Politics Isn't Funny


Here's an unintentionally hilarious Washington Post article gravely discussing the implications of Jay Leno emceeing Arnold Schwarzenegger's election-night party. "His appearance on campaign night," the Post's Sharon Waxman intoned, "seems to implicitly raise questions about what Leno's responsibilities ought to be—to his audience, to his network and to his entertainer-friends-politicians." Several hand-wringing quotes ensue. The silliest, maybe, comes from Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

If you want to play Peter Jennings, then you have to play by some of the same rules as Peter Jennings, even if 99 percent of your show is pure entertainment. You cross a line when you start to get into this other game. If his responsibility is to entertain people, and it ends there, maybe he should refrain from having political people on the air.


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  1. I thought he was GOP. I would need to see some citations for the claim that: “every time he’s ever spoken out on… affirmative action, even government regulation–he’s been in the Democrat’s camp.”

  2. A serious question:

    Tom Rosenstiel . . . believes that Leno . . . crossed the line from entertainment into political journalism a long time ago, and needs to play by the rules of journalism.

    “If you want to play Peter Jennings, then you have to play by some of the same rules as Peter Jennings”

    What rules does Peter Jennings play by, exactly?

    On a related note, can Leno play by the rules of Neil Cavuto, or does it have to be Jennings?

  3. Apparently no one ever explained to these folks that when your feathers are ruffled, you try not to let it show.

  4. The only difference between Leno and Jennings is that Leno is funny. Good Peter’s biases are all over the ABC news, whether you like them or not. Case in point, I can remember flipping through the channels and catching some of his “coverage” regarding Arnold’s big win, and while I do not remember the exact quote (maybe someone can help me out here) I remember him stating that though Arnold won the recall, the margin was too close and represented no “real mandate” to implement his platform. Now, for the pundits out there that’s fine, they are paid to opine, but what is that “commentary” doing in a “news” show, considering all of this “journalistic integrity” bullshit.

    At least Leno is honest about what he does. I have never seen him promise news. He just attempts to get people that will make an interesting show.

  5. The correct response to objectionable speech is not suppression. It is more, and better, speech. We all know this here.

    As does David Letterman, who has been merciless and hilarious in mocking Leno’s Republican sycophant pretentions.

  6. If this sort of progressive concern gets to what I see as the logical endpoint, I would be delighted. Campaign-finance reformers need to have a public conversation to explain to me (and I assume others) why there should be a finite limit on cash donations to political campaigns and political parties, and yet no limit on celebrity speak-outs and endorsements, and talk-show appearances. I plainly see that the likes of Todd Gitlin are uncomfortable with Arnold getting a “free” interview on prime-time television. Well, is Professor Gitlin (who wrote a textbook I used in college; I was not impressed) similarly interested in muzzling, say, Warren Beatty all the time? And if not, I am very interested for him to explain the difference.

  7. Are the “progressives” scheming for the return of the “Fairness Doctrine”?

  8. “It puts people who value dispute and debate [into the position] where we’re all seen as earthly and petty, as if we should get with the program.”

    But Marty, you *are* earthly and petty, and you *should* get with the program.

    I think we’re seeing cracks in the foundation of democratic party politics, that perpetually unnoticed kernel of philosophical bullshit that says “you can’t choose for yourself, you can’t filter out the messages on your own, so we will do it for you.” So they want Leno in Leno’s chair, Arnold in Arnold’s chair, and Rev Jackson in any chair he likes.

  9. I believe that Jennings said, among other things, that the election was a loss for Davis, but not a victory for Schwarzenegger. I am not sure what his rationale was, seeing as how Arnold got more votes (as an absolute and, I believe, as a percentage) than Davis did when Davis was reelected last year.

  10. “The only difference between Leno and Jennings is that Leno is funny.”

    Leno is funny???

  11. Yea man. Bennett, you lost the argument with your first sentence. Leno funny? It doesn’t matter if you’re right about anything else, you lose all validity right there.

  12. RC: I clearly don’t speak for Jennings nor do I vouche for his professional journalism, but what I did interpret from his statement is basically what David Shuster (Chris Mathews man) said one evening, a victory at the polls means you just assumed control of a gigantic mess with no clear solution ahead. So where its a victory for the GOP for now, next election, they may get ran out of the state entirely in liberal California!

  13. He didn’t mean funny ha-ha.

  14. I don’t care whether Leno is funny or not. I don’t watch his show. I have seen him do things that are funny from time to time, and he has been on the air for a LONG time, so he’s doing something right. Just ignore the first line, it was a throwaway. Whatever. How about “At least Leno is honest about his role as an entertainer.” Is that better?

  15. By the way, Jennings did seem awful critical of Arnie that night. Its as if Davis or Bustamante was a favorite of Jennings. Maybe he was sore that Leno backed the winner from the beginning.

  16. i don’t think leno is funny at all. After all he supports the anti-libertarian Arnie the Barbarian, which is not funny.

  17. As I read the piece I kept waiting for someone to explain why it is OK for McCain to do Leno or even more famously, big Bill to play sax for Arsenio.

  18. JAT – or, for that matter, for celebrity after celebrity to go on XYZ show spewing Liberal non-sense. Once again, the Dems show that they’re more than happy to dish it out but completely unable to take it from the other side.

  19. victory at the polls means you just assumed control of a gigantic mess with no clear solution ahead.

    That’s still a victory for a Republican, and Jennings apparently can’t bring himself to say as much. Whether Arnie can handle the Cali mess remains to be seen, but Peter was all too quick to assume he would fail. Being just a body-builder, you know, not a three-times successful businessman, how would Arnie know better than someone whose sole apparent job qualification is the ability to read a Teleprompter?

    I wonder, if the economy and Iraq head back into the crapper and Dean wins next November, will Jennings say that Bush lost but Dean didn’t win? No effing way.

  20. These same hand-wringers haven’t raised one voice in protest over Leno’s colleagues at the Today Show, who actually claim to be journalists…

  21. It’s too bad Pee Wee Herman doesn’t host the Tonight Show, then this thread would be even more stupid than it already is.

  22. Funny stuff! The real problem for the Post is that Leno is a Republican backing the same. The Post’s Waxman engages in all manner of contortion to justify the complaint.

  23. Maybe Arnie is setting Jay up to clobber Cruz for Lt. Gov. next time around. Cruz made a tactical mistake by telling the people (and, by extension, the Governator), “I’m not going anywhere.”

    “Schwarzenegger-Leno 2006”???


  24. The LA Weekly also had some hilarious hand-wringing, and even had some head-shaking over how Leno was too easy on Bush in his monologues. Nothing’s funnier than comedy bean-counters.

    But Leno is no Republican, he’s simply an opportunist. He keeps his politics guarded, but every time he’s ever spoken out on any issue–abortion, affirmative action, even government regulation–he’s been in the Democrat’s camp.

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