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Was Jay Leno Auditioning for MSNBC?
It's no secret that Jay Leno is left-leaning in his political views. Most people in the entertainment industry are. Yet, unlike many of his peers, Leno has generally resisted the temptation to taint his brand with overtly partisan, nasty political activism. In other words, he didn't follow the same path as David Letterman did, and I respect him for that.
Sure, Leno makes more jokes at the expense of Republicans than he does with Democratic politicians, and there's no denying that his comedy has been far kinder toward President Obama than it ever was toward President Bush. Yet, he also seems to have an eye for recognizing and calling out the absurdities and the disingenuous talking points that come from both sides of the political aisle. On top of that, he's usually pretty receptive to the views of the conservative guests he invites on his show. He'll sometimes engage in friendly debates with them and even concede a political point or two. That sort of civility and open-mindedness puts him a step above many in his industry. I think a lot of conservatives appreciate that.
Based on that impression, I found myself completely shocked and disappointed Monday night while watching his interview with comedian Dennis Miller on The Tonight Show. Being that Miller is a political commentator, the discussion naturally went to politics. Miller expressed his belief that the Obama administration has been inept in dealing with our country's serious problems, and he asked Leno (who is an Obama supporter) what impresses him about the president.
Leno began with the statement that President Obama was "compassionate for regular people." It was kind of the expected response, though I didn't doubt Leno's sincerity. After all, liberals pride themselves on being the compassionate ones, and don't quite understand that conservatives value compassion as well. Conservatives just happen to believe that it is individualism (not government) that advances people's quality of life.
No, it was the rest of Leno's answer that turned my stomach. He chided the Republican Party for their War on Women, and offered evidence of that "war" by pointing out the idiotic remarks recently made about "legitimate rape" by U.S. Senate hopeful, Todd Akin. He even said that Akin's view was representative of the Republican Party platform.
The rhetoric nearly prompted me to check my television guide to make sure I hadn't accidentally switched over to Bill Maher's show.
This is Jay Leno, after all. He's the guy who, just last month, admitted on national television that the MSNBC cable news network is "ridiculously biased." Now, he's suddenly parroting the same ridiculously biased nonsense that MSNBC shamelessly peddles each and every day?
His assertion was uncomfortable to listen to, and it even caught Dennis Miller (who's a long-time friend of Leno's) off-guard. Miller did an excellent job of pointing out the absurdity of the charge, and won over the crowd in doing so, but the fact that Leno would go there is disheartening.
Surely a man like him, who has long found comedy in our culture by taking a lighthearted, observational approach to current events, couldn't buy into such silliness. After all, the Republicans' War on Women is one of the most blatantly manufactured political controversies of the modern era. Yet, Leno sadly appeared to actually believe what he was saying - which is more than I can say for most of the political hacks who've actually been pushing this pathetic narrative.
I think it all goes back to what I wrote about in my last column. As diminished as the mainstream media has become in this country, they're still the most influential force in American politics. In this case, I don't even think Leno was intentionally perpetuating a liberal bias. I think he was unknowingly demonstrating that he's a hapless victim of that bias, just like much of the electorate is.
You just can't underestimate the power of the DNC-compliant news media to endlessly repeat a narrative until it's accepted as a mainstream consensus. It's that power that lets them successfully shelve commonsense, divert attention from legitimate issues, and get people to sign onto completely unreasonable premises.
Can you imagine if the Republican party had that kind of news-based messaging-power on its side? They'd be absolutely unstoppable! They could have deflected criticism off of the Iraq War by accusing Democrats of not wanting illegal immigrants to have the right to serve in our military. They could have deflected criticism off of Larry Craig and Mark Foley by accusing Democrats of homophobia. They could have made Anthony Weiner the poster-child for the Democratic party and successfully argued that the DNC platform embraces internet perversion. Heck, they could actually win this election on the notion that President Obama is a Muslim who was born in Kenya.
But those narratives would never work for the Republicans, would they? No, the media shoots down politically-advantageous weirdness when it comes from the right. That's fine with me. The problem is that they go out of their way to substantiate politically-advantageous weirdness when it comes from the left.
The result is a society of reasonable people (including Jay Leno) whose lack of critical thinking leads them to believe whatever they hear enough times from the liberal media. And that's a dangerous thing.