March 15, 2007


CRACKING JOKES: Ezra Klein Flunks the Test (Russ Smith, 3/14/07, NY Press)

Left-wing political journalists, even the smart ones, aren't very adept at humor. Why that happens to be the case, I'm not sure, but if you can name even a half dozen Bush-hating keyboard-punchers who are also witty, there's a prize waiting at James Taranto's Wall Street Journal office. The late Molly Ivins was an exception, even if she laid the Texas cornpone on a bit thick, and Vanity Fair's James Wolcott is such an extraordinary writer that even though his valuable pop culture essays are peppered with Daily Kos/Atrios/Josh Marshall-like digressions, I read every word. Alexander Cockburn is another anomaly, since he pisses off people across the political spectrum, but with an impeccable sense of style and manners.

Can you say the same about Joe Conason (nice guy, but lacking a funny bone), Rick Hertzberg, Paul Krugman, Richard Cohen, Eric Alterman (the misanthropic foie gras devotee who, without irony, insists The New York Times is a conservative newspaper), Lewis Latham, Robert Kuttner, John Judis or the grand conspiracist Seymour Hersh? Of course not. On the other hand, the conservative stable of pundits is standing room only with guys and gals who can make a political point while making you chuckle at the same time. A partial roster: Mark Steyn, Howie Carr (who owns the Kennedy beat) James Bowman, P.J. O'Rourke, Matt Labash, Andrew Ferguson, Taki, John Tierney, Holman Jenkins Jr., Dorothy Rabinowitz and Cathy Seipp.

I'd been thinking about this odd phenomenon off and on for about 20 years or so, yet it took a March 8 New York Sun article by Josh Gerstein ("Could Edwards Become the First Woman President?") to make it all sink in. Gerstein had the good sense to not even mention the avaricious cartoon character Ann Coulter in his piece, which was a relief since the tiresome Michael Moore twin (I'm betting those two get together for brunch on a regular basis, comparing notes on how they've exploited their respective left and right wing fans) has generated far too much publicity for her dumb antigay slur against John Edwards. Rather it was the comments from the strident and militant pro-abortion spokeswoman-for-hire Kate Michelman, an adviser to the former senator and trial lawyer's presidential campaign that stirred the pot.

During a speech at the Berkeley campus last week, Michelman said, "As a lawyer, as a senator, as a husband, as a father of two daughters, [Edwards] understands the reality of women's lives. He understands the centrality of women's lives and experience to the health and well-being of society as a whole ... He understands that on an extremely personal level."

The term Ms Coulter used is too ugly for public discourse, but note that her point is the same as Ms Michelman's.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 15, 2007 9:08 PM

Naw. One compared his to a bundle of burning sticks, the other to a cat.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at March 15, 2007 9:44 PM

Edwards might fit in up in Enumclaw. He's that eager to please, no?

Posted by: ratbert at March 15, 2007 10:01 PM

--He understands the centrality of women's lives and experience to the health and well-being of society as a whole ... He understands that on an extremely personal level."--

Ann was too kind, another term comes to my mind and weenie isn't it.

Posted by: Sandy P at March 16, 2007 1:53 AM

James Bowman isn't very funny.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at March 16, 2007 5:24 AM

Neither was the late Ms. Ivins, nor Mr. Wolcott or Mr. Cockburn. The left is far too earnest to be funny.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 16, 2007 6:57 AM

Cockburn and CounterPunch are funny, but whether intentionally or not is the question.

Posted by: oj at March 16, 2007 7:40 AM

Andrew Ferguson is far the best of the lot.

Posted by: oj at March 16, 2007 7:42 AM

Jenkins is pretty darn good.

Posted by: jdkelly at March 16, 2007 8:14 AM

James Wolcott, "extraordinary?" I think he means "extraordinarily bad." Wolcott is not worthy to sharpen James Lileks' pencils.

Posted by: Mike Morley at March 16, 2007 10:32 AM

When I was rolling my eyes over Coulter's ham-handed attempt at humor, I had the same thought as the headline: "Geez, couldn't she have said 'light in the loafers' or something?"

Giving it a bit more thought, how about: "Some say that John Edwards is an empty suit, but I believe that's wrong. I'm sure that under that suit is an entire outfit from Victoria's Secret."

Posted by: PapayaSF at March 16, 2007 11:45 AM

I agree with Ali, James Bowman isn't very funny; however, I do like and trust his movie reviews (he hates just about everything Hollywood produces).

Lileks is funny.

Posted by: pchuck at March 16, 2007 12:48 PM

I think it's cute that you guys think Lileks is funny.

By the way, the only thing Russ Martin proved was that he's not funny. What a meandering witless column.

Posted by: SimulatedOutrage at March 16, 2007 6:57 PM

That was Russ Smith, not Martin, who wrote the linked column. Perhaps you should dial down your outrage, S.O. Outrage kills teh funny.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 17, 2007 8:47 AM
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