As the editor of a magazine with one of America’s greatest humorists– Calvin Trillin–I love a good joke. But there’s a time and a place for humor. President Bush’s joke about the failure to find WMD in Iraq–made at the annual black tie dinner for radio and television correspondents last week–was callous and tasteless. As one Iraq war veteran put it, “war is the single most serious event that a president or government can carry its people into. This cheapens the sacrifice that American soldiers and their families are dealing with every single day.” Or as David Corn wrote in his Nation weblog, “Imagine if Lyndon Johnson had joked about the trumped-up Gulf of Tonkin incident.”
Matthews: Would you have him [Bush] tell those jokes as he tours the VA hospitals?
Eskew: He tours the hospitals an awful lot. He doesn’t need a lesson in compassion toward the American soldiers, Chris.
Matthews: Maybe there’s a question here of taste.
Eskew: I think the president has very good taste.
Matthews: You felt the jokes were right?
Eskew: That’s self-deprecation, Chris. I think you misinterpret it.
Matthews: So, you think the guys who got hurt and killed in this war thought it was funny? I just don’t think it was funny.
But over at that joke of a news operation, Fox “Fair and Balanced” News, Sean Hannity thought it was all a big laugh. When I went on his show last Friday I listened to him huff and he puff as he tried to pin the blame on liberals for not having a sense of humor. (I’d link to it but the show, oddly, doesn’t make transcripts available.) Sean–hang it up! What Americans need from this President is truthtelling–not joketelling.
The letter below suggests there are others out there–in this case, a man who served his nation in a previous war–who agree.
March 26, 2004
Dear Ms. vanden Heuvel,
I saw you on Hannity & Colmes this evening. You are absolutely right on. As a Vietnam veteran I thank you for standing up to Sean Hannity (and Alan) regarding George Bush’s rather distorted sense of humor regarding his inability to find WMDs in Iraq. May all the souls of those who have died in this insane war rest in peace.
Thank You,Bob Luce