier would shoot Pelosi twice and strangle Reid and bin Ladin.

Joking about somebody's death or kidney failure crosses the line for a lot of people but it's interesting to note that the left is up in arms about Feherty and calling for his ouster or suspension from CBS; meanwhile the same people are likely calling for Sykes to get her own show.

Mark Heuring said...

I heard about the Feherty quote today. Very bad stuff. I watch a fair amount of golf and have always enjoyed Feherty's commentary, but there's no defending that.

Anonymous said...

You guys really get charged up about Rush. The guy lives, eats and breathes bombast, so what's the big deal? I really don't get it. And quite frankly, I didn't find Sykes too funny either. But what I think you guys are mad about is that, unlike another notable African American, you can't force Sykes to apologize to Limbaugh;)

Mark, your entire last paragraph was devoted to your feigned?? outrage over Sykes' tasteless comments, so I trust that you will forgive me if I take your claim that this was only about the fact that she failed to sufficiently attack the President with a grain of salt. And even if that is true, and I think you have a point there, isn't your beef with Sykes and the White House Correspondents Association, and not the White House? I'm trying to understand how any of this became an issue for the White House. The President and his staff were guests of WHCA. So it's the WHCA and Sykes that folks should be griping about. Furthermore, I would be willing to bet that the WHCA wasn't happy about Sykes' bit either. She did take a few shots at the Chief, but clearly, not as many as she should have. But I highly doubt that anyone vetted Sykes speech...it's just not something members of the press are comfortable doing. So every year, it's a crap shoot, but most of the time everone plays by the rules. However, every few years, Imus or Colbert or Sykes happens, and everybody has something to talk about for a week.

I am hoping that next year, Bob Saget gets the honors.

Rich

Mark Heuring said...

But what I think you guys are mad about is that, unlike another notable African American, you can't force Sykes to apologize to Limbaugh;)I don't want her to apologize to Rush and she wouldn't, anyway. It was simply a crappy thing to say on her part. And again, the event has historically been an event for poking fun at the President, not his critics.

isn't your beef with Sykes and the White House Correspondents Association, and not the White House? I'm trying to understand how any of this became an issue for the White House.I never said it was an issue for the White House, good sir. It's only an issue because this behavior is of a piece with the behavior of others who have decided to become a Praetorian Guard in jester's garb. I think I've been quite consistent in saying that and there's nothing more that I'm saying than that. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

Night Writer said...

Feherty did have a statement recently that made me laugh:

"I'm like a blind man in a windowless room at midnight trying to find a black cat that may or may not exist."

my name is Amanda said...

MJF later admitted that he intentionally modified his usual medication dose for a couple of days specifically to make his condition look as pitiful as possible specifically for the commercial shoot.Oh please! Link to a neutral news source with that Michael J. Fox quote, and I will believe you. Note: Neutral news source does not mean "another conservative blog." I'm not saying the quote doesn't exist. I'm just saying that a cursory Google search didn't bring anything up on that, and on its own, it's too unlikely for me to just believe.

Also - I've always found Limbaugh repulsive, so his little MJF performance was to me, not surprising. But if we're going to talk about it, he said Fox was "exploiting his illness." How does one "exploit" their illness?! Ridiculous.

my name is Amanda said...

One Christmas vacation during college, I watched several of the WHCA dinners on C-Span with my uncle. I have no idea why. Anyhow, I just wanted to point out that yes, these dinners are often about poking fun at the president, but just for the sake of that argument, the year the WHCA had Ray Romano, he admitted he didn't know anything about politics, and did his regular routine, which was about his family.

*Also, I haven't watched the Sykes thing yet, so apparently I'm just arguing for the H of it. Guess I haven't commented here in a while!

Mark Heuring said...

I'll leave Hook to find the link, Amanda. I'm sure he will.

And you're always welcome to argue for the "H" of it. We like that 'round here.

Mark Heuring said...

Feherty did have a statement recently that made me laugh:

"I'm like a blind man in a windowless room at midnight trying to find a black cat that may or may not exist."


Sounds like my sophomore year in college, NW. Rich would remember, because he was there. I think he was looking for a muskrat, but I think Dave "Woody Witless" W. found it first. (And that might be the most inside joke I've ever told here, by the way.)

Anonymous said...

I am waiting to see the link about Fox as well. I didn't want to make this personal, but my grandmother, who pretty much raised me, had Parkinsons the last twenty years of her life. While the disease was certainly progressive and debilitating, she had good days and bad days. Some days she had a mild tremor and a tremor in her voice. On others, she struggled to speak and had to drink her bottomless cup tea out of a toddler sippy cup. On the bad days, I never thought of calling her out on her BS. Maybe all she needed was for someone to mock her condition.
BTW, she was obsessive about her medications, taking them in the same hour every day, so I really don't know what to think about your claims in re Fox, but I would love to see his confession.

Rich

Mark Heuring said...

Rich,

I'll still await Hook's providing a link on what Fox did. What I do remember about the controversy is this: Limbaugh wasn't mocking Fox per se, but rather the politics of embryonic stem cell research, which is what his ad on behalf of Claire McCaskill was about. As you well know, the Democrats and their friends have made a lot of claims for embryonic stem cell research that are frankly silly. One thing in particular that has always been risible is the notion that unless such research gets federal funding, it simply won't happen. There are no laws preventing private individuals or entities from giving as much money to such research as they wish. The difference is that providers of public money expect a return on their investment, which up to this point embryonic stem cells have not much provided. And as you know, the underlying issue with embryonic stem cells is abortion, to say nothing of the ethics and morality of creating new embryos (which would, if allowed to, become new human beings) to cure disease. There's a lot more there than fits in a 30-second ad.

Mark Heuring said...

The difference is that providers of public money expect a return on their investment, which up to this point embryonic stem cells have not much provided.

Let's make that providers of private money expect a return on their investment. I only wish that providers of public money expected a return on their investment.

Right Hook said...

Rush merely commented that MJF appeared quite differently in the commercial than in recent public appearances and speculated as to the reason why.

MJF admitted to altering his medication dosage for a desired effect this in the past in his own book "Lucky Man":

“I had made a deliberate choice to appear before the subcommittee without medication. It seemed to me that this occasion demanded that my testimony about the effects of the disease and the urgency we as a community were feeling be seen as well as heard. For people who had never observed me in this kind of shape, the transformation must have been startling.”

Fox also said in an interview with Katie Couric after the hubbub that he in fact was over medicated when the commercial was shot.

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/10/26/eveningnews/main2128188.shtml

Mark Heuring said...

Thanks, RH.

Anonymous said...

so now Fox was overmedicated?
Whatever. Just can the "outrage" when someone...anyone...right or left, who makes a living spewing bombast gets their ox gored.

Thanks,
Rich

Mark Heuring said...

What outrage, Rich? I read back through my post and I guess I still don't see the outrage. Digust, maybe.