During the last two days, pop culture has witnessed two tours de force. One featuring Barack Obama taking on Republican House members in Baltimore, the other is Jimmy Kimmel taking on Jay Leno.
By the way, as much as Obama’s virtuoso performance deserves rave reviews, Jimmy Kimmel’s latest cut down of Jay Leno gets closer to the American zeitgeist.
Here’s the difference: Kimmel cut to the quick, his finger jiggling with a hot and funny political nerve. Obama reasoned and countered effectively but let his opponent walk away. What’s missing is the verbal conversation ender, the knock out. What’s frustrating is that Obama deliberately wants the conversation to continue; he wants deliberative discourse in a very Habermasian way. But in the time it takes to teach his opponents the rules of deliberative discourse, his party might well lose the next election or two.
We know the set-up. For the last year, the GOP has taunted President Obama and given him barely a vote from stimulus to healthcare. People without health insurance quite literally are dying while HCR lingers in congress’ chambers. In the meantime, the GOP questions the legitimacy of Obama’s leadership, suggesting he wasn’t born proper in the USA– now compare that with questions of the legitimacy of the Bush presidency in 2000. Bush stole the 2000 election; Obama was born. get the difference?
Obama showed some pluck as he strategically and effectively– I think– boxed Republicans into working with him or being hi-jacked by Tea partiers. It was a job well done, but was so subtle as to have been lost on many viewers whose support he was courting.
Switch to Kimmel who just slams Jay Leno over the frivolous late night wars. No comparison in gravity of situation. yes comparison in how it was handled. If Obama had only had a little more Kimmel in him, he would have registered a sharp warning to an equally infantile audience that he knows how to dance his finger on the nerve of the GOP. Case in point: Obama could have and should have reminded Jason Chaffitz, a patronizing questioner of the president, for hissuccessful efforts to remove full body scanners from airports before the underwear bomber incident. Were it not for Chaffitz, the president should have said, people like the underwear bomber would not be able to board commercial aircraft.,
Kimmel would have done that mercilessly and with humor. Obama won the exchanges and the others too– he showed he was the smartest person in that Baltimore ballroom; but he almost invited infantile GOP behavior to continue. Kimmel’s warning to Leno was clear. I am going to eviscerate you. would have worked in that Baltimore ballroom, especially once the cameras started rolling.