Thursday, May 16, 2013

Politics and Comedy: May the farce be with you

By John David Powell

A fine line exists between satire and bad taste. Mel Brooks danced up
to that line with his "Springtime for Hitler and Germany" in "The
Producers." And, every night, comedian pundits like Jon Stewart
( and Stephen Colbert ( use
the politics of comedy and the comedy of politics as they laugh all
the way to the bank.

I make my living off the evening news, as the song says, in a newsroom
where it helps to have the maturity level of a 14-year-old boy. I say
this to give context to the following train of thought from earlier in
the week.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who more and more looks like a
drowning man clinging to an anchor, came under ridicule when he noted
the events surrounding the murder of U.S. embassy personnel in Libya
last year happened a long time ago.

Of course, my twisted mind filled in the rest of that comment with the
phrase "in a galaxy far, far away."

Then my mind jumped to the phrase "may the farce be with you."

And that, my friends, just about sums up what has been coming out of
Washington over the past week: the farce of politics and comedy.


This week started with a paper trail detailing how the Obama
Administration changed the story about that deadly attack on the U.S.
embassy outpost in Benghazi. If you are the president, you know things
are not going well when you start sounding like Bill Clinton defining
what the meaning of the word "is" is.

"There is no there, there," Mr. Obama told reporters with a straight face.

Then came word the Internal Revenue Service ( may have
targeted conservative, tea party, and pro-Israel groups during the
application process for 501(c) (4) tax-exempt status, which prompted
this POTUS response: "People have got to be held accountable and it's
gotta be fixed."

Excuse us, Mr. President, but isn't that a given? How about givin' us
something more?

Well, we got more when the IRS said two rogue employees in the
Cincinnati office were "overly aggressive" in handling the
applications. Former acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller is said to
have told congressional investigators the two rogues were not the only
ones involved.

Miller also told investigators, before he resigned, the rogues were
"off the reservation", a phrase sure to please the Native American
population, and one guaranteed to force his resignation if he were a

It appears any organization with the words "tea party" and/or
"patriots" in its name was not the only target of the "Illegal"
Revenue Service.

A Huffington Post story
during the presidential campaign may have used information leaked by
the IRS to connect a Romney political action committee to an anti-gay
marriage group.

Franklin Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
(, shared with Politico a letter
( he
wrote to President Obama complaining the IRS came after the
association because it supported a North Carolina constitutional
amendment banning gay marriage.


Late Monday, the Associated Press ( said it was the target
of a massive data harvest by the Department of Justice (
AP says DOJ took two months of phone records from offices in New York,
Washington, and Hartford, Conn., and from the phones in the House of
Representatives ( press gallery. The DOJ probe involved
more than 100 reporters and editors, and in some cases, logs from
their personal cell and home phones.

The government wanted to find out who leaked the sensitive information
that led to a story that broke in May 2012 about a mole in Al-Qaeda in
the Arabian Peninsula who thwarted a bomb attack.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the DOJ action was (wait for it) a
matter of national security. The story, he said "put the American
people at risk, and trying to determine who was responsible for that,
I think required very aggressive action."

Call me mad, call me crazy (just don't call me from an AP phone), but
if an AP reporter can verify a terrorist mole, is it not possible the
terrorists already fingered him? Maybe the Department of Homeland
Security ( should forget the usual intelligence-gathering
methods and just consult with wire-service reporters.


But Uncle Sam is not the only snoop, dog.

Last week, Bloomberg ( added to the seemingly
endless parade of farce by admitting its journalists used Bloomberg
market-data terminals to spy on Bloomberg's financial clients. They
not only spied on Wall Street bankers, they also spied on Federal
Reserve ( chairman Ben Bernanke and former
Treasury ( secretary Tim Geithner.

It's kind of hard for journalists to stay on their high horse when
they are also slogging through the mud.

And we still have the rest of the week ahead. May the farce stop being with us.

John David Powell writes his Lone Star Award winning columns from
ShadeyHill Ranch in Texas.