Technology with attitude

Thrills! Laughs! It’s the Barack Obama Variety Hour! Already?

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Remember all those deep dish analyses a few months ago wondering whether we’d ever be able to make fun of a president again in a Barack Obama world? Would Jon Stewart or Jimmy Kimmel really step up in the face of all that public adoration and inspiration?

Well, how fast the curtain goes up on the political stand-up stage.

Here we are weeks before Mr. Obama is even inaugurated and already the joke quiver is overflowing with flaming arrows.

Politico lists the recent dramas of what it calls the “Team Obama…thrill show.” And you know they don’t mean it in a good way.

variety

You’d pretty much expect conservative blogger Michelle Malkin to go straight for the throat on the heavy-breathing rumors that CNN’s Sanjay Gupta was a candidate for Surgeon General. She steered deftly clear of the easy Jocelyn Elders masturbation jokes but, needling the lack-of-credentials celebrity angle, nominated Duane “Dog” Chapman to head the Border Patrol. And I suspect Dr. Gupta may have been the first person under consideration for a senior Administration post to be on People’s 2003 Sexiest Men list. (C. Everett Koop might have been close.) Which goes with Mr. Obama’s own shirtless sensation in Hawaii, where he showed better pec definition than JFK in his famous on-the-beach photo.

Then there’s the whole Bill Richardson mess. “Pay-to-play” investigations these days are like secret bribe-taking videotapes in the old Abscam scandal: just about everyone’s got one. But if the Obama vetters got Sen. Evan Bayh to admit smoking some pot as his big skeleton (Bayh told Politico Obama said to him, “You really haven’t had much of a life, have you?,”) how did they fail to get a confession from Mr. Richardson about the hot fed probe of his ethics? It isn’t exactly as bad as Thomas Eagleton, and the new administration probably isn’t into waterboarding to extract information, but this one smells a little like old politics, and humor will (and has) blossomed.

How about what Mr. Obama now calls his “American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan“? Huh? “Stimulus package” was so much sexier. Getting hearts racing often helps get consumers to open their wallets. Just ask Ashley Dupre. Let’s not clutter our crisis with bureaucracy-speak. I don’t know if this plan is a good thing or a bad thing – I’m listening to the same economists and financial reporters debating it as you are. But a $500-a-person tax break ($1,000) per family? At that level, if you pooled the federal checks of everyone on your block you wouldn’t even have enough to buy a local politician.

Every penny helps. I just don’t understand how $500 per gets the economy going. That’s less than $10 a week.

Mr. Obama did use more accessible language to describe the economy: “Very sick,” he said. Which works for my 8-year-old. Paging Dr. Gupta! At least that’s better than Jimmy Carter’s “malaise”, which was not only a fancy French word but described people, not a thing (the economy), which tends to irritate the electorate.

And did you see the new presidential limo? It’s a big, honking Caddy that, according to CNN, one news agency says could take a “direct hit from an asteroid.” I don’t think there’s much bio-diesel going on there, or an electrical cord coming out the back. But, again from CNN, it is a Hybrid: “part car, part truck, part tank.” It will carry the new President to his oath-taking Jan. 20th. What happened to the whole populist thing? At least Jimmy Carter walked the Avenue instead of being driven. Mr. Carter’s populism was thrumming mostly in his own head, as it turned out, at least until he was post-Presidential.

And finally, if Mr. Obama was going to take one good lesson from Jimmy Carter, it should have been: don’t piss off senior members of Congress when it’s just about courtesy. The Obama group muffed it on not notifying our own Dianne Feinstein about the appointment of Leon Panetta as CIA chief.

I know how this goes. When I was a young(ish) reporter, Mayor Dianne used to jam me up against a wall when she saw me and lecture me about my City Hall stories she didn’t like. Nearly 30 years later, paying a visit on her at her Senate office, she wagged her finger at me about my clothing, my past social life, and a few other scolding points. Ms. Feinstein is tough and direct and she has not changed throughout her public life. Anyone with a political molecule in their body knows that.

One phone call could have avoided all that bowing and scraping afterward and what The Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci called “a brush-back pitch” from the Senator.

More like an direct asteroid hit.

Expect funny jokes on all the above to follow.

For more, read Bronstein at Large.