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Letterman, McCain and entertainment as politics

Posted by Joanna Weiss  October 16, 2008 11:29 PM

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Yes, it's a little weird that John McCain has to grovel to David Letterman. But it's interesting to see how much more comfortable he looked, mugging and bantering beside Letterman's desk, than he did sitting at that Hofstra University debate table on Wednesday night. He talked in plain language about the economy, the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, and the ugliness at campaign rallies -- the same topics that came up at the debate, but to Letterman, he addressed them more cogently and calmly. He didn't blink so much. His jokes worked. And he apologized to Joe the Plumber for setting up yesterday's crash course in celebrity.

Yet this wasn't a cakewalk, not even remotely. Letterman wasn't at all afraid to ask tough questions; he was so relentless on the subjects of Sarah Palin and William Ayers that he made Bob Schieffer look like a kindergarten teacher. If anything, this proved the limitations of the buttoned-down official debate format, which leaves the moderators hamstrung by rules, and the candidates so coached and constrained that they wind up looking like caricatures of themselves. (More on that below.) Late night TV gives these candidates a chance to look human, but in some ways, it also gives them a chance to look more presidential. And it gives hosts a chance to look like journalists.

As for caricatures, "Weekend Update Thursday" finally got an Obama-McCain debate right, by straying from straight, point-by-point satire and veering into the surreal. I laughed - very hard - at the idea of Joe the Plumber as McCain's very small imaginary friend. I loved the moment when Obama apologized to invisible Joe for questioning his existence. I'm happy that, on the politics front, "SNL" has found its mojo this season. And here's a prediction, for what it's worth: if, as McCain said, Sarah Palin does appear on the show this weekend, she'll do very well.

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30 comments so far...
  1. It's about time someone stood up to this Bully (McCain) who makes off like he is our Hero. I am not living my life in Fear....Terrorist are not going to rule my life.

    We learned this after 9-11. Life goes on - Do you remember Pearl Harbor Folks?????

    It's our soldiers over in Iraq that are continuing to have to pay with even more American lives taken.

    McCain - is NOT a Hero... He's a BULLY.... that is not going to scare me.

    Do we need a late night comedian to Prove this?

    4Wake up America ~

    Posted by 40 YR old American Voter - for Obama October 17, 08 08:03 AM
  1. Then it's settled, Dave Letterman should moderate a debate between Obama and McCain.

    Posted by DI$CO October 17, 08 08:07 AM
  1. I love John McCain. A real human being. A humble man. Someone who's clearly in this race for the right reasons. I don't care what anyone says - I love him. I'm voting for him. I think he still has a chance.

    Posted by Grego October 17, 08 08:32 AM
  1. Too bad Letterman didn't ask "the tough questions" to Obama when he was on the show. All we got was another media lovefest for Obama.

    Posted by G to the Lobal W to the Arming October 17, 08 08:47 AM
  1. And won't it be great when,after proving she is the intellectual equal of Joe Biden, Palin is embraced by Hollywood? No? But what will this do to their reputation for intellectual honesty?

    Posted by aging cynic October 17, 08 09:13 AM
  1. This is one the most single slanted (toward the Dems) reviews I have read to date! All of the news media (save one) are slanted toward Obama. Give me a break! I do not need the likes of David Letterman to do my thinking for me. Thanks but no thanks.

    Posted by Linda Miller October 17, 08 09:15 AM
  1. Yes, I recall the time Bill Clinton came on and Letterman hammered him on Monica and the impeachment (NOT). Since when does Letterman think he's there to investigate ANYONE?
    Just because McCain made the proper decision to not go on a late-night talk show and joke around in the midst of a "crisis" but was willing to do a news interview (with Letterman's network) to try to reassure the public that he was going back to Washington to help solve the probelm, Letterman gets a hair across his butt... Obama is wasting his money on advertising. Just let the TV folks keep doing his dirty work for him...

    Posted by Gibba October 17, 08 09:27 AM
  1. This year's election is becoming absurd.

    Posted by Matt T. October 17, 08 09:34 AM
  1. My take is that the McCain policies tend to be more appropriate -- e.g. his allocating a significant portion of the TARP funds toward the direct purchase of the most at risk mortgages (which benefits the nation on so many levels), his address of capital gains losses and the temporary reduction of capital gains tax, to encourage equity trading at a time when the equities market is volatile and at risk. These proposals are on point.

    The Obama tax policy increases the overall tax burden, and though he has the repeated mantra that 95% will see a reduction of taxes, he doesn't address that his economic policies increase the national budget by at least $250 billion.

    Obama's foreign policy vis a vis McCain's, i.e. the "Obama Doctrine," which includes the option to use US military forces to enter into Pakistan, if Pakistan were "unable or unwilling" to pursue aggressors is cavalier at best, and disastrous at worst." Pakistan is nuclear capable, and not respecting their sovereignty is more likely to increase the threat of a nuclear dirty bomb finding its way to Times Square than working on the regional mission as it stands, and seeking other measures to address the Taliban and other insurgents. This on top of adding the option to extend the use of military forces in areas where there is no US interest -- i.e. world cop of morality. While that may be a noble notion, it's poorly timed, given the economic stresses the US faces.

