Politics & Media
Jul 08, 2024, 06:30AM

The Kings of Comedy

If Trump wins the election, he ought to tap Biden for a cabinet post so they could perform stand-up to a startled (if depleted) media, but delighted nation.

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I’m doubtful it would interest many people who aren’t part of the “Acela” Beltway club that comprises American media today, but I’m curious whether there’s internal dissension at The New York Times. On July 5th Times White House Correspondent Peter Baker gave a Bronx Cheer to the editorialists and pundits at his paper, essentially arguing that Joe Biden’s liberal detractors—naturally, more “in sadness rather than anger,” though the anger will intensify the longer Biden stays in the race—are missing the Big Picture, the forest for the trees that are no longer in high demand for newsprint contracts, and ought to scale back their calls for Biden’s presidential campaign withdrawal.

My friend, and Splice Today contributor, Crispin Sartwell got into what’s transformed Twitter into a comedy showcase, asking whether Baker was on Biden’s payroll. I wouldn’t rule out the double-dip only because it’s a mad, mad, mad world where everything’s possible. Hunter, in his element, handing Baker a brown (white not allowed) envelope filled with Franklins, after first remunerating those bizarre TikTok “holy crap” guys who are “influencers,” is likely too rich a waiting-for-discovery scandal to play out, and maybe just a footnote amidst larger concerns, but I’d dig it.

Baker begins: “One of America’s political parties has a presidential candidate who is really old and showing it. The other has a presidential candidate who is a convicted felon, adjudicated sexual abuser [that refers to Trump, not Biden, for those keeping score], business fraudster and self-described aspiring dictator for a day. And also really old.”

Baker’s attempting to draw a distinction between the hard-core Democratic and Republican bases; he claims the latter is recklessly steadfast in supporting Trump, while the former is responsibly having a discussion—a productive, we-will-lay-down-for-the-survival-of-democracy to-and-fro, with weeping not only permitted but encouraged—about the country’s future. And then—self-admission of naivete—he jots down a cliché I’d thought disappeared after editorial page editor James Bennet was absurdly fired (July 7th, 2020) from the Times for allowing an op-ed by conservative Sen. Tom Cotton to see print: “The disparity [between Dem and GOP camps] says something important about the two major parties 248 into the American Experiment.”

I don’t think he was joking, even though the silly idea that an “experiment” is still taking place 248 years after it began, is, in an environment for media companies eager to shed as many mere “content” employees, as opposed to revenue-enhancing puzzle masters and Aunt Bea-like recipe providers, an actionable offense. And no one would notice Baker’s AWOL byline, unless they read The Atlantic, his obvious landing spot after some “soul-searching.” (The cash-rich Atlantic is home to journalism’s rejects, not only David Frum and Jeffrey Goldberg, but oodles and oodles, eating Cheez Doodles, #NeverTrump democracy one-notes.

What Baker, and his colleagues (even if on opposite sides over the question of dumping Sippy) are missing is the silver lining for a country’s that’s mired in Jimmy Carter-malaise and Killer Rabbits, not to mention Pink Elephants, and that’s the comic brilliance the candidates are spitting out, even if Biden’s is unintentional. As reported widely, on July 4th this appeared: Biden said he was the first black woman to serve for a black president. The 81-year-old president made the slip up as he struggled to find the right phrasing while being interviewed Thursday on Philadelphia’s WURD black radio station as part of an Independence Day media blitz.

On the same day, at a golf course with his 18-year-old, 6’9” son Barron (does he replace Jared as chief adviser in a second administration?), Trump once again said in public something that previous presidents, with different objects of ridicule, did only in private: Trump commented that Kamala Harris would be a better opponent than Biden, whom he describes as an "old, broken-down pile of crap," before also attacking the vice president. "She's so bad. She's so pathetic," Trump adds. "She's just so fucking bad."

That’s just so fucking funny, the “goodest” stand-up available today. If Trump keeps his mouth shut while Democrats retreat to democracy retreats on the Cape or Nantucket and squabble among themselves, and wins the election, he ought to appoint Biden to one of the many meaningless cabinet posts. The two them—now friends, Trump forgives and forgets, while Rehoboth Joe might be flinty at first, but come around—could appear together at impromptu press conferences and crack each other up, if not the reporters who haven’t left “journalism” to write p.r. releases. It could make for Morning in America once more.

—Follow Russ Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER2023


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