The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, June 15, 2009

Kudos to Nicki

Look. I don't have any real idea of the complexity of Iranian politics. But if we look back five years from now and consider the current upheavals to be the beginning of true democracy taking hold...or the fall of the religious regime, it would be absurd not to think that successful elections in Iraq did not contribute to it. I would love to think that something of lasting value came out of what I see as a ghastly misadventure. And if there is such a flowering, it would be only fair to give some credit there. We'll see--meanwhile, it would be interesting to know what the people on the street consider the motivating trigger (or triggers) for their actions, and if anything connected to America has anything to do with it. Bush? Obama? Or is that giving ourselves entirely too much credit...


Yeah, I think that Letterman made a mistake in not specifying which daughter he was referring to in his A-Rod comment. This opens the door to legitimate speculation about what exactly he meant. And it's predictable, and legitimate, for Palin to complain. I mean, why in the world should she give Dave the benefit of the doubt? Of course, she retaliated with a comment that could be interpreted as accusing him of being a child molester. Tit for Tat...all's fair and so forth. One has to watch one's public pronouncements--once it's out there, its out there. But do I believe he meant her 14-year old? Unless someone can show me a pattern of sexually in appropriate comments directed at young girls, I give him the benefit of the doubt. That's a pretty sharp line that few people cross.'s understandable if someone, especially a mother, disagrees.


Now, South Carolina GOP activist Rusty DePass said that an escaped gorilla is an "ancestor" of Michelle Obama. I personally think this was intended as a racist comment, yes--based upon a pattern of watermelon, assassination, terrorist and monkey "jokes" that I've been hearing since Obama won the White House. Viewed as an individual event, who knows. But I'm gonna be hypersensitive: humor is a release of tension, and it's pretty obvious that there is an element in America that is uncomfortable with Obama for reasons that have nothing to do with his politics. And while I know nothing about other comments made by DePass, the "South Carolina" automatically pricks a nerve. That may be unfair to DePass, but it not hypocritical on my part (I think) because while I can't detect a pattern there, I know that Letterman has thousands of hours of comments that can be pored over to determine the kinds of things he says. If DePass was making a comment that he would have made had the Obamas been white, it is reasonable for him to think I'm being unfair. Whatever.


Personally, the only group of people I have trouble maintaining a balanced attitude toward are tobacco executives, which I consider scum, lower than heroin dealers. So anything that help reduce the power of Big Tobacco...great. Is it a big wet kiss to Phillip Morris. Oh, Jeeze, I don't know.


Nicki graduated UCI on Saturday, and we had her party on Sunday. I guess now she takes a week off, and then begins the next phase in her life: work and preparing to enter the adult world. Wow...I really wonder how this is going to work for her, and I've got my fingers crossed. But for right now...way to go, girl. You did it.


Steve Perry said...

Chances are that Letterman didn't write the gag, and probably didn't know much about Palin's other daughter. Most of the top ten lists are staff-written, and I doubt that Dave vets them.

BC Monkey said...

Fantastic, so when Obama's daughters hit 18 they're fair game for comedians too? Or is the Chelsea Clinton rule only extended to Democrats?

Steve, you pass over the "slutty flight attendant look" Letterman made about Palin. Is comparing a woman politician to a slut fair game to be given the benefit of the doubt? Would you similarly pass if a Republican made a similar comment about how Michelle obama dressed?

There was also the jokes Letterman went with the day after making the A-Rod joke. According to him the Palins need to keep Elliot Spitzer away from their daughter.

24 hours was more than enough time for Letterman to learn of his mistake (assuming you give the benefit of the doubt) So what does he do? He doubles down instead and makes a joke about the daughter being a Call Girl.

A night later he kinda-sorta apologizes that some people took offense.

That is why I do not extend the benefit of the doubt to Letterman.

Brian Dunbar said...

I personally think this was intended as a racist comment,

No doubt in my mind either.

Nicki graduated UCI on Saturday,

Awesome job.

We do have a few openings: audit, Sales, engineering and IT. They are in Wisconsin, which might be a bit far to commute.

But there is work out there.

Unknown said...

That is why I do not extend the benefit of the doubt to Letterman.

I give him the benefit of the doubt on the question of whether he meant 14-year-old Willow, which I do think would have been creepier than the same joke about Bristol.

But that doesn't mean I think the joke about Bristol was OK, just that it would be even worse if made about someone underage, rather than an already sexually active adult. I'd still be pissed off in Palin's shoes if it had been clear from the start that it had nothing to do with Willow. And I don't think there's any reason to expect her to give Letterman any benefit of the doubt.

In general, I think people should have laid off Chelsea Clinton more, should have laid off the Bush twins more, and should have laid off Bristol Palin more; I'm non-partisan in wanting just to leave all the daughters (and sons) alone. Unless they're making actual political speeches as adults, in which case they're fair game for those actual political speeches.

I personally think this was intended as a racist comment

Yeah, I find it hard to imagine how it could really be anything else.

