I'm trying for a second time to post my thoughts about the jokes told at the White House Correspondent's Dinner over the weekend. I tried writing this for more than an hour yesterday, but stopped when I just couldn't make my my writing convey what my brain was thinking. My grouchy friend, Jen, encouraged me to give it another shot, so here I am.
For the most part, I really enjoyed President Obama's monologue. He had some wickedly funny lines - my favorite being that Rahm Emanuel was struggling with using the word "day" after the word "Mother" because he's so used to using a more vulgar suffix. Very funny stuff. The President also made light of the fact that the media continues to idolize him, and he did it in a friendly "I-get-the-joke" kind of way.
My review of Wanda Sykes is not so kind. I will not pretend to be outraged or offended by what she said, but I did find the whole routine to be a bit tiresome.
The reaction of Democrats after the November election was completely understandable. They were celebrating a determined victory after eight years of a Republican administration that they clearly could not stand. They took a commanding lead in both the House and Senate, and essentially ensured their party's dominance on the American political landscape for at least the next eight years (short of some unforseen disaster). They gleefully picked apart the bones of what was left of the GOP, and danced on the graves of their opponents. And God bless them. To the victors, go the spoils.
But here's my beef. The election was seven months ago. The Democrats won. Do we really still need this kind of partisan venom-spewing? President Obama campaigned on a promise of change in America. A lot of moderates swung his way on the hope that this kind of partisan divisiveness would, if not go away, at least be removed from the spotlight. Wanda Sykes' performance at the Correspondents Dinner just served as a reminder to me that nothing much has changed.
One of Sykes' biggest targets was Rush Limbaugh. Again - I won't speak to the appropriateness of her jokes directed at Rush. Frankly, I could care less about the content. My frustration lies in the fact that even as the Democrats try to demonize Limbaugh, they are empowering him. He's like one of those creatures in Star Trek that feed on phaser power, and only grow more powerful as they are attacked. The more attention Rush Limbaugh gets in the national media, the higher his ratings will become, and chasm that divides the nation will only continue to grow wider.
Rush Limbaugh exists to divide America. I do not hold him to blame for this. It's what he does. It's how he makes his living. It's what ALL political-opinion radio talk hosts do - from left and right. And no - it does not serve my personal idealistic higher goal of getting Americans to stop hating each other, but it does serve my even greater jones for the First Amendment.
The Democrats have created this "Rush Limbaugh is the face of the Republican party" lie. It is no more true than to say Janeane Garafalo is the voice of the Democrats. Most Dems have never heard Garafalo speak, and 90 percent of Republicans do NOT listen to Rush on a regular basis - or want him running the country, for that matter.
President Obama is enjoying incredibly impressive popularity ratings in the polls these days, and with Congress behind him, he is possibly the most powerful President we've seen since FDR. He has it within his power to quell the kind of divisive humor that Wanda Sykes spewed out this past weekend. All he would have to do is tactfully drop a mention that he would like to see some of the venom to die down - and I think it would to a great extent. If Mr. Obama is going to meaningfully lead the nation, he would go a long way to help heal the nation first.
Democrats also need to be mindful that politics go in cycles in America. Just as surely as the Obama era replaced the Bush era, the Bush era supplanted the Clintons. What goes around come around. The GOP will live to fight another day, and as the saying goes, "an elephant never forgets". The mud you fling today will most certainly come back to soil your faces soon enough, so maybe it's best to treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.
But perhaps I'm being too idealistic. There are a lot of people keeping score out there - people who want their pound of flesh for enduring the Bush administration, and politicians who don't know how to govern or legislate without first busting a gut to knock down their political opponents first.
Still - imagine how much energy we could all save if we didn't spend the majority of our time hating on each other!