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Monday, May 01, 2017

Random Thoughts

As I take a break from using the wet-vac to get some of the last three days of torrential rain out of our basement carpet...

I thought Hasan Minhaj did a fine job as the headliner at the White House Correspondents Dinner (an event I attended in 1998 and wrote about here). I watched his segment the day after thanks to an archived clip from C-SPAN, which is to comedy what Wolf Blitzer is to a calm recitation of the day's headlines.

Being the comedian at that dinner is an impossible gig under the best of circumstances, a situation that's not helped by C-SPAN cutting away from the headliner for reaction shots of the crowd. The room is too big for that -- the jokes have jet lag before they reach some parts of the audience -- so the timing is off. The network should just lock down a camera and let us watch the performance, not what the staff of Politico thinks of it. Still, Minhaj had some pretty solid material, and the good fortune of not being preceded by President No Sense Of Humor.

Meanwhile, Samantha Bee killed it with her "Not The White House Correspondents Dinner" on TBS. She and her staff not only wrote very sharp stuff, but they also executed it perfectly (especially the clips of Bee roasting previous presidents in flashbacks). The one bit that didn't work was surprise guest Will Ferrell as George W. Bush, which suffered from the misguided thinking that makeup and a vocal impression equal hilarity. No, you need good writing, too, which Ferrell didn't have.

Both Minhaj and Bee made some pointed remarks about the cable news networks, particularly Jeff Zucker's penchant for multi-pundit panels that seem to take up the entirety of CNN's programming -- because it's not news unless a half-dozen commentators argue about it simultaneously. When Ted Koppel was in St. Louis for the Maryville Speaker Series a few weeks ago, he explained that the reason we're seeing more punditry and less field reporting is because the latter is expensive. It takes a lot of money and effort to maintain bureaus around the world, full of journalists who have to actually go outside to tell us what's going on. On the other hand, hiring a bunch of loudmouths and sitting them around a desk in a studio while they hurl verbal nonsense at us and each other is both cheap and easy. Unfortunately, it's not news.

I wish that Minhaj and Bee had taken more time to salute the real journalists in the room (and elsewhere). Those are the ones who work for newspapers, spending hours/days/weeks digging up stories that later become the fodder for those pundit panels to debate. It's the work of print journalists that needs a boost now more than ever.

As for Trump, he told a Reuters interviewer the other day that he thought being president would be easier than his previous life. That's a ludicrous concept. There is no more difficult job on Earth, with the possible exception of being a realtor on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. To not expect running the country to be an intense, all-day, everyday, stressful occupation is to not have noticed the physical impact it had on the men who held the job previously.

In that same interview, Trump also said that he misses driving, but who believes that? Even before his transportation needs were taken over by the Secret Service, Trump lived in the world of limousines with drivers who took him wherever he needed to go. He never had to call upstairs from the garage at Trump Tower and ask, "Melania, where did I park the Grand Cherokee?"

Lastly, the state of Arkansas put down four death row prisoners last week because of an unusual deadline, if you'll excuse my use of that word. The state had to carry out the executions by Sunday, because that was the expiration date on the lethal drug they used on the doomed men. In other words, the expiration drug had an expiration date, and no one wants to use a product beyond that. To my wife's chagrin, I won't even touch milk on the expiration date. She assures me that it's still fine, and I don't deny that if she poured me a glass and I hadn't seen the bottle, my taste buds wouldn't even notice. But the knowledge of that date spoils it for me. Once I've seen it, it can only be sour in my mind.

I'm sure the condemned inmates felt the same way -- because you wouldn't want something to go wrong and make you sick on the day the state is going to kill you.