I don't see any inconsistency in giving Letterman the benefit of the doubt about whether he made a sexual joke about a 14-year-old (not about whether it was OK for him to make the joke to begin with) and not giving DePass the benefit of the doubt about whether he was being racist with the gorilla remark, since all my life experience suggests that more people are openly racist in that way than are willing to publically make sexually inappropriate remarks about young teenage girls. Lots of people, on the other hand, make sexually inappropriate remarks about barely legal women.

Steve Perry said...

It's a parent's job to protect his or her children. Recall what Harry Truman had to say to the Washington Post after they gave a terrible review to his daughter's singing?

“I have never met you,” Truman wrote to the critic, “but if I do you’ll need a new nose and plenty of beefsteak and perhaps a supporter below.”

That's how a father stood up for his daughter back in the day. He was the President when he wrote that, but he was a daddy first.

And kids should be left of politics. However, Bristol Palin came out of a household in which the political mother was hammering the evil Democrats on family values. As a political statement, the notion that if she couldn't make it work at home with her own kids might be a forerunner of how she might not be able to make it work for America was a valid topic.

Still is. Sometimes, the holier-than-thou attitude backfires. Jimmy Swaggart, anybody?

If you are liberal, dope-smokin' free-love hippie and you run for office and your kid gets caught doing shit, people will be more likely to shrug that off. Well. Whaddya expect? But if you are claiming the moral high ground? Different game.

I thought the press backed off on Bristol relatively quickly. The late-night comedians attack everybody who will get a laugh, always have, and probably always will.

Wayward kids have always been political and stand-up fodder -- and the more righteous a candidate, the more likely it was -- and is -- that comedians will have at them when they screw up. Should it be that way? No. Is it?

You betcha.

If Palin had been more interested in protecting her daughter from the slings and arrows of a bored press, she could have declined McCain's offer. By choosing to put her family in the fish bowl, and by her conservative stance, she guaranteed that eyebrows were gonna go up. That's part of the price you have to be willing to pay. Sarah Palin made that choice and now she wants to bitch about it.

I'm not sympathetic. I never thought she had two synapses to fire at each other and she feels like she's still running and using everything to stay on stage, including her kids.

Anybody who thinks that the press will leave any rock unturned in today's political climate must have been living in a cave for the last thirty years.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Sarah Palin's been using her kids as props and lecturing the rest of us about family values since McCain plucked her out of the obscurity of Alaska politics. I'm all in favor of the media keeping politicians' kids out of the public eye -- but the politicians have to hold up their end of things, and Palin hasn't.

Contrast this with the last 3 Presidents -- Obama, Bush, and Clinton. I like Obama, hated Bush, and despised Clinton: but all 3 of those men kept their kids off to the side and didn't parade them about. Almost the only good thing I have to say about George Bush is that he tried to give his daughters their privacy; but he did do that.

Palin hasn't.

Unknown said...

I have limited sympathy for Sarah Palin here, and a lot of sympathy for Brisol Palin. Limited sympathy for Sarah Palin meaning that I think she's dragged Bristol into the public eye more than she needed to, but am giving her the benefit of the doubt that she's having a normal protective parental response in this particular case rather than playing politics. A lot of sympathy for Bristol Palin meaning that I don't care what confused things she may say in public, or what jokes the contrast between her sex life and her mother's politics may leave her open to; she's barely more than a kid, and really didn't ask to be an item of public debate.

I agree with Dan that, whatever my other varied opinions of them, I respect Obama's, Bush's, and Clinton's all giving their children their privacy.

BC Monkey said...

Perry, Moran and Sax:

Just remember that you hate a woman from the party that you disagree with enough that you are prepared to justify rape and prostitution jokes about her daughters and remarks comparing her to a slut.

If your sense of decency is based on whether you agree with someone or not, you have no sense of decency worth mentioning.

The underlying message I get from your responses is that everything would be fine if those who don't agree with you would just- go away. If they don't, well, then, they get what they deserve.

After all, freedom and democracy work so much better when the other side is silent and simply acquiesces, right?

Unknown said...

Just remember that you hate a woman from the party that you disagree with enough that you are prepared to justify rape and prostitution jokes about her daughters and remarks comparing her to a slut.

Huh? Where did I say that? I said I objected to the jokes about her daughter. (And, FWIW, I hadn't heard anything about the joke involving rape, or even prostitution; I thought it involved consensual sex with A-Rod. But I still objected.)

Taking a comment where I say I sympathize more with Bristol Palin than with Sarah Palin and twisting it to say that I justify Bristol Palin being fair game is perverse. You're not arguing in good faith; you're putting words in people's mouths, and that is not OK.

I don't even hate Sarah Palin; I disagree with her politics, and think she should have preserved her daughter's privacy better (as Bush did with the twins), but I don't hate her.

I don't think Sarah Palin should be called a slut, either; it's sexist that women politicians get aspersions cast on their looks and sexuality in a way men politicians don't. But, still, even stuff like that, that I don't approve of, directed at Sarah Palin, is less bad than the same thing directed at Bristol Palin.

If having more sympathy for someone who's barely more than a child than for an adult politician is hate, well, your definition of hate is pretty warped.

Unknown said...

