Dave Letterman hosted two Presidents last week, on two successive nights. Quite a coup, and the security, over which much was comedically made, was tight. More so for sitting President Obama, who had all three segments before the usual guest-musician close. Less so the next night for former President Clinton, a frequent guest, who had only two segments, and was followed anti-climactically with basketballer LeBron James before the close. Maybe the difference was deferential--ceremonial protocol of sorts. Whatever, Obama has got to get his grades up--it's almost "midterm"--especially when compared against head-of-the-class Clinton.
But can you beat either one for what in my day was called "comportment"? ( I always flunked that non-academic category.) Two well-behaved fellows indeed--about the most human, honest, intelligent, and nice-guy-est Presidents since Carter. They truly embody the "wouldn't-mind-having-a-beer-with-him" cliche'--in fact, Obama allowed just that to happen literally in "The Professor and the Cop" show he put on just a few weeks ago.
And ingratiatingly entertaining. Clinton bragged on how well his wife is doing in her new job, and downplayed his recently successful "damsel-in-distress" mission in North Korea--a genuienly heroic effort in the Carter tradition--and was more content to make fun with Dave about their mutual cardiac-pathologies. Amazing! It's been five years since your surgery? ... Yes, Dave, but you know when we reach our age, everyday is genetic roulette. And on "smarts"--It's always such a pleasure having you on, Bill, but I just wish, I don't know, that I was smarter ... You're always saying that, Dave, but you're a lot richer than me