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Dave the Brave: Stupid President Tricks can only be seen on Letterman
L.A. Weekly ^ | APRIL 30 - MAY 6, 2004 | Nikki Finke

Posted on 05/11/2004 7:39:22 PM PDT by RatherBiased.com

Leno may be the ratings winner. Stewart is the critics' darling. But, day in and day out, Letterman is the hands-down leader when it comes to unabashed Bush bashing. One reason is that his Late Show has the brass balls to go where the cowardly White House news corps and corporate suck-up Leno fear to tread: presenting Dubya in all his dumb-ass glory.

During their workweek, executive producer Rob Burnett and his octet of writers often begin their morning by wondering, What's George W. doing today? So they glance through his schedule and look for an interesting presidential public appearance. Then they contact CBS News or the local affiliate for the Bush raw footage and examine it in a process that often induces stupefying boredom. "We start out having no idea it will yield anything," Burnett tells L.A. Weekly. "We put it on only if it's funny. It's not, 'Oh, it's Wednesday and we need Bush footage.'"

But the end result is really something. Enough fodder for the show to spotlight snarky segments like "George W. Bush: Inspiration to America" featuring the president flippantly telling a classroom, "Look, I didn't like to take tests either, but that's too bad." Or, wearily listening to a business speech, nodding like a bobble-head doll and repeatedly checking his watch. (Déjà vu, anyone? Remember Daddy Bush checking his watch during the 1992 debates, a move that helped cost him the election?)

This past Monday, Dave's people labeled a segment "Who Does George W. Bush Remind You Of?" and, while Hail to the Chief played loudly in the background, Shrub, talking about taxes, was shown stuttering, "the market . . . the market . . . the market . . .," followed by a cut to a cartoon starring Porky Pig.

These undoctored snippets show Bush being Bush: a stumbling and fumbling orator, a why-can't-I-just-take-the-money-and-run campaigner, or worse. This, of course, is in stark contrast to what happens to the footage once it's been edited by the news media. Miraculously, Bush's actual inarticulate ramblings or arrogant posturing are prettied up to the point where he's made virtually coherent and semi-mature.

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).

So it stands to reason that Rove et al. fear Leno and Letterman because the duo proved pivotal last time out. A Pew Research survey before the 2000 presidential election found that almost half of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29, and more than a quarter of all adults, often gained their info about the campaign from late-night comedy shows. "I don't think this is the place you want to get your news, but it's probably more entertaining than other places," Burnett tells the Weekly.

Yes, the openly liberal Jon Stewart's Daily Show has more Bush bashing quantitatively but not necessary qualitatively. Besides, his cable audience is at best minuscule. Leno, meanwhile, damaged any aura of political impartiality he may have claimed when he slobbered over Ah-nuld's California gubernatorial candidacy and then emceed Schwarzenegger's victory party. (For more, see my column.) The Letterman folks were aghast. They knew that Jay had taken a step where no host had gone before. Johnny never would have done that. But they also knew it was quintessential Leno, that he runs The Tonight Show like a political campaign. When he sees something hot, he jumps on it. Forget reputation and credibility as a host: Jay wanted to get a nice number. It's Leno vs. Letterman in a microcosm: Jay leads in the ratings, but Dave has the legacy and Emmys. And a lock on inventiveness, like having a Nobel Prize winner tell "You might be a redneck" jokes in a recurring bit recently.

Leno was steamed when L.A. Weekly, the Washington Post, and The New York Times accused him of political partisanship following l'affaire Arnold. But shortly after I blasted the comic for becoming yet another Republican political pawn, one of Leno's best friends in comedy assured, "I think you got it correct." There are reasons Leno turned right. First, of course, was 9/11, followed by the invasion of Iraq. Add to that the May 2001 departure of The Tonight Show's so-called vice president in charge of monologues, longtime head writer Jim Brogan, who at one time worked for the late, ultra-liberal New York Congressman Allard Lowenstein. Finally, those incredibly lucrative corporate gigs that book Leno for $100,000 to $150,000 each (plus a chartered jet) where the fat cats don't want to hear anything bad about the guy cutting their taxes. (These events, along with his Las Vegas appearances, allow Leno to boast he can bank his Tonight Show salary.)

Both Leno and Letterman wished Clinton could have a third term, and while Jay is still flogging really old blow-job humor, his Bush jokes aren't nearly as biting as Letterman's. Even Dave's tired Top Ten lists include more truthfulness about the Bush presidency than most newspapers' front pages: Top Ten Signs Bush Is Considering Dumping Cheney: "When Cheney says, 'We're gonna win in November,' Bush snarls, 'What's this we crap?'" Or, Top Ten Surprises in President Bush's Address to the United Nations: "Usual smug smirk even smugger and smirkier." Or, Top Ten Questions You're Afraid To Ask Condoleezza Rice: "What kind of job will you and Bush be looking for in January 2005?"

Burnett claims his show operates in a completely apolitical atmosphere even though Letterman introduces the Bush-bashing segments with obvious glee. Says Burnett: "As close as I am to Dave, I honestly have no idea what his politics is. I know he votes religiously, but I don't know who he votes for." As for the Bush bashing, the executive producer shrugs it off: "There's no agenda. We're not a news show and don't have the need to convey information."

But as Stupid President Tricks has gained in popularity, it's become more controversial. Witness the March brouhaha between Letterman, the White House and CNN over the accuracy of footage of a Florida Republican organizer's kid hilariously yawning and squirming while standing behind Dubya at an Orlando campaign appearance. "It was one of those 'You're not going to see that anywhere else but on Dave' kind of moments," Burnett recalls. His team noticed that Bush had a speech scheduled and couldn't find anyone national covering it, so they went to the CBS affiliate in Orlando for the raw footage. Then a writer said, "Hey, look at the kid in the back."

After the video of Orange County, Florida, Chief Executive Rich Crotty's dead-on-his-feet son Tyler aired under the title "George W. Bush Invigorates America's Youth," CNN reported it had been told by the White House that the child was edited into the video by the Letterman show as a joke and was never standing directly behind the president.

Dave went Full Metal Jacket. He stared into the camera and called the White House assertion "an out-and-out lie" not once but twice. Then he warned his viewers, "When you cast your vote in November, just remember that the White House was trying to make me look like a dope!" Immediately, everybody backtracked, CNN apologized and the White House was cleared of ever having complained. But the Letterman folks still believe the Bushies did try to attack Dave. When Letterman made a stink about it, the White House turned and ran. (Tyler was a guest on Dave's show and scored cans of Red Bull.)

It's not easy bashing Bush in today's political climate, especially when the FCC has the Big Media Behemoths by the tin balls. Just look at what's happening to Howard Stern, though Howard's longtime Infinity boss, Mel Karmazin, now Viacom's number two, is fighting those indecency fines. (Interestingly, now that Howard has gone from supporting Bush to bashing him, WBCN in Boston claims 72 percent of its Stern listeners say they'll vote differently because of it.) Right now on the howardstern.com Web site there's a behind-the-scenes video clip headlined "Human Kleenex" from an appearance by Bush on the Letterman show. It reveals Bush, during the commercial break, leaning over and, without asking permission, wiping his eyeglasses on the sweater of one of Dave's female producers. "That's how arrogant our president is," notes the Web site, which doesn't say how the footage was obtained.

Unlike Leno's Tonight Show, which is owned by NBC, Letterman's Late Show is owned by Dave's company, Worldwide Pants, which affords him near-total immunity from corporate pressure. But to Viacom's credit, says Burnett, "They leave us alone. They know better than to tell Dave what to do. They know it's futile."


TOPICS: Extended News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 2004electionbias; antibush; boycottviacom; bushbashing; bushhassers; cbs; ccrm; doublestandard; letterman; mediabias; mediaelites; seebs; viacom; viacommie

1 posted on 05/11/2004 7:39:54 PM PDT by RatherBiased.com
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To: RatherBiased.com
David Letterman is still alive?
2 posted on 05/11/2004 7:41:55 PM PDT by Texas Eagle (If it wasn't for double-standards, Liberals would have no standards at all)
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To: RatherBiased.com
Of course that Dave is only doing exactly what CBS and Viacom have done by backing Dick Clarke and Bob Woodward's anti-Bush books and publishing the Iraqi Prisoner photos seems to go right over these morons heads. Dave is doing EXACTLY what his Corporate Masters are telling him to do, Bash Bush. Of course that their rating are in the toilet seems to not bother CBS, or Dave, at all.
3 posted on 05/11/2004 7:44:03 PM PDT by MNJohnnie (Vote Bush 2004-We have the solutions, Kerry Democrats? Nothing but slogans)
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To: Texas Eagle
I think the bits do Bush more good than harm. I laugh, makes me like him more. Just showing his picture make dumb asses like this author spit up bile so I'm not surprised he's missing the big picture. presenting Dubya in all his dumb-ass glory.
4 posted on 05/11/2004 7:44:46 PM PDT by DManA
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To: RatherBiased.com
Don't watch either. Frankly Leno and Letterman bore me. Conan is on too late but sometimes I catch the rebroadcast on Comedy Central.
5 posted on 05/11/2004 7:45:45 PM PDT by Burkeman1 ("I said the government can't help you. I didn't say it couldn't hurt you." Chief Wiggam)
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To: RatherBiased.com
If Bush is such a dumb-ass, what does that make the Democrats? He beats them at every game they throw at him.
6 posted on 05/11/2004 7:47:37 PM PDT by Hildy (...Love like you've never been hurt and live like it's heaven on Earth. - Mark Twain)
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To: RatherBiased.com
"...the White House was trying to make me look like a dope!"

Let that bitter old a-hole Dave do it himself. He's up to it.

And Dave...I watched Johnny Carson...You're no Johnny Carson. Didja really think you had a chance?
7 posted on 05/11/2004 7:52:06 PM PDT by Felis_irritable
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To: RatherBiased.com
Conan is the only funny guy on late night TV, and he can be an acquired taste.


Like Rush, one needs to see about six weeks to get up to speed, but once there, damn, that's good stuff.

Hat's off to Conan.
8 posted on 05/11/2004 7:52:29 PM PDT by Petronski (Some chose shame, but got war anyway. --Churchill)
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To: RatherBiased.com
Dave WAS my fave. No more - too obviously anti-Bush. Kerry is a complete idiot and even more ripe for making fun of, but Dave shows his political leaning with relentless Bush-only bashing. If it was for the sake of comedy, there's plenty of opportunities for Kerry fun-poking.
9 posted on 05/11/2004 7:52:52 PM PDT by RightthinkinAmerican (If today's beheading was our fault because of the prison photos, how did we cause Daniel Pearl's?)
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Comment #10 Removed by Moderator

To: RightthinkinAmerican
Dave was funny as hell in the 80s, when he always seemed to be 'getting away with something,' as I have described it.

Now he's just a bitter old man with no one watching. That's not funny, it's just sad.

11 posted on 05/11/2004 7:56:52 PM PDT by Petronski (Some chose shame, but got war anyway. --Churchill)
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To: Felis_irritable
That's my thought. Dave was funny when he first started out, then when he got to CBS, he just became a bitter ass$ole. I really think it started with him and Bush when Bush made a joke about his heart condition. Dave was a little sensitive about it, and has harboured a grudge ever since.
12 posted on 05/11/2004 8:00:18 PM PDT by job (Dinsdale?Dinsdale?)
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To: RightthinkinAmerican
I gave up on Letterman when he buried his face firmly up Shrillary's rectum during her senate campaign. Now when I think about Rather and him sitting around slobbering after 9/11 I want to vomit.
13 posted on 05/11/2004 8:01:12 PM PDT by clintonh8r (Retrosexual Vietnam veteran against John Kerry, proud to be a "crook" and a "liar.")
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To: Texas Eagle
I don't know. I haven't watched him for years. He's an asshole and his kid is a bastard.
14 posted on 05/11/2004 8:03:01 PM PDT by mathurine
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To: DManA
I think the bits do Bush more good than harm.

Absolutely. What the writer (And a lot of freepers) miss is that the image Dave is presenting of GWB, that of a slightly dumb, goofy guy, does Bush no harm at all with Dave's audience, because it's the identical persona Dave presents for himself.

Unlike Dave's stereotype of Kerry as a politician trying to always be on all sides of any issue.

15 posted on 05/11/2004 8:03:42 PM PDT by Oztrich Boy ("Despise not the jester. Often he is the only one speaking the truth")
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Comment #16 Removed by Moderator

To: Texas Eagle
Letterman should be booted off the air for his environmental hypocrisy up at Martha's Vinyard, via the Nature Conservancy. He fits right in with the Dems. A case of mutual self-interest.
17 posted on 05/11/2004 8:16:10 PM PDT by Paul_B
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Comment #18 Removed by Moderator

To: RatherBiased.com
The idea that Letterman is "brave" for bashing Bush is truly laughable.
19 posted on 05/11/2004 8:33:19 PM PDT by Cicero (Marcus Tullius)
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To: RatherBiased.com
"When you cast your vote in November, just remember that the White House was trying to make me look like a dope!"

---

oh, the irony... Dave tries to make the Prez look like a dope on a nightly basis, but that's fair game, and one riposte and he gets all prickly, eh?

I wont be voting for Dave with the remote anymore.
20 posted on 05/11/2004 9:00:07 PM PDT by WOSG (http://freedomstruth.blogspot.com - I salute our brave fallen.)
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To: RatherBiased.com
She doesn't like Leno even though he's clearly a liberal Democrat because he isn't hateful.

Remember how Letterman had Hillary on during her Senate campaign and fed her the answers ahead of time to obscure questions about New York state (to help her overcome her "carpetbagger" image)...and the audience was warned they'd get it from the Secret Service if they made any noises that would make Hillary look bad. Then he had a "gotcha" phone interview with Bush (which Bush should have known better than to agree to).

21 posted on 05/11/2004 9:04:01 PM PDT by Verginius Rufus
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To: RatherBiased.com
Or, wearily listening to a business speech, nodding like a bobble-head doll and repeatedly checking his watch. (Déjà vu, anyone? Remember Daddy Bush checking his watch during the 1992 debates, a move that helped cost him the election?)

Bitch bitch bitch.

Here in Houston I saw some footage of President Bill Clinton at some meeting with Mayor Lee P. Brown (a former Clinton crony). It was being aired on public access in all its uncut glory. The mayor was babbling about issues that mattered not at all to Bill Clinton. He carefully grabbed a soda off the table and brought it below the table top. At first I wondered if he had a woman under the table and was just offering her a soda. No, he tried to open it quietly and so he's manipulating this can for something like 2 minutes before he has it open and then takes a drink. All the time he keeps nodding to what the mayor is saying, just waiting for him to show how much he "cares".

The left is desperate.

This "tape review" discussion shows what became apparent in the 2000 election. The Bush gaffes we heard were a prank by the press pool who followed Bush around. They confessed that they got bored hearing the same speech given in 3 locations in a day. They took joy in those moments he screwed up and those were what they aired.

He was governor of Texas and was never portrayed (even by his opponents) as someone who had trouble talking or was "dumb".

The big lie comes from lying liars.

22 posted on 05/11/2004 9:07:56 PM PDT by weegee (NO BLOOD FOR RATINGS. CNN ignored torture & murder in Saddam's Iraq to keep their Baghdad Bureau.)
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To: booboo24
Usually newbie's dont come on in their first day complaining about not understanding "policy". If you so need inspiration, why not try Democrap Underground?
23 posted on 05/11/2004 9:09:53 PM PDT by Nonstatist
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To: Timesink; *CCRM; martin_fierro; reformed_democrat; Loyalist; =Intervention=; PianoMan; GOPJ; ...
Media Schadenfreude and Media Shenanigans PING!
24 posted on 05/11/2004 9:10:04 PM PDT by weegee (NO BLOOD FOR RATINGS. CNN ignored torture & murder in Saddam's Iraq to keep their Baghdad Bureau.)
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To: RatherBiased.com

Letterman is so pathetic he sees Hillary in his wet dreams.
25 posted on 05/11/2004 9:16:17 PM PDT by kittymyrib
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To: RatherBiased.com
Don't worry - be happy, Mon.

Dave will die before too long. Bad heart and too much Hollywood. No Mon can take all that life has to offer with a bankroll of 20,000,000.00 a year and live the life of a Saint.

Dave be see'in' the angels before Hillary run in 2008...
26 posted on 05/11/2004 9:17:09 PM PDT by WorkingClassFilth (Round up the known Left - Hand them over to the Islamic militants for execution - watch the video.)
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Comment #27 Removed by Moderator

To: RatherBiased.com
David who?
28 posted on 05/11/2004 10:15:49 PM PDT by adam_az (Call your State Republican Party office and VOLUNTEER!!!!)
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To: weegee
"Here in Houston I saw some footage of President Bill Clinton at some meeting with Mayor Lee P. Brown (a former Clinton crony). It was being aired on public access in all its uncut glory."

Careful using the words "Clinton" and "uncut glory" in adjacent sentences around here. After all, this is a family forum! :)
29 posted on 05/11/2004 10:20:35 PM PDT by adam_az (Call your State Republican Party office and VOLUNTEER!!!!)
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To: RatherBiased.com
It's not easy bashing Bush says this lib media liar in todays climate ? So he writes a column, bashing Bush to the extreme, about a tv personality who bashes the President of the U.S. during a war. This moron is full of himself and full of it. In short a typical, liberal media hack.
30 posted on 05/12/2004 12:51:42 AM PDT by driftless ( For life-long happiness, learn how to play the accordion.)
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To: weegee; RatherBiased.com
Geez, this Nikki Finke has got pinwheels for eyes when it comes to Bush-hating.

I thought we were bad during the impeachment wars, but we could get lessons from this one.

31 posted on 05/12/2004 5:15:58 AM PDT by an amused spectator (The SeeBS of 2004 would have revealed the precise date and location of the Normandy Invasion)
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To: RatherBiased.com; weegee
I read up on this one. She's trouble:

Joe Shea writes LA Observed: This decision is a substantial one as to defamation, libel and slander issues, especially with respect to whether or not journalists are public figures. Under the same reasoning that was applied to Nikki's status, I probably would be deemed a public figure. That means people can make false statements about me with relative impunity. You can't make them about Nikki, though... and, generally, you can't make them about most reporters, thank God, because, as the court says, they don't have access to the media they write in to rebut such false or defamatory statements. Publishers and editors do. I think the journalists among us ought to read this decision with special care.

32 posted on 05/12/2004 6:09:17 AM PDT by an amused spectator (The SeeBS of 2004 would have revealed the precise date and location of the Normandy Invasion)
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To: weegee
One explanation I heard for why President Bush looked at his watch during that debate in 1992 was that Clinton had gone way over his allotted time, and the moderators were doing nothing about it. I don't know if that is correct.
33 posted on 05/12/2004 7:26:42 PM PDT by Verginius Rufus
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