Tag: Hillary Clinton

Basing Public Policy On Emotion Is A Bad Idea.  Maligning A Suffering Parent Is An Even Worse Idea.

Basing Public Policy On Emotion Is A Bad Idea. Maligning A Suffering Parent Is An Even Worse Idea.

In pushing his political agenda, which one of these guys showed poor taste and poor timing?

One of the most underrated storylines of NBC’s “The Office” was the hostile dynamic between Michael Scott and Toby Flenderson, a kind-natured but tepid human-resource employee, just trying to do his job.  Scott, a delusional middle manager whose mere presence was a demoralizing influence on those around him (at least in the early episodes), always assumed his verbal- and occasionally physical– abuse was exposing poor Toby to the world (or in this case, the viewers) as a reprehensible and intrusive buzzkill, while in actuality showing everyone what kind of guy Michael Scott himself was- and it wasn’t pretty.

This week in real life, we’ve seen a similar level of accidental self-reflection.  It started after Jimmy Kimmel revealed the personal and painful trauma of living through his newborn son’s heart surgery.  Kimmel is not normally one to bare his soul to the public, so it’s pretty clear that he felt and meant every word that he was saying.  Not even the most cynical viewer could take issue with his tears.  His words, however, were another story.  Without getting into a detailed discussion of the speech itself (watch here to decide for yourself) there’s no denying that Kimmel has a very specific point of view on this subject- and, just like any specific point of view, it’s not going to be shared unanimously.  After all, there are roughly seven billion of us nowadays, which leads to roughly seven billion different points of view.  Not everyone is going to see things the way that Jimmy Kimmel does.

Enter Charles Hurt, a conservative Washington Times columnist who definitely has a different point of view from Jimmy Kimmel- and what a point of view it is.  Like many of us, Mr. Hurt generally comes across in the flesh as a pleasant individual, but online often seems like a madman, writing up an angry screed on a bathroom wall (albeit with a better vocabulary).  He took it to a whole new level against Kimmel, calling him- quote- an “elitist creep”, as well as a “dirty, self-absorbed, narcissistic exhibitionist”…and for what, exactly?  Hoping that no parent would have to go through what he did, particularly poor ones that couldn’t afford the kind of care that a rich late-night talk show host could?  While Jimmy Kimmel’s endorsement of expanded healthcare has merits that are certainly debatable, his motivation for it, much like his tears, should not have been.  After all, this is a man with a newborn baby whose LIFE was in jeopardy.  To paraphrase Tina Fey when discussing Dubya going after the guy that tried to kill his dad, people become superheroes over less!

A far better (if less newsworthy) approach than name-calling would have been to criticize the idea that any single anecdote should be the final word on a serious and complex issue.  This is a common tactic to use in the Internet age- find a high-profile story that fits your worldview, share it on Facebook, and imply that you’ve just settled the debate, once and for all.  Jimmy Kimmel has every right and every reason to share his beliefs on this subject, and the public has every right to take it under consideration.  But that doesn’t mean that his experience should be the guidebook to shape public policy, any more than Kate Steinle’s tragic death should be the final say for dealing with illegal immigration.

Unfortunately, Charles Hurt didn’t take this tactic, instead deciding to malign a well-meaning individual- and by extension, the group which he belongs to.  This brings us back to Michael Scott and Toby Flenderson.  Assuming he’s being honest and not just trolling for publicity, Mr. Hurt seems to believe that he’s giving an example of why “America hates Hollywood” (his words), when in reality, he just gave Exhibit A for why so many Americans- and not just the ones in Hollywood, which is, in fact, a part of America- believe conservatives are heartless.  Also, the like:dislike ratio is actually about 30:1 on Kimmel’s video- who knew that Hollywood was so much bigger than the rest of America?!  If Charles Hurt’s intention was to expose liberals as the out-of-touch elitists, his tactic clearly backfired.  By personally and viciously insulting a new father who’s just gone through a traumatic ordeal, Charles Hurt lives up to the worst caricatures of conservatives as greedy rich people, who don’t care about others- and make no mistake, a LOT of people believe that one, not just those that live in Hollywood.  It might feel good to just take personal shots at people with a different point of view, but it’s a bad strategy long term- just ask Hillary Clinton.

Since Donald Trump’s victory, many people on the right have been laughing disdainfully at liberals living in their bubble.  For the ones nodding approvingly at Charles Hurt’s needlessly angry column, it might be about time for them to step out of theirs.

