Democratic Underground

The Wisdom of Don Imus
May 12, 2001
by Bradford Shaw

As repulsive as it may sound to liberal or progressive people familiar with the political attitude of Don Imus, he may have been partially correct with his assessment of our election choices last year. Imus, who hosts a popular radio show on WFAN radio as well as the simulcast on MSNBC cable, has been known for many years as a closet conservative. His often-nightly on-air love affair with John McCain during the primaries last year was difficult for some Democrats to sit through to say the least. He would call McCain, or vice-versa, and exchange right wing, anti-Clinton opinions, pausing only to play his homemade song parodies, skewering Clinton and Gore at will.

In addition his often heard rant against Al Gore seemed disingenuous and deliberately vague. He would call Gore an evil person, a skunk, and other phrases that seem tailor-made both for morning radio, and for old, scruffy cowboy wannabe's like Imus, and yet he offered no concrete facts to back up his ire. It almost seemed that he was trying to appear hip to his staff, which were backing McCain.

The staff of the Don Imus Show had a field day last year making fun of Democrats. They jumped at every opportunity to make Clinton or Gore look as bad as humanly possible. Charles McCord, who attempts to read the news without having his own conservative, right-to-life attitude pop through, actually did his best to stay above the fray as Bernard McGuirk and Lou Rufino sank again and again into the sea of Clinton-Gore bashing. A typical show last year would begin with Don mentioning something in the news that he thought was interesting as it related to the ongoing political process. In the midst of his quirky observations, Bernard would chime in some bit of vitriol about the Clinton family or Al Gore, not bothering to check the facts of his statement or even the legality in some instances.

Don would then chide Bernard for his mean spiritedness, while still managing to quietly agree with him. Then, after a quick break provided by a lame musical parody authored by Rob Bartlett and or Larry Kenney (possibly the worst impressionist known to mankind, it's generally a good idea to listen carefully to Don's introduction of the character, or you won't have the vaguest idea of who Kenney is trying to impersonate), they would end that segment and, after seven or eight commercials, they would either resume the Democrat bashing, or introduce a guest who would continue the bashing. This staff was, and still is, anti-Democrat, anti-liberal, and pro-business. Imus surrounded himself with these people, and as a result, was influenced into following the same political ideology that was filling his day-to-day working environment.

As I stated earlier, it was difficult for a sensitive Democrat to witness. The old adage, 'Know thine enemy!' is of course true, so I, as a strong Democrat, continued to watch and listen in order to form an intelligent opinion of Imus and his staff. Every dog has it's day, they say, and John McCain's flag was flying high for a little while, until George W's machine rolled over him with it's well financed series of unfounded attacks. McCain fell out of the race, Imus fell off his horse, and the process lurched forward.

After that, when Don seemed to be in the doldrums of a man who backed a failed candidate, he made a wrong decision based on a right assumption. His wrong decision was to back George Bush. His right assumption, however, still is true. He stated, after McCain's defeat, that he would back Bush simply because W was a gold mine for future comedic material. This choice of candidate based on what some might call "The Idiocy Quotient" seemed off based and somewhat self-serving at the time. After all, Don Imus, however misled, does indeed hold some influence with his many fans throughout the country, and he wouldn't sacrifice the future of this country just for the sake of acquiring a never-ending source of White House humor. Or would he?

Nonetheless, after witnessing the first one hundred days of the administration put in place by people such as the "I-Man", we find that Imus was indeed correct. His assumption that Bush would be a blunderer in the league of Dan Quayle, was insightful, intelligent, and tragically true. All one has to do in order to prove that the theory proposed by Imus was and is correct, is to turn on any late night television talk show. From Politically Incorrect, to The Tonight Show, to Late Night or the Letterman show, you can find a plethora of Bush jokes and routines, and it's not a rare occurrence, it's happening every night. The airwaves are inundated with conservative skewering and bashing of the Republican administration, the likes we haven't seen since the Nixon era.

Jay Leno, Dave Letterman, Bill Maher, Conan O'Brien, and Jon Stewart are constantly filling most of their monologue time with acerbic and often accurate observations of the day-to-day bumbling of the business model that is the Bush Administration. Comedians and writers are finding it easier to farm jokes and routines from the Resident-In-Chief, than OJ, The Royal Family, or even Bill Clinton's penis. With the OJ case, comedians risked offending people of color who had a hard time seeing a lifelong hero's image fall to pieces. It was just too unpredictable a subject to be able to expect consistent results. With the Royal family, humorists had a hard time getting the public exited into frenzy on this side of the Atlantic. Often they would have to reacquaint the audience with which family member were who, and just what the current scandal was. It was just too time consuming and wordy for some American venues. With Bill Clinton's penis, comedians and writers would not only risk offending the large percentage of people who voted for Clinton twice, but they would risk the outward appearance of being un-hip and pro-establishment. How many successful un-hip and pro-establishment comedians and writers have emerged from the entertainment field in past history? The list is small, if at all.

With Bush, his own stupidity as it relates to the act of communication alone is worth several years of parody and laughter. In addition, Bush himself seems to be going along with the program by providing new examples of his lack of command over the English language with every new speech or interview granted since his selection last year. So hidden amongst the piles of dusty, out-moded and time worn opinions and routines seen and or heard on the 'Imus in the Morning' program was an actual truth. Even the most dedicated of Gore haters would have to agree that he was, and is a better speaker. Al Gore is familiar with and fluent in the English language, to the point of being one of the most feared debaters going into last year's election process. His familiarity with the international scene and his own political savvy were demonstrated on Imus' own show when, during a phone appearance, he recited the names of several leaders of nations that the average American has little knowledge of, with humor and self depreciation.

Would Al Gore have provided the nation with material for comedy in such a rapid pace as Bush? The answer is obviously no, in that Gore wouldn't open the door for jokes regarding his environmental stand, in that it would be consistent with the pro-environmental policy put in place by the Clinton Administration. Al Gore would no doubt be a fuddy-duddy where political humor was concerned. His comedic contribution during 'The Al Gore Years' would have been related to his stuffiness in office, and looseness at home. He is a solid guy, a great leader, and very boring where controversy and confrontation are concerned. This simply pales in comparison to the Texas Talk Twister. His occupation of the White House has been manna from heaven for jokesters and stand up comedians.

Most comedy writers would acknowledge that when Bill Clinton left office, they were almost afraid of a Gore Administration. With the President well informed, articulate, and reasonable in his decision-making and policy setting, satire could possibly become an endangered species. Thus, an Al Gore Whitehouse could set comedy back to it's political infancy, a future not well received by people who make their daily bread by finding humor in the behavior and attitude of our leaders in Washington.

The comedy community could ill afford four years of intelligence and understanding in the executive branch. It occasionally needs a Dan Quayle, a Spiro Agnew, and yes, perhaps a George Bush to reap unbounded comedic treasures. In this one area of politics, it is undeniable that Bush beats Gore. There was never a doubt that lil Shrub, with his lack of political and intellectual sophistication could run circles around Al Gore in the "providing unintentional comedy material by public blunder" department. It is a new comedy renaissance out there in entertainment land, and we can acknowledge the fact that Don Imus saw this satirical paradigm approaching many months ago.

Though his show is undeniably offensive on a day-to-day basis for many even-tempered and tolerant Americans, a final conclusion can be drawn. The I-Man, though thoroughly unlistenable most of the time, was right. Once.

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