Tag Archives: Barack Obama

Loose Lips and Seal Team Six

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This whole notion that the White House might have leaked classified information to the makers of the upcoming movie about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, just to make President Obama look good in time for the next election
, strikes me as absurd. I mean, what kind of administration would leak national security secrets and endanger our intelligence assets in the field and our efforts on the War on Terror, just for some short term political gain?

Oh, right.

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Filed under 2012 Election, Barack Obama, Feuds, Middle East, Movies

Farewell to a Focked-Up Year

Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller in "Little Fockers"Visiting Colorado this week, I was chatting with a couple, family friends, who remarked that I was the first person they’d met who admitted to having voted for Obama. Of course, where I live, in a New York City suburb full of elite media folk, no one will admit to not having voted for Obama. Except for the politics, we had a pleasant conversation, but it dismayed me that we continue to live in two countries with seemingly irreconcilable views, not only on which policies and politicians should govern, but on how to interpret real events we all experienced.

There’s Fox Nation, where Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin are distinguished sages, where Juan Williams is rewarded for the thoughtless bigotry for which NPR punished him, where Obama is an alien bent on destroying capitalism, where Andrew Breitbart is the wronged party after he’s condemned for making Shirley Sherrod notorious and costing her her job, where a proposed YMCMA a few blocks from Ground Zero is a shrine to a terrorist victory, where the midterm elections are a sign of genuine populist rejection of the Democrats’ big-government agenda, and where white Christian male privilege is a sign of embattled martyrdom and not still at the centers of power in most places.

And then there’s the place where the rest of us live, a place that doesn’t even have a name because we’re too disorganized, disputatious, and dispirited to give it one (per Yeats: the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity); call it Colbert Nation — a place where jesters Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart are taken seriously because they’re the only media/political watchdogs still actually doing their jobs, where Obama is a  Wall Street sellout who’s been too deferential to implacable obstructionists, where the midterm elections are a sign that a well-funded right-wing astroturf campaign beats an ineffectual Democratic party any time, and where the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is the only sign that we’re not on the verge of a wholesale repeal of every positive social advance of the last century.

During my brief visit to Fox Nation, I found only a couple of signs of hope that an America riven into two seemingly irreconcilable camps can find something to agree upon. Continue reading

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Filed under 2008 Election, Arts, Barack Obama, Feuds, Media, Movies, TV

The Late-Night Wars: Politics by Other Means

No, I probably won’t be watching tonight when Jay Leno returns to the Tonight Show, but I’m still fascinated with how this whole mess is going to play out. Certainly, the late-night wars are far from over, with Jay once again going head to head with longtime-rival-turned-Super-Bowl-buddy David Letterman, or with the deposed Conan O’Brien possibly barnstorming America with a live show before his likely face-off against both Dave and Jay if he lands on Fox this fall. The struggle is still of interest because. as seemed clear during the depths of the public Jay-vs.-everyone-else battle that played out in January, this is about a lot more than which pampered white guy gets to tell jokes at 11:35 p.m. It’s about great fault lines criss-crossing both our popular and political culture.

Some of those fault lines are: Continue reading

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Filed under 2008 Election, Arts, Barack Obama, Feuds, Late Night TV, Media, TV

Finding Myself in the Awkward Position of Defending Glenn Beck

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AOL asked me to write a blog post this week on all the comic invective directed recently toward Glenn Beck, knowing that both his defenders and detractors would come out of the woodwork to wage war in the comments section.* And come they did, by the tens of thousands, thanks in part to a headline on the AOL welcome screen that overstated my concern about some of the more below-the-belt spoofs. (“Attacks on Beck Crossing the Line: Our Writer Says Recent Parodies Are Anything but Funny: Skits Under Fire”)

Now, I’m not a Beck fan, as even a cursory reading of the article would make clear. If anything, the assignment gave me an excuse to embed videos of several Beck-lampooning sketches, some of which I think are perfectly fair. The best of these was the Stephen Colbert monologue embedded at the top of this post, which perfectly mimics Beck’s performance style, calls him on his BS, and does so without resorting to ad hominem attacks. What I objected to was those sketches that got personal — Jon Stewart appearing to make fun of Beck’s recent health woes, Andy Cobb taking Beck’s icky incest fantasy from his book The Real America: Messages from the Heart and Heartland out of context to imply that Beck really meant it (he did not; he was merely making an offensive analogy to gay relationships), and The Onion wishing for Beck to die a violent and gory death (a video that contains some NSFW language). Continue reading

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Filed under Barack Obama, Feuds, Late Night TV, Media, Saturday Night Live, TV

Nicole Kidman, Expert Witness

When Hollywood stars testify before Congress, does anything ever get accomplished? Does either the star or his or her interrogators ever come off looking smarter or better informed about the issues?

Yesterday, Nicole Kidman testified before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee. She was seeking funding for a United Nations initiative to thwart violence against women throughout the world via humanitarian grants to local organizations. But all the headlines talked about was her offhand comment, prompted by a Congressman’s fatuous question, in which she appeared to endorse the notion that movie violence has contributed to the real-world violence against women that she is trying to reduce. (See headlines here, here, and here.)

The question by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) deftly shifted the blame onto Hollywood; Kidman was equally deft in deflecting the blame away from herself, insisting that she, at least, doesn’t make the kind of movies that portray women as weak sex objects and targets of violence. (Watch the whole exchange here.) But the damage was done. Not only did the media focus shift to the most tangential part of her testimony, but she seemed to concede a point long argued by censorious types on both the right and the left, that Hollywood violence is somehow responsible for real-world violence. Continue reading

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Filed under Barack Obama, Censorship, Media, Middle East, Movies

For Ted Kennedy, a ‘Ray of Hope’

Ted Kennedy endorses Barack Obama for president in January 2008. Photo by diggersf, licensed via Creative Commons

Ted Kennedy endorses Barack Obama for president in January 2008. Photo by diggersf, licensed via Creative Commons

Most of us in America, including me, are too young to remember the Camelot era firsthand, so we hold little brief for the Kennedy mystique. Many of us wonder how he got re-elected to the Senate, term after term, for 47 years, despite his well-documented failures of character. Surely there had to be more to it than his name.

Well, one reason might be the long parade of stooges who were his opponents. During the few years I lived in Boston, I was privileged to vote for Kennedy just once, when he ran against a hairdo named Mitt Romney. I remember thinking that Kennedy, then 62 years old, seemed enervated and out of touch until the debates, when the old lion roared back to life, fought with vigor, and easily wiped the floor with his empty-suit rival. This is why I voted for him, and why Massachusetts citizens kept doing so: he never stopped fighting, fighting for us, and fighting against those who did not have our best interests at heart.

I’m glad to see that, despite his death last week, the fight continues for causes he believed in, particularly for universal health care. After all, his opponents didn’t waste any time after he died trying to recast his legacy as one of compromise (Kennedy was, indeed, known for reaching across the aisle to befriend and make deals with Republicans, but he compromised only on means and tactics, never on ideals or policy goals), or shrugging that his absence from the Senate chambers in recent months is the reason Republicans have yet to be presented with a health care bill they can sign off on (as if Kennedy’s recent absence, after 40 years of fighting nonstop for health care reform, were the reason, rather than Republican intransigence and bad faith), or threatening that to urge passage of health care reform as his dying wish was to crassly politicize his death (as if to argue against reform would not be an even more crass politicization of his death). Kennedy’s dying wishes on the matter were pretty clear, as he laid out in this Newsweek essay a month before he died: he wanted universal coverage and a government-run public option so that individuals who can’t afford or obtain private health insurance can still get affordable coverage. (Note to Blue Dog Democrats: Passing a health bill with Kennedy’s name on it that pays lip service to reform while not actually including a public option that would make coverage affordable for everyone is no tribute at all.)

One more way to remember Senator Kennedy, courtesy of the Rascals, after the jump. Continue reading

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Conan O’Bama

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Remember when George W. Bush became president, and the pundits said that, at last, the grownups were now in charge? (And how did that work out, by the way?) It’s a lot easier to imagine that the grownups are in charge now that the cool, seemingly unflappable, roll-up-your-sleeves Barack Obama is president, and when he took office, I felt a surge of almost familial pride. At last, the reins of power were passing to someone roughly my age (Obama is about five years older than I am.)

I felt a similar emotion this week when Conan O’Brien took over The Tonight Show. Johnny Carson had made the forum into the voice of national consensus; Jay Leno tried to maintain that role even as consensus crumbled around him (we’re a much more fragmented, factionalized people now, not just in terms of our politics, but also in our tastes in pop culture and our countless entertainment options). Now that desk was passing to someone of my generation (Conan is four years older than I am), and it felt like a momentous, torch-passing occasion.

The president himself seemed to acknowledge the similarity between these two transitions in his interview with NBC’s Brian Williams this week (see above video). It was a puzzling moment; Time columnist James Poniewozik seemed to find it crass that Williams spent valuable face time with the president getting Obama to plug an entertainment event on Williams’ network, and O’Brien himself wondered why the leader of the free world should be devoting any attention to Conan’s career move. But such pluggery is standard procedure these days for TV news (which is more entertainment than news anyway, with the cotton-candy puffery throughout Williams’ primetime special as just another example), and the fact that Obama responded to Williams’ prompt not by saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” but by deadpanning a good joke about it without missing a beat indicates that, not only is Obama as media-savvy a chief executive as we’ve ever seen, but also is thoroughly conversant with the ironic, absurdist humor that is Conan’s (and our generation’s) preferred mode of expression. Continue reading

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Filed under 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Late Night TV, Media, Movies, Music, TV