    Obama is also frightening in his protectionist position -- e.g. general opposition to NAFTA and CAFTA, restructuring US-Latin American trade to be even more favorable toward the US. I suspect he has no problem with Canadians with regard to NAFTA -- his concern is toward Mexico on that agreement. And yet the Latino vote seems to be going his way, whereas McCain is more supportive of Mexico and Latin American trade.

    The wedge issue of Roe v. Wade has even been entered into the mix. Obama has clearly stated that, if given the opportunity, he would appoint Justices in line with his ideology. Bear in mind that McCain voted in Ruth Bader-Ginsberg. McCain doesn't have (or rather, did not have) an ideological litmus test -- i.e. he would simply appoint the most qualified judges. Of course, McCain's been back pedalling, and suggests that Roe v. Wade supporters probably aren't qualified - a mind boggling gaff to appease the GOP base, in my opinion.

    All that being said, McCain has not done himself any favors. He lacks the charisma the Obama portrays. His pick of Sarah Palin as VP is divisive at best. While she appeals to the most conservative of the GOP, she does not draw in the moderates, and certainly very few Dems will move from their party with Palin a mere heartbeat away from the Presidency.

    Under Obama, we move very close to Communism (heck, we virtually have socialism now that the financial markets have imploded, the US government reserves the right to take equity positions in publicly held companies -- an unfortunate necessity, given the unbelievable greed of a few individuals). And it's a Communism which promises to hinder trade, and yet employ military force in areas where the administration would take issue.

    Obama's policies have the possibility of wrecking the economy, engaging US forces in remote places in the world in shooting wars, and stagnate economic growth for decades.

    McCain's policies add to the overall national debt, too, just not to the extent of Obama. While I remain convinced that McCain's policies are the most appropriate and best for the country at this point in time, it's rather clear that McCain's chances of success are highly remote. So, my take is that Obama will most likely win, and I don't like the possible (or perhaps probable) outcomes from that.

    Posted by ninthgate October 17, 08 10:00 AM
  1. I was a fan of Dave's for years, but his show has basically become a free infomercial for Barack Obama I have grown weary of his nightly mean spirited rants against McCain and Sarah Palin. For months now his monologue consists of nothing but "geezer" jokes aimed at John McCain. If he mentions Obama at all, it's only as a set up for another shot at McCain. If you can't smell the bias, you don't have a nose.

    Posted by Joe T Plumber October 17, 08 10:02 AM
  1. Um, he's allowed to be biased. He's a Talk Show Host, not a journalist. Just like Bill OReilly can be biased, because he is definitely not a journalist.

    Posted by Joe T is dumb October 17, 08 11:34 AM
  1. Democrats = giving free money and other handouts to the lower class

    Republicans = giving tax breaks to the rich and the big corporations

    Why can't we work together and find a happy medium...

    Posted by King B October 17, 08 12:59 PM
  1. He asked McCain tough questions. Fine - that's appropriate. But what about asking Obama tough questions - about his supporters who say hateful things (and from these forums, you can tell there are a lot of them)? What about all the gaffes that Joe Biden has made on the campaign trail? what about the comment about Indians and convenience stores? How about Obama saying that there are 57 states? Seems to me that McCain is being held to a higher standard. As for the "terrorists are not going to rule my life" - that's just ridiculously misinformed at best - McCain never said you should let them, or be afraid.

    Posted by Steve October 17, 08 01:00 PM
  1. What's wrong with you all? Did you see McCain...he's a sick man. Do you need to see a deathbed sign posted on his forehead? You really want Palin to lead this country??? What were the Republicans thinking when they can up with this chick? How they can demise the middle class completely!
    Have you heard what the other countries are saying about her? Lord help us all. Forget Letterman and think for yourselves, it's like the republicans don't want to lead the country right now so they get a 72 senator with CANCER and a total LOSER governor from ALASKA to run...that pretty much insures they don't have to clean the mess up after the 8 year old party.

    Posted by melinda October 17, 08 02:07 PM
  1. Melinda, McCain has had cancer, but he is cancer free now. Yes, I agree that his age/health should be a consideration, especially given his choice of a running made. But he doesn't have cancer. As for Palin, I agree with many others that she is not qualified to be president; it's one of the main reasons I can't vote for McCain. However, to label Palin a "LOSER" shows your mean-spiritedness and lack of insight (I'd be curious to know if you've accomplished anything that compares). This woman defeated her party's corrupt establishment to become governor of Alaska - hardly the actions of a "LOSER". I don't care what other countries think of her; they don't get a vote. And frankly, it's difficult to take your comments seriously when you are name calling and exaggerating. My advice to you is to learn to express your thoughts a bit more intelligently.

