A vote for Letterman
Just look at the startling difference between Bush reading a prepared text at the start of his April 13 live news conference and the long pauses, repetitive phrases and overall pathetic-ness of his replies when he tried to parry the press during the Q&A portion. But by the time the footage reached the nightly news, Bush seemed and sounded smooth. In his monologue Letterman even joked about the president’s poor performance: “Bush’s press conference was such a big deal that Fox pre-empted American Idol. That makes sense: You don’t want too many amateurs on TV the same night.”
Which is why Letterman’s Stupid President Tricks segment is so deliciously subversive: because it’s truthful. Truthful, at a time when the news media are engaged in unsettling arguments over how much unvarnished truth about the war in Iraq — from footage of the desecration of American victims in Fallujah to photographing the rows of coffins of U.S. soldiers on their sad voyage home — is palatable to the public. Truthful, when Bush’s image makers have been editing the official White House transcripts to make the president and his people sound more presidential. (Remember that low point in the aftermath of 9/11 when Bush mouthpiece Ari Fleischer warned that Americans “need to watch what they say”? Those Big Brother tactics were edited out of the official White House transcript.) Truthful, when the Bush administration has been purging government-issued facts and statements, like last year’s deletion from cyberspace of the gross understatement made by the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development that U.S. taxpayers would not have to pay more than $1.7 billion to reconstruct Iraq, or like the gutting of a chapter on global climate change from a 2002 government study on the state of the environment.
It’s this kind of hypocrisy that the Letterman show is headlining. And the White House is noticing. (So is W.’s daddy, who recently got all teary-eyed about how “It hurts an awful lot more when it’s your son that is being criticized.” Didn’t Republicans accuse Clinton of murder, thievery, fraud and rape?) Hollywood remains a huge headache for all the president’s men, and not just because the TV-movies-music industry gave 78 percent of its millions in political donations to Democrats in 2002. The Bushies hate the anti-Bushisms creeping into prime time on Whoopi and Law & Order and Curb Your Enthusiasm (where Larry David backed out of sex when the prospective partner turned out to be a Bush supporter).