RECONSIDERED: I have been persuaded by the comment thread that followed this post that my initial position regarding Andy Levy’s objections to Stephen Colbert’s use of his critique from “Red-Eye” was mistaken: Colbert was indeed unfair to Levy, and it was unfair as well for me to hold Levy accountable for some of his conservative colleagues’ serious versions of the argument he properly labelled as absurd. Read the comments of James Flood and Ampersand below for the rebuttal that carried the day. As always, I am grateful for the passionate and well-argued perception of Ethics Alarms readers.
If you need more proof of how toxic and infantile the partisan wars are these days, you need search no farther than the manufactured controversy over President Obama’s disrespectful treatment of his own desk. When I first started seeing posts on major websites complaining about the photo of the President putting his foot on his desk in the Oval Office, I decided the controversy was too idiotic to waste time with. But, as is their tendency and their talent, conservatives escalated this one with exquisite gall, and now I have to take note.
This month, and not for the first time, conservatives had the vapors over President Obama being overly casual in his own office and “disrespecting” a desk that was sent to President Garfield by Queen Victoria. (It sure didn’t do him any good) There is only one description of this preposterous complaint that does it justice, and that would be “utter bullshit.”
Not only is it likely that most occupants of the Oval Office treated their desk as, well, a desk, but if the man holding the most powerful and difficult job in the world feels that it helps him to put his feet, foot, butt, nose, tongue or other body parts on his own desk, he should do it. The fact that conservatives are offended by a photo of this natural and not at all disrespectful act (the President already defers to too many people that he shouldn’t, and now conservatives think that he needs to show more deference to his own furniture?), in addition to being an alarming sign of encroaching mental illness, is also a strong indication that they are in denial over the fact that this man, Barack Obama, is in fact the President, has been elected twice, and has every right to act like a President in every way, including putting his feet, with shoes or not, wherever he damn pleases in the White House.
I don’t want to hear about how he is a merely a trustee, or how he’s just borrowing the office, or that it belongs to the people, or history. True, and irrelevant. He lives there, he works there, the White House is the President’s home, the Oval Office is the President’s office, and while any man holds that office he can wear what he likes, do what he likes, tell bawdy jokes there, read Playboy, watch “Three’s Company,” strip naked and pass wind, as long as it doesn’t interfere with leading the nation. It’s good to be President, and what counts is being a good leader, not whether you but a scratch or two in your desk.
It should not have surprised anyone that Stephen Colbert, the often brilliant satirist of Comedy Central, took aim at this barn-sized target, and mocked it thoroughly. Since his show is on TV and photos of an indignant tweet from Lou Dobbs would lack some kinetic interest, he chose to show a segment from the Fox late-night Fox panel show “Red Eye,” like that network’s “The Five” a weird hybrid that merges rightward, reliably anti-Obama political commentary with jokes. Colbert played a clip from the show featuring an anti-foot-on-desk rant from “Red-Eye” regular Andy Levy, who is a pundit and a humorist, and like John Stewart, likes to claim that he is one whenever he is criticized for his conduct while being the other:
This, absurdly, drew an angry “Can’t you take a joke?” response from Levy, reported in a story by the Daily Caller about how gullible Stephen Colbert had been “duped” by an obvious spoof. Here’s Levy’s indignant retort:
This is too much. It piles hypocrisy and a fake ‘gotcha!’ on stupidity, and that’s a sandwich nobody should have to eat. The joke excuse, which is usually an attempt to avoid responsibility, only has credibility when it is obvious to any sentient observer that a joke is intended, and that the jokester knows it’s a joke. Since various Fox pundits and alumni, like Glenn Beck, had recently and seriously expressed umbrage at Obama’s office demeanor, Levy (and the Daily Caller) have some nerve pretending that Colbert is a fool for treating Levy’s critical rant on the same topic, on the same network, from the same end of the political spectrum, as something more than a wild comic riff.
If Levy and “Red-Eye” had any integrity, they would have specifically mocked their conservative brethren for making an issue out of Presidential feet. Levy cannot claim that his criticism was only tongue in cheek when the same criticism was simultaneously coming from his friends, allies and fellow conservatives in all seriousness.
In other words, if you hang around with people who say stupid things and mean it, you can’t blame others for thinking that when you say essentially the same stupid things, you mean it too.