Friday, August 20, 2010


Truth In Comedy: Ground Zero Edition

A not-quite-at-Ground Zero/not-quite-a-mosque anecdote:

Last night, your humble blogger participated in the fifth annual Funniest Reporter in New York show last night (alas, his inability to carry off a too-tight little black dress, flowing blonde tresses and a reticence to make jokes about oral sex severely hampered his chances of winning).

At the start of a series of jokes about "the mosque,"  I asked the crowd at the Gotham Comedy Club: "Who thinks it's really insensitive to build this down near Ground Zero?" Near-universal round of applause and catcalls. I then asked, "Who thinks it's OK to just let it be built?"

Dead silence.

Not a peep.

Now keep in mind that this wasn't a general tourists-off-the-street audience: It was an early show (6 PM) in Midtown Manhattan's Chelsea/Flatiron areas, populated with a lot of New York professionals -- the majority in media or public relations. In other words, this was a fairly well-educated, middle-to-upper class, predominantly white, fair to guess, liberal New York audience. And, even stipulating that Jews might be over-represented in such a demographic, the fact that there wasn't one even blase clap in favor of the Park51 project is, in many ways, a more devastating snapshot of how powerful are the headwinds against supporters.

Fair? Probably not.

The reality? Most definitely.  

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Rhymes With Trigger

The best thing about Sarah Palin is that, as time unfolds, she manages to say and do things that slowly but surely invalidate her as a credible GOP presidential nominee in 2012.  Which means that Democrats and the media can find someone else to obsess over in the next couple of years -- and Republicans can start looking at the serious '12 contenders.  

Palin's latest absurdity?  Ticking off the few black Republicans there are out there by rushing to Dr. Laura Schlessinger "defense" after radio host announced she was quitting her talk-show host following an outburst of the "N-word" in a conversation with a caller.  "Don't retreat...reload" the former governor urged Dr. Laura. "Reload" what? Put more N-bullets in her barrel? 

Tim Johnson of the Frederick Douglass Foundation was not amused:  
“If she chooses to run for president in 2012, she is going to have to answer to black Republicans,” Johnson says of Palin. 
He says he is particularly concerned that Palin’s support of Schlessinger will only further the perception that the Tea Party is racist. 
“It doesn’t help the cause,” he says. 
“This is an unwise endorsement,” Johnson says. “It wasn’t appropriate. Just because you have the First Amendment right doesn’t give you the right to hurt somebody.”  
Wow.  You mean, just because the First Amendment gives individuals certain rights, it doesn't relieve them of the responsibility to try to act right?  You'd almost think that Palin understood that -- given her comments on a certain other volatile First-Amendment-related issue.  Now, in terms of a reality check, Palin -- or any GOP contender -- having "to answer to black Republicans" is a bit amusing.  Not exactly a major swing constituency among Republicans.  However, Johnson's point about the problems that this episode brings up vis a vis perceptions that the Tea Party/GOP allows racist sentiments is a completely reasonable one.  It's not exactly the first time that accusation has been made.   

Now, as Keli Goff points out in The Huffington Post, Schlessinger's actual show was beneficial in highlighting the absurdity behind N-word usage -- and why there should be more of a an intra-black community movement to eliminate it.  

But, of course, Sarah Palin doesn't do nuance. She is essentially the mirror image of the liberal monsters that she seeks to slay. She plays the identity politics as well (which is to say, as horriblly) as her critics.  Hence, her big creation/support of "Mama Grizzlies."  She rushes to Dr. Laura's side, because she sees the media beating up another woman -- even though that woman was part of the media that was bashing her parenting skills back in '08.

But logic and consistency don't really matter to Sarah Palin -- a fact that a majority of Republicans will realize well before 2012.  

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Thursday, August 19, 2010


Not So Fast

Contra l'affaire mosque (i.e. Islamic cultural center), Andrew Sullivan's blogger Patrick Appel asks:  "Is The GOP's Pandering Working?" 

He points to a Dave Weigel post on a Siena Poll that reveals 63 percent of New Yorkers statewide oppose construction of the "mosque."  But, GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio -- who also opposes the mosque -- trails mosque supporter Andrew Cuomo by 34 points!  Because of this Appel concludes that the concerted GOP anti-mosque stance isn't reaping political benefits.  

That seems to me a very myopic view (and being agnostic on whether the GOP comments constitute "pandering").  

The issue is clearly having a ripple effect when:  

Unfair as it may be, that last number is very dangerous for a president who is already getting thumbs down from the economy.  It's hardly a coincidence that as the mosque issue rose up the media food chain that Obama's overall disapproval numbers finally passed the 50 percent mark.

While one can charge the GOP with "pandering" on the issue (my former boss has not covered himself with glory on this), the fact is that it was only when the president engaged on it (instead of just staying with the line that it is a local issue), he made this a local national issue.  And, again, unfair as it may be, a president with a middle name of Hussein just doesn't have the reservoir of good will -- especially when the unemployment rate stays at 9.5 percent -- to be seen as objective honest broker on matters involving Muslims.

So, to the extent that issue has thrown the Democratic leadership into confusion and weakened the president politically, I would say that it continues to "work" as a tactic for the GOP.


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