    Posted by Steve October 17, 08 03:19 PM
  1. Letterman is nothing but a left-wing loon. He is not funny! He is not intellectual!
    All he does is belittle people and things to try and get a laugh. Leno is twice
    as funny and beats the hell out of Letterman 90% of the time.
    As regards the latest appearance with McCain, he didn't even try to be funny,
    He was spewing the Obama talking points which proved neither new nor
    I will not allow his program in my home. He is a no-good SOB with a lot of money butn nos cents.

    Posted by Bob Lewis October 17, 08 03:36 PM
  1. About time someone asked some questions, important questions, and actually went after the answers. Letterman is very intelligent, and I believe he asked questions that many Americans would like to ask.
    I can't imagine voting for a ticket with Palin on it, this woman scares the hell out of me.
    Obama/Biden 08

    Posted by Kimz. October 17, 08 04:05 PM
  1. Melinda says- Have you heard what the other countries are saying about her [Palin]?- then turns around and suggests we "think for yourselves". Oh, the irony.

    Posted by WM October 17, 08 04:20 PM
  1. I remember when Dave was all about being funny and providing a different kind of entertainment. I watched every night and was a big fan.
    Somewhere Dave abandoned what he was good at and has made a cartoon character of himself. He let his loyal fans down.
    Dave has no business trying to strong arm Mccain on his view of Palin. McCain explained his reason, Dave looked like a child when he wouldn't accept it.
    Come on Dave - You used to be better than that

    Posted by Scott Riley October 17, 08 04:28 PM
  1. John McCain is a fellow with an admirable record of dedication and achievements.
    However, I am much more concerned about his implusiveness. He has not, I repeat not shown the type of thoughtful vision necessary to lead a great nation.
    His pandering to the neocons and religious right, his choice of Phil Graham as his
    campaigns' co-chairman, his pick of Sarah Palin for VP, his ill use of "Joe the plummer" , his "temporary ' lack of supervision which allowed certain stump audiences to become extrodinarily negative to the point of yelling racists comments and death threats. All of this reveals a strongly compromised individual. wh

    Posted by daniel dunn October 17, 08 06:58 PM
  1. Bob,
    Thanks for your comments as I agree completely. Observing his foolish, no-brainer, relentless McCain and Palin bashing, I've concluded he appears to have some serious health issues. We all know he had a by-pass procedure not so long ago, but, instead of feeling sorry for this goon, I feel if oxygen isn't getting to his "upstairs compartment", he's having more serious brain-bombs than Senior Moments. I'd say he's a definite candidate for Alzheimer's Disease if he doesn't have it already. His show is embarrassing and not funny at all anymore. Leno is and always has been much more entertaining. "Goodnight, Dave".

    Posted by Daphne Lewis October 17, 08 08:18 PM
  1. One of the high points of the Letterman interview for me was when Dave had the stones to ask about McCain's relationship with G. Gordon Liddy when McCain went into his BS routine about Bill Ayres. No political journalist would ever have had the guts to bring that up.

    Posted by Ed Szewczyk October 17, 08 08:40 PM
  1. When Obama was on Letterman I thought David was going to get down on his knees and start saying, "I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy, I'm not worthy".

    Posted by J. Alejandro October 17, 08 08:56 PM
  1. There is nothing on television right now less funny than SNL.

    Posted by Come On October 18, 08 01:30 AM
  1. Letterman acted like an arrogant petulant child. His snide incredibly partisan remarks demonstrate what a true cad he is. His fawning over Obama and his complete disrespect for McCain was despicable.

    Posted by Mike Rossi October 18, 08 06:52 AM
  1. "Terrorists are not going to rule my life", that would be the socialists.
    It doesn't matter which one.

    Posted by Bert October 18, 08 07:48 AM
  1. Dave's no longer funny, and no one is watching him anymore.

    A Obama presidency wouldn't be funny either unless you into socialism and want any money you have taken by his administration and then 'given' to those that are deserving....?

    The USA as we know it will disappear......replaced by Obama, Pelosi, Reid and Biden running it into the ground to create their manifesto....the USSA

    Posted by Mary October 18, 08 08:16 AM
  1. I think John McCain has a great sense of humor and is down to earth. I also think that Sara Palin is very down to earth. They are true American patriots. John McCain is straightforward with the American people and always stays the course. Obama is a liar and a flip-flopper with the issues and he can't be trusted. Obama is the real bully, especially how he insults American people and the American dream. His campaign people use his secret services men as the gestapo or the KGB to threaten ordinary citizens.

    Posted by Beth October 18, 08 04:56 PM
  1. McCain's apologizing to a TV entertainer is even more self-degrading than
    Georg Bush's dancing for oil in Saudi Arabia. Not exactly what one would expect from a would-be U.S. president and world leader.

    Posted by Carlos Navarro October 18, 08 06:39 PM
  1. And just like a biased media, Letterman would kiss up to Obama with the most vapid questions.

    It would be like, "So Senator, why is McCain so mean to you."
    "Why do you think people care about a guy you hardly know (Ayers...yeah right)?
    "How did you get so gosh darn wonderful?"

    Posted by TiminPhx October 19, 08 06:05 PM

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