Saturday, April 14, 2007

Sucking Up To Power: The Dennis Miller Story

Well, all week long it’s been Don Imus this and Don Imus that, and beyond the fact that I think CBS was right to fire a guy whose idea of humor is cruel, sleazy, racist jokes about the appearance of some young athletes who had never done him any harm, I don’t have a whole lot to say about Don Imus right now. It’s worth a post down the line, but for now I’m turning my attention to Dennis Miller.

Dennis Miller was a breath of fresh air when he moved into the Weekend Update chair on SNL all those years ago. He brought with him a good sense of wit and snark, and he was a master of drawing out whatever absurdities might have been lurking about in the issues of the day. His sciolistic hipness was easily and forgivably construed as deep thought, but hey, he was funny.

That was then, this is now, and now that he’s a Bush apologist he’s not nearly as funny. There’s something sad about anyone who sucks up to power, but it’s even sadder when the ones you’re sucking up to are so criminally incompetent and proud of it to boot. The St Louis Post-Dispatch recently published part of a phone interview with Miller in its online edition, and some of his comments are truly mind-boggling:

Post-Dispatch: Why has your humor taken a turn toward the conservative?
Miller: They bombed those two buildings, remember?

This would be an idiotic comment even if he’d phrased it in a more mature and less patronizing manner. Miller’s assumption—that a terrorist attack should cause all of us to stop thinking and abandon our sense of right and wrong—is bad enough, but his flip, arrogant expression of it is guaranteed to appeal only to those hangers-on who still think President Poor Dope is winning the war on terra. In Miller’s mind, cause and effect are purely random, so when radical Islamic crazies attack, your liberal convictions suddenly become invalid.

Miller again:

I woke up the next day and had an epiphany. I want our guy to go kill terrorists. It's that simple. People think it's some big shift. I can't believe that a good portion of my country doesn't believe that as well.

Millions of people up woke on September 12 with a whole new set of feelings. Watching a bunch of religious freaks commit mass murder in such dramatic fashion has a way of putting things in perspective. It reminded some people that life is fragile. It made people angry and it made people afraid, and it inspired a lot of men and women to enlist in the military. It stirred up feelings of revenge, though for some of us those feelings were tempered by the need for justice.

And that’s where Miller went off course. He says he wants “our guy” to go kill terrorists. But either he forgot that the poor dope gave up the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, or he’s hoping that the rest of us did. Miller wants our guy to go kill terrorists so bad that he can’t see the big picture. He doesn’t care how many non-terrorists get killed in the process. He doesn’t care how many new terrorists are inspired to join the fight, and like the poor dope himself he doesn’t seem to realize that people aren’t born terrorists. You have to give them a freakin reason to adopt this line of work.

Even liberals agreed that hunting down and capturing Bin Laden was the appropriate response to the 9/11 attacks. Actions do have consequences, you know. But when Bush abandoned that effort and focused instead on his pet project of toppling Saddam Hussein, he lost the support of anyone who believes American foreign policy should be grounded in reality. From the non-existent WMDs to the yellowcake memo to Dick Cheney Goebbels’ insistence that Saddam was linked to al-Qaeda, this administration did nothing but lie about its reasons for invading and occupying a sovereign nation—and apparently that’s just peachy with Dennis Miller.

Post-Dispatch: In a sense, does your career mirror Winston Churchill's notion that if you're not a liberal at 20, you have no heart; if you're not a conservative at 40, you have no brain?
Miller: That's exactly the process I've gone through. I'm 53, and I'm a pragmatist. We watched punks blow up our buildings and, what, I'm now supposed to sit around and think about how we wronged the punks? Things get cut and dried as you get older. And what about the people who never, ever change the way they think about things? Those are the people I slide away from at cocktail parties.

Well, Dennis, try looking at it this way: If some punks burned down your garage, I’d expect you to find out who the punks were—not to go around killing every punk in a different neighborhood. And no, you don’t have to sit around and think about how you wronged the punks, Dennis. You can go on assuming you’re the most angelic holy guilt-free curmudgeon on the block.

And by the way, the line “Things get cut and dried as you get older”? That’s absolute bullshit. That’s intellectual laziness. If at the age of 53 you’re too old and feeble to think rationally and make informed decisions and recognize the difference between smart and dumb, between legal and illegal, between Constitutional and unconstitutional, between leadership and megalomania, then get your ass to the Old Comics Home right now.

There was a time when I thought it’d be nice if Dennis Miller would come back over from the dark side, but nah—they can have him.

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