Then Again, Has Any Other President Ever Publicly Threatened “Retribution” Because Someone Made A Joke About Them?
We usually don’t publish on holidays, but we thought we’d take the opportunity this President’s Day to revisit a piece we ran several months ago. Here it is:
Comedians Have Always Made Cracks About The President. All Presidents.
And it’s also something just plain citizens do too, just to pass the time sometimes. And that should be something any President understands. And it’s nowhere close to a “REAL” scandal; it’s nowhere close to a scandal at all. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
In so so many other countries citizens do not have the right to poke fun at their leaders. In the U.S. we do. Part of the way we manage to get through life, through bad times and even good, is to complain about the President, whomever they are, and whatever party or set of ideas they represent.
Sometimes it’s fair, sometimes it’s not fair (maybe we’re griping about something the President has no control over), yet we do it anyway. Because we have this great Constitution that says we can. Sometimes we even know it’s not fair but we do it anyway just to vent, which we still have the right to do and is a far better option than taking it out on colleagues or loved ones.
Sometimes we even laugh when comedians make a good joke about Presidents we like, because nobody’s perfect.
If a President is unfairly ridiculed, they have a mechanism for evening that out: taking credit for successes they really had nothing to do with. We’re fine with that. They are going to get blamed for a lot of things that go wrong. That’s also part of the equation.
And the only accolades that should matter come in the form of re-election.
Obama, Bush Jr., Clinton, Bush Sr., were all lampooned by Saturday Night Live and late-night hosts. And we laughed — if the jokes and impersonations were funny — whether we liked those Presidents or not. In some ways, we respected all of those Presidents; we believed they believed in America, and identified and clung to its guiding philosophies (except perhaps the abject invasion of privacy after 9/11). But we still complained about all of them all the time in casual conversation, even sometimes for things they did not remotely have much control over.
That doesn’t mean we don’t love America. It means we saw room for improvement, or maybe we were just plain angry. Or maybe because it’s just an inalienable right of Americans to joke about or even complain about the President. And because of the fact that we can without the threat of censure, or jail, or firing squad reminds us of why we actually have it so good here, at least when it comes to speaking our minds; stating our truths.
This President doesn’t appear to get that, even though he availed himself of that right non-stop before he got into office. So far, he’s repeatedly called the media the “enemy of the people”, now he seems to be dancing around the idea that comedians may also be complicit because they’re turning the public against him not because he’s done anything wrong, but because they are promoting the the wrong story lines. How ridiculous is that? So far, writers we know for various politically-oriented comedy shows aren’t too worried. They just think Trump is full of hot air. We’re not so sure. Censorship is not an alien concept to the entertainment industry in this country, and has wreaked great damage in the past. It would take very little (a few changes in ownership or management perhaps), to bring it back. Even if the President doesn’t make good on his threat of investigations or prosecution. Even with internet platforms providing alternative outlets. And for what? Making use of the First Amendment?
Maybe since the President was successful in getting the White House Correspondents dinner turned into a dinner speech vs. a roast of the President (which it’s been for years), he thinks he can make some headway with SNL too. (And it seems pretty clear Seth Meyers’ roast of Trump at one of those dinners through which the now-President sat stone-faced is at least part of what impelled him to run in the first place.)
But remember, it wasn’t that long before that Trump allowed himself to be the subject of a Comedy Central roast, because it was a high honor, a real sign that he’d “made it”.
And we won’t even get into the President’s allegation of “Collusion?” in his Tweet, because where could that possibly come from other than some new, bizarre level of paranoia?
This President is a great communicator. That’s a big part of why he became President. If his/Fox’s spin on every story isn’t the only one being told, maybe that should tell him something. As a very famous CEO once said to us:
“Every day people tell me how to improve on my management and my business. Never listen to what any of them suggest. BUT, if virtually everybody who comes up to me keeps bringing up the same one thing, it probably means I do have an issue that needs to be addressed, not necessarily in the way anyone suggests, but in my own way. But sometimes listening helps find blind spots, which I do occasionally have.”
As far as we can tell, Trump’s only MO is to dig in even more. Lots of people praise Trump because they say he’s a businessman, not a politician. But the approach he’s promoting is a formula for failure you see in corporate America all the time (Sears, Blockbuster. etc.), where rigid leadership wreaked havoc, and left lots of broken lives in its wake.
It’s really simple: when you’re President — fairly or unfairly — you are going to be the lighting rod for the many and varied gripes of your constituents, which like it or not is everyone in the country. Sometimes these will take the form of jokes. Because comedians are going to pick up on it and make hay from it because that’s what they do to make a living. And because it’s a right we have as Americans that so many people around the world do not. And it’s a giant part of what makes this country great.
And we’re a far cry right now from where we were in the 60’s when whole comedy and theater movements came out of political action. In general, these days, most of the comedy we see shies away from politics. So, Mr. President, there’s room for a lot more from that side too.
The public’s gonna complain, even if you’re doing good. And if you’re doing bad, even more. All you have to do is listen every once in a while. And realize it’s part of the service you provide as President.
Oh yeah, and stop being such a snowflake.