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Hillary’s Best Campaign Moment (NOT the Debate), and The REAL Reason Trump Will Never Be On “Between Two Ferns”

Hillary’s Best Campaign Moment (NOT the Debate), and The REAL Reason Trump Will Never Be On “Between Two Ferns”

For many this election cycle, the only convincing argument that Hillary Clinton has had going for her is that she’s not Donald Trump.  Throughout this entire campaign season, she has made the news for all the wrong reasons.  For one brief moment, though, that changed, as she was interviewed in a genuinely funny episode of Between Two Ferns, the popular Web series hosted by Zach Galifianakis.  Zach* is the star, of course, but Hillary played a fantastic comic foil, absorbing just enough heat to let us know that she can take a joke, but not so much that she looked like a doormat for the subversively hostile interviewer.  (The hostility was mostly in jest, but substantive enough that it could potentially make her look bad, had she not known how to handle it.)   The interview humanized her in a way that would not have seemed possible to many of us, making it easy for one to consider that she may not be so bad, after all- even for those of us who long ago came to the conclusion that she is.  Ultimately, that’s what makes effective political propaganda- an image strong enough to convince people to reconsider their own strongly held beliefs, without beating them over the head with it.

This is where Joss Wheedon- the otherwise brilliant director and writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Avengers, and other national treasures- completely missed the boat with his star-studded anti-Trump screed, appropriately and overtly titled Save the Day.  Starting out the commercial by mocking the self-importance of Hollywood, Wheedon and his stars tried to inoculate themselves from accusations of it.  In reality, they merely drew attention to it, as evidenced by the mediocre (at best) Like:Dislike ratio, compared to the stellar one of the Between Two Ferns clip.  Next time Wheedon wants to do a political commercial with humor, he ought to give Zach a call.

Regrettably, though, in the aftermath of the phenomenal Hillary interview, Zach proved every bit as unoriginally “Hollywood” about his partisan approach to politics as the rest of them, explaining how he could never have a “mentally challenged” person like Trump on his show.  To be fair, he’s probably right that this wouldn’t be the best format for Trump, but the idea that he wouldn’t have Trump on because of that is as far-fetched as the idea that Hillary really was diagnosed with pneumonia the day she went on his show.  I mean, come on- this is a top-rate professional who would have no issues spinning a narcissist like Trump into comedic gold-  he did it for Justin Bieber, for crying out loud!  Plus, Trump would be great for ratings, and however arrogant and insufferable the man might be, he has shown that he usually knows how to take a joke.  (To the extent that he doesn’t, Zach could make the interview even better!)

Far more likely for the Between Two Ferns “blackout” of Trump is pressure from the entertainment industry.  This isn’t to say that anyone is making threatening 3 AM phone calls to Zach…well, besides Hillary’s people, perhaps.  But consciously or not, surely Zach and his people recognize the intense criticism that even someone as popular as Jimmy Fallon is taking, for daring to treat Donald Trump like any other celebrity guest.  (Collectively, Saturday Night Live received the same criticism last year.)  The message from Tinseltown is clear- Trump is a danger for which there is no precedent in modern American life, and any attempt to humanize him will be met swiftly and mercilessly.

gettyimages-487813454-trump-fallon-tonightEven if the outside pressure has nothing to do with this, there is plenty of evidence that many Trump detractors hope that it does.  We have seen and heard, from many in the media, that Donald Trump cannot be treated as a “normal” candidate.  In other words, those who attempt to shine the slightest bit of light on Trump’s more “human” qualities are aiding and abetting this dangerous monster.  The reality is that this attitude says far more about the critics than it does about Trump.  Everyone should have a fair opportunity to show who they really are, particularly those running for President.  If Trump is truly is a threat to the republic, then let the people decide that for themselves.  There is plenty of evidence going around of what kind of person he is overall, without having to “protect” people from seeing him in an occasional moment of levity.  The same goes for Hillary Clinton.

Finally, to liberals smugly convinced that they are better at taking a joke than conservatives (see the comment section of the Huffington Post link)- get back to us when you don’t get so worked up about Donald Trump’s hair being rumpled.

*I’m not trying to pretend that I’m on a first name basis with Zach Galifianakis- I just hate typing out his last name!

South Park Is Still Great, While Colin Kaepernick Is Not

South Park Is Still Great, While Colin Kaepernick Is Not

(Note- this is A *SPOILER HEAVY* review of the season 20 premiere episode)

It’s impossible to pinpoint a single reason why South Park remains so incredible. For one thing, the height of the show’s popularity came years before the height of the show’s quality.  Think about it- when the feature film “Bigger, Longer, and Uncut” was released at the end of the last century, not a single word had yet been spoken by Butters, Randy was merely known as Stan’s dad, and Cartman was, in hindsight, a somewhat one-dimensional foul-mouthed ignoramus, still a long ways from the double-crossing schemer that we’ve come to know and, for lack of a better word, love.

It’s also refreshing, in a time where most topical comedy seems to be about finding the easiest path to getting a “WOOOOOO!!!” from a sympathetic audience, South Park continues to take shots at targets everywhere. Even longtime fans of the show will find themselves saying, “Heeeey- wait a minute!” at least once or twice an episode. All of its elite peers, such as The Simpsons and Family Guy, peaked years ago. With an ever-growing list of things to offend anyone, combined with the increasing madness of our world, the one which South Park resides in has more than enough reasons to be as compelling as ever.

Recently, though, the most important change to the show has been in the format. With prior seasons more or less relying on each episode as a standalone, last season followed a format usually suited for dramas, with continuous storylines throughout.  If not watched from beginning to end, the viewer could be left very confused.  (I’m speaking from experience.)  Given the renewed praise of the show, which introduced PC Principal as one of the show’s newest main characters, it’s no surprise that Season 20 is sticking with this format.

Also back are the Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s lightning-fast real time responses to current events. The commercial for the opener, featuring the townspeople singing the “new national anthem” in a scene not actually shown in the episode, imply a strong distaste for Colin Kaepernick’s perceived self-aggrandizing.  On the flip side, the opening scene of season 20 gives us South Park’s girl volleyball team, protesting a legitimate grievance during the National Anthem.  In this case, the target is the public’s reaction to the protest, too caught up in turning the National Anthem protest into a sport, to consider what the point of the protest might actually be.  On the show, the cause was misogynistic cyberbullying, serving as a stand-in for real life police brutality.  This is classic South Park- before you can get too comfortable nodding up and down, clapping like a trained seal at your TV set as the host (or hostess) validates your etched-in-stone worldview, you instead find your worldview being challenged.  In other words, those who want more public attention focused on injustices, might wonder if Colin Kaepernick’s divisive tactics are the right way to go about it.  On the other hand, others might wonder if Kaepernick’s cause, if not Kaepernick himself, might at least be worth considering.

south-park-garrisonBut that wasn’t even the biggest target of the night for this episode. Returning to the spotlight, more relevant even now than when the joke was first introduced, was “Giant Douche versus Turd Sandwich.”  This has gotten some criticism from other parts of the Internet, seemingly because some take umbrage at Hillary Clinton being referred to as Turd Sandwich.  Lacking in self-awareness, many of these people scream at South Park’s “false equivalency” of Donald Trump’s awfulness and Hillary Clinton’s (from their point of view) far-less dangerous qualities.  Always ahead of the curve, Parker and Stone seem to have anticipated this in advance, in the form of Randy Marsh, incredulously wondering how anyone can possibly consider voting for a Giant Douche (Trump) over a Turd Sandwich (Clinton).  In fact, those paying attention to the episode in a non-partisan light would see that they did actually spend more time skewering Trump- with Mr. Garrison used as his stand-in, to hilarious effect.  Some pro-Clinton critics also griped that the level of Trump bashing wasn’t enough, which missed yet another point of this plotline- that Trump’s buffoonish behavior (or in this case, Garrison’s) has been a net positive for the guy.  Besides, they had his solution to getting rid of America’s enemies as “f*cking them all to death”!  What else were they supposed to do, exactly, have him shoot someone on 5th Avenue?!  That wouldn’t have mattered, either!

But wait- there was even more to this episode!  It was a long summer, and there were plenty of other topics to address, as well.  Thanks largely to Eric Cartman, we witnessed jabs at-

  • Internet Trolls
  • Amy Schumer’s increasingly tired act
  • Overly sensitive reactions to criticisms of the Ghostbusters reboot
  • An excess of reboots, complete with over-the-top praise for JJ Abrams’ minor tweaking of classic plotlines
  • Gratuitous gender-bending roles, courtesy of a brief mention of Token, playing the role of Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma (“Get over it!”)
  • Hashtag Activism
  • And finally- for those who disdain Parker and Stone’s anti-liberal leanings- deceptively tasty right-wing nostalgia fruit, known as ‘member berries.  (As in, ” ‘member Reagan?”).

The last one- which, in fairness, had nothing to do with Cartman- is of particular interest.  Although it was fairly lonely as the one target solely aimed at conservatives, it also is the one that has the potential for the most mayhem this season.  (It took every ounce of strength for me not to type out, “bare the most fruit.”  Forgive me, dear reader.)  Starting out as relatively harmless nostalgia vehicles, mostly by mentioning great movies of yesteryear, the berries find their way into sinister territory, reminding Randy of a time when there weren’t as many Mexicans in the United States.  Not one to normally figure out when he’s being duped, Randy almost immediately senses that something is horribly wrong.  This was quite out of character, but perhaps the writers thought that having a beloved character like Randy susceptible to racism was a bridge too far for viewers to cross.

The surprise I felt at Randy’s awareness at the situation, however, was nothing compared to the twist ending, though, as we discover that the troll is Kyle’s dad, of all people.  Near everyone in the world, both South Park’s and ours, figured it was Cartman, but the South Park writers have shown themselves to be capable of some pretty jarring twist endings, ever since “Scott Tenorman Must Die”.  Why a mild-mannered lawyer, usually one of the more level-headed characters on the show, would take to the Internet to troll elementary school girls is anyone’s guess.  Finding out why is a good reason to keep tuning in, in case you needed one.  Which you shouldn’t.

Gary Johnson Never Heard Of Aleppo. Chances Are, Neither Did You.

Say this for Mike Barnicle, the man who exposed the world to Gary Johnson’s ignorance of war ravaged Aleppo- his thoughts on the debacle were reasonably merciful to the former governor of New Mexico, particularly compared to most of Mr. Barnicle’s peers in the media.  Jessica Durando of USA Today was indignantNabih Bulos of the Los Angeles Times was snarkyLiz Sly of the Washington Post was both.  All of this for a candidate who remains (sadly) on the fringe, and whose many other far more revealing qualities has received far less attention.

allepo
A less depressing picture montage of Aleppo, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The whole thing seemed a little bit strange to begin with.  Leading with a question about a relatively obscure city- obscure to most of the American public, anyway- rather than directly asking about the broader crisis itself, is an unconventional strategy, to say the least.  In other words, why not just ask Governor Johnson about Syria directly?  It would almost be like a reporter in early 1940, asking a fringe-challenger of Roosevelt to open with his thoughts on Westerplatte.  But even assuming Mr. Barnicle himself had the best of intentions, it defies belief to think that the media-at-large did.  This is enforced by none other than Mr. Barnicle’s employer itself, MSNBC, putting up a Youtube video a few hours later, asking the (loaded) question, “Should Gary Johnson Be Disqualified From Debates?”

Consider that we have one major candidate, who has been near the pinnacle of American power for a quarter of a century, claiming to not know what constitutes classified data.  (Of course, many think she’s lying about that.  Assuming she becomes President, we’d better hope that she is, but that’s for another topic.)  We have the other major candidate, showing he doesn’t know…well, much of anything, besides how to work a room and self-promote.  (Also for another topic.)  And never mind the Presidency- the media, along with many in the American public, decide that this is what disqualifies a candidate from even debating?

And how about that American public?  If you can’t name all of the Supreme Court justices, then you really are the 99%! It might be unreasonable to assume that someone who can’t name all (for the time being) eight justices would be unaware of Aleppo.  It would, however, be reasonable to assume nearly all of the 63% who can’t name one Supreme Court Justice would have no idea where Aleppo is.  And yet, many of those same people took to Twitter and Facebook on September 8th, to ridicule Gary Johnson for the exact same “sin”.  Sadly, this is what passes for public debate these days- ridicule and scorn.  Think about it.  Whenever climate change comes up, what is the percentage of comments dedicated to those making fun of those merely skeptical of it, versus comments that discuss possible solutions?  We see this play out in the very same interview that created this controversy.  With all the “gotcha!” coverage of Governor Johnson’s geographic lack of expertise, his thoughtful, nuanced, and far more relevant response about American use of force was completely drowned out-

When we involve ourselves militarily…in these humanitarian issues , we end up with a situation that is not better, and in many cases end up being worse.”

Well said, Governor.  And, with respect to Hillary Clinton and her vast knowledge of the globe– she was Secretary of State, after all- I’d rather have a President with a thoughtful foreign policy, than one who can ace a geography quiz.

None of this is to entirely let a Presidential candidate off the hook, for not knowing a strategic place of tragic consequences on the other side of the world.  But given that most of us, myself included, had no idea where- or even what- Aleppo was before all of this, maybe we can try knowing more about it now, instead of ridiculing someone who didn’t know about it then.  And given our primary choices for Presidential candidates, it can’t hurt to learn more about Gary Johnson, as well.