Published for www.commentarymagazine.com, May 16, 2012
During his interview with NBC’s Brian Williams, David Letterman went off on a passionate defense of President Obama. Letterman concluded by saying, “What more do we want this man to do for us, honest to God?”
For starters, something better than the weakest economic recovery in the modern era, the worst jobs record of any president in the modern era, the highest sustained unemployment rate since the Great Depression, a housing crisis worse than the Great Depression, unprecedented deficits and debt, a standard of living that’s fallen longer and more steeply during the past three years than at any time since the government began recording it five decades ago, a downgrade in the United States’ credit rating for the first time in history, and a record number of people in poverty.
Beyond that, though, it’s worth pointing out that earlier this week PBS’s American Masters series broadcast an excellent two-hour documentary titled, “Johnny Carson: King of Late Night.” Among those paying tribute to Carson was Letterman, who clearly revered Carson. In the course of the program, some of those on “The Tonight Show” staff pointed out with pride that no one ever really knew Carson’s politics – that he was never tendentious and his humor and targets were bi-partisan. It helped explain his appeal during the course of 30 remarkable years.
Carson knew he was a comedian, not a political commentator – and he was able to set his political opinions aside before stepping through the “Tonight Show” curtains.
One is reminded that in this area, as in so many other areas, David Letterman – aging, increasingly brittle, and not terribly funny — is no Johnny Carson.