A fine line exists between satire and bad taste. Mel Brooks danced up to that line with his "Springtime for Hitler and Germany" in "The Producers." And, every night, comedian pundits like Jon Stewart (www.thedailyshow.com) and Stephen Colbert (www.colbertnation.com) use the politics of comedy and the comedy of politics as they laugh all the way to the bank.
I make my living off the evening news, as the song says, in a newsroom where it helps to have the maturity level of a 14-year-old boy. I say this to give context to the following train of thought from earlier in the week.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who more and more looks like a drowning man clinging to an anchor, came under ridicule when he noted the events surrounding the murder of U.S. embassy personnel in Libya last year happened a long time ago.
Of course, my twisted mind filled in the rest of that comment with the phrase "in a galaxy far, far away."
Then my mind jumped to the phrase "may the farce be with you."
And that, my friends, just about sums up what has been coming out of Washington over the past week: the farce of politics and comedy.
Fingering the Tax Man
This week started with a paper trail detailing how the Obama Administration changed the story about that deadly attack on the U.S. embassy outpost in Benghazi. If you are the president, you know things are not going well when you start sounding like Bill Clinton defining what the meaning of the word "is" is.
"There is no there, there," Mr. Obama told reporters with a straight face.
Then came word the Internal Revenue Service (www.irs.gov) may have targeted conservative, tea party, and pro-Israel groups during the application process for 501(c) (4) tax-exempt status, which prompted this POTUS response: "People have got to be held accountable and it’s gotta be fixed."
Excuse us, Mr. President, but isn’t that a given? How about givin’ us something more?
Well, we got more when the IRS said two rogue employees in the Cincinnati office were "overly aggressive" in handling the applications. Former acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller is said to have told congressional investigators the two rogues were not the only ones involved.
Miller also told investigators, before he resigned, the rogues were "off the reservation", a phrase sure to please the Native American population, and one guaranteed to force his resignation if he were a Republican.
It appears any organization with the words "tea party" and/or "patriots" in its name was not the only target of the "Illegal" Revenue Service.
A Huffington Post story during the presidential campaign may have used information leaked by the IRS to connect a Romney political action committee to an anti-gay marriage group.
Franklin Graham, who heads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association shared with Politico a letter he wrote to President Obama complaining the IRS came after the association because it supported a North Carolina constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Phones on Holder
Late Monday, the Associated Press (www.ap.org) said it was the target of a massive data harvest by the Department of Justice (www.doj.gov). AP says DOJ took two months of phone records from offices in New York, Washington, and Hartford, Conn., and from the phones in the House of Representatives (www.house.gov) press gallery. The DOJ probe involved more than 100 reporters and editors, and in some cases, logs from their personal cell and home phones.
The government wanted to find out who leaked the sensitive information that led to a story that broke in May 2012 about a mole in Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who thwarted a bomb attack.
Attorney General Eric Holder said the DOJ action was (wait for it) a matter of national security. The story, he said "put the American people at risk, and trying to determine who was responsible for that, I think required very aggressive action."
Call me mad, call me crazy (just don’t call me from an AP phone), but if an AP reporter can verify a terrorist mole, is it not possible the terrorists already fingered him? Maybe the Department of Homeland Security (www.dhs.gov) should forget the usual intelligence-gathering methods and just consult with wire-service reporters.
Spies Like Us
But Uncle Sam is not the only snoop, dog.
Last week, Bloomberg (www.bloomberg.com) added to the seemingly endless parade of farce by admitting its journalists used Bloomberg market-data terminals to spy on Bloomberg’s financial clients. They not only spied on Wall Street bankers, they also spied on Federal Reserve (www.federalreserve.gov) chairman Ben Bernanke and former Treasury (www.treasury.gov) secretary Tim Geithner.
It’s kind of hard for journalists to stay on their high horse when they are also slogging through the mud.
And we still have the rest of the week ahead. May the farce stop being with us.