Some members of the “both sides” media are quite flustered today. They don’t know quite what to make of what they saw at the White House Correspondents’ dinner last night.
The WHCD is classically viewed as an opportunity for politicians (notably the President), journalists and entertainers to take pot shots at themselves at the political environment in Washington. It’s traditionally a no-holds-barred event for every one to let their hair down. The President always attends.
This “President,” an insecure, hollow man, did not attend (for the second year in a row). He as afraid of being made fun of, or, more likely, he would have found himself unable to control his rage. He has no sense of humor, and wouldn’t have understood the jokes in context. His ego would never allow him to “let his hair down.” Just not possible for him.
That’s too bad, because what happened at the White House Correspondents’ dinner last night was instructive, as are the reactions by some in the media this morning.
The dinner was apparently one big snooze until comedienne Michelle Wolf showed up. Here are some of her best lines:
- “Like a porn star says when she’s about to have sex with a Trump, ‘Let’s get this over with.'”
- “Tonight, I’m going to try to make fun of the president in a new way, in a way that I really think will get him. Mr. President, I don’t think you’re very rich. Like, I think you might be rich in Idaho, but in New York you’re doing fine.”
- “(Trump) wants to give teachers guns, and I support that, ’cause then they can sell them for things they need, like supplies.”
- “I know as much as some of you might want me to, it’s 2018 and I’m a woman, so you cannot shut me up — unless you have Michel Cohen wire me $130,000.”
- “I did have a lot of jokes about cabinet members, but I had to scrap all of those because everyone has been fired. You guys have gone through cabinet members quicker than Starbucks throws out black people.”
And those directed at Sarah Huckabee Sanders were particularly acerbic:
“I’m a little starstruck,” Wolf began. “I love you as Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale.”
“I actually really like Sarah. I think she’s very resourceful,” Wolf said, setting up her next jab. “She burns facts and then she uses that ash to create a perfect smoky eye. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.”
“I’m never really sure what to call Sarah Huckabee Sanders,” Wolf continued. “Is it Sarah Sanders? Is it Sarah Huckabee Sanders? Is it Cousin Huckabee? Is it Auntie Huckabee Sanders? Like, what’s Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women?”
This morning the media are trying to decide how they should “cover” Ms. Wolf’s monologue. The prevailing theme seems to be one of discomfort. NPR, which has unfortunately become the leader of the “Both sides” crowd and seems to be morphing into False Equivalency Public Radio, vented its feelings with this headline:
Comedian Faces Criticism After Controversial Remarks At D.C. Gala
NPR’s tut-tutting review contains disapproving gems like this:
The comedic routine laced with sexual innuendo and, at times, dominated by outright vulgarities was directed primarily at Republicans and conservatives — a fact not lost on those in the room who expressed their displeasure on Twitter afterward.
“She was particularly hard on the women associated with Trump,” Farhi also wrote, adding “several cracks about [White House press secretary] Sarah Huckabee Sanders landed poorly.” (Courtesy of two of Farhi’s colleagues at the Post, here’s a list of Wolf’s “harshest” jokes.) And Politico said Wolf’s performance “was a risque and uneven routine at first met with laughs but often greeted by awkward silence.”
The NPR story also provides helpful negative quotes about Ms. Wolf from from Reince Priebus, Donald Trump himself, and CNN’s Jeff Zeleny (whose network’s fawning coverage during the 2016 primary is largely the reason Americans are saddled with Trump in the first place). Contrast this with USA Today’s coverage, which highlights the praise for Wolf’s performance and leads with this headline:
White House Correspondents’ Dinner: Michelle Wolf obliterates Sarah Huckabee Sanders
What I think NPR and Mr Farhi of the Post are missing is something essential, and it’s this: the Trump Administration prompts this type of biting humor because in reality there is nothing funny about it, and many, many people realize that. If you were to gauge the feelings of huge portions of the American public towards Donald Trump, his mouthpiece Sarah Sanders and the rest of this Administration, humor would not be on the list.
What these people are doing is dismantling, through sheer incompetence or malice, the country that we have grown up cherishing and we are not amused. They are putting the lives of our families and children in jeopardy and we are not amused. They are destroying our institutions through corruption, mismanagement and sheer venality, and we are not amused. Many of us wake up each morning in sheer dread of what fresh new horror this Administration is about to foist on us. And we are not amused.
It’s hard to find anything “funny” about this Administration or what it is doing. The closest approximation to humor that can be expected is exactly what Michelle Wolf delivered last night. Perhaps NPR, Politico, and Paul Farhi of the Washington Post don’t get that.
But they will get it, in about six months.
The prevailing mood is not one of mirth, but rage. And rage translated into humor does not often sit well.
Deal with it, NPR.