In fact, given how you have blatantly twisted and distorted my own words to totally the opposite of what I said, claiming that I approved of a joke about Bristol Palin which I had explicitly criticized - given that fact, I don't believe you, BC Monkey, that the joke involved rape and prostitution. None of the news reports I've seen said that. If A-Rod was supposed to be raping Bristol and pimping her out, why isn't he up in arms about this joke as well? That would be a disgraceful thing to say about him, even in jest, after all. If you want me to believe that the joke said that, I want a cite proving this.

That said, it is still wrong, as I said all along, to joke about a barely legal teenager, who didn't really choose herself to become a public figure, having sex with some man she didn't in fact sleep with. So I still stand by what I've said all along about Letterman being wrong.

Steven Barnes said...

If someone made a "slutty flight attendant" joke about Michelle Obama, I'd object, yes.
She's first lady, not an aspiring politician. I would have objected as much to such a joke about Laura Bush.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

After all, freedom and democracy work so much better when the other side is silent and simply acquiesces, right?

Well, I never thought the First Amendment was such a great idea anyway. We don't need the Constitution; a government of men is good enough for me, as long as it's my guys.

Steve Perry said...

"After all, freedom and democracy work so much better when the other side is silent and simply acquiesces, right?"

Uh huh. And where were you when the Republicans were calling anybody who objected to their plans for war traitors? Whence the loyal opposition and back benchers then?

I don't hate Sarah Palin, nor the party to which she belongs. I just don't have sympathy for somebody who knows the stove is hot and then deliberately touches it anyway. If you are going to run for national office, you know you are going to get put into the public eye, and everything about you and your family will be examined.

Palin knew her daughter was pregnant when she accepted McCain's offer. I wouldn't have done that to my daughter, but maybe that's just me.

I feel sorry for the children. Not for their parents. They made an informed choice, their kids didn't.

Tasteless jokes by comedians have always been with us and will continue to be.

Letterman gets the benefit of doubt, for reasons I've put forth. You don't. Certainly sounds as if you are the one saying nobody on the opposite side of the aisle should be allowed to utter anything contrary to your beliefs.

Have a nice life. We're done.

Christian H. said...

I started this post thinking - finally he will talk about his daughter and his attention to her growth as he does his son.

Alas, it wasn't to be. At least you got her in in that last paragraph.

Daniel Keys Moran said...

Well, Christian, that was classless.

You follow Steve why, exactly?

I'm pretty sure engaging you in any reasonable way is a mistake, but let me just note that Nicki's been away at college, and Steve lives with Jason and deals with him every day. Also, Nicki being an adult, probably has fewer growth issues to deal with, leading to less comment about her and what's going on with her.

I have a 7 year old boy I write about frequently, and a 19 year old daughter just home from her first year of college who I write about rather less often. If you'd like to make some snide comment about that, go to town, but let's be clear that it would be snide, baseless, and completely classless for you to do so. As it was with Steve's kids.

Unknown said...

Palin knew her daughter was pregnant when she accepted McCain's offer. I wouldn't have done that to my daughter, but maybe that's just me.

With me it's not so much that she chose to run for office under the circumstances as that, once she'd made that choice, she seems to have chosen (and to still be choosing) to try to push her daughter into a certain public role. The sequence of: 1) Oh, we're so proud of Bristol and of course she's going to marry the father, 2) No, it turns out Bristol isn't going to marry the father, 3) Bristol sits for an interview in which she says abstinence isn't realistic, 4) Levi's sister drags out a bunch of stuff to the tabloids, 5) Palin responds with something about how Bristol is going to be promoting abstinence, doesn't have a good feel to me; it feels as if young Bristol's being pushed to promote an agenda of sexual morality which, however good it may be in the abstract, isn't something Bristol seems to be ready to promote, all in the interest of promoting her mother's ongoing political ambitions.

But that I don't approve of how Sarah Palin's handled public relations on this matter doesn't mean I'm down with Letterman slut-shaming Bristol.

Steve Perry said...

In humor, the really funny stuff often skirts the edge. A hair over, and it's not funny at all, and that's one of the risks you take when you offer it.
You get a huge laugh, or people shaking their heads, going "Ooh. Ugly."

And what floats your boat might sink mine, so funny is in the ear of the beholder. I laugh at some weird things, and don't laugh at what a lot of people find hilarious. Goes to taste.

All humor is at somebody or some thing's expense. I have a file of jokes in which there is nobody being made fun of. It's empty. I've asked for examples, but as yet, nobody has ever come up with one. Somebody is *always* the butt of a joke. Might be the guy telling it, but always. Look around, find one that makes people laugh, really laugh, that isn't. Please, send it to me.

That said, Letterman's top ten lists are usually nasty, meant to zing, and if people don't like them, they can pick up the remote. Dave is not compulsory.

As long as people choose to stay in the spotlight, they risk rotten tomatoes. Nature of the beast.
Whether Bristol is there by choice or being shoved into the ring by her mother, she's there.

I think the kids should be off limits, but they aren't, and haven't been for a long time. Especially when they are being used to keep the public watching.

Sarah Palin knew that when she stepped up to the microphone. I feel sorry for her children. Not her.

I think that if Palin were running any harder to stay in the public eye, she'd win every track and field event in the next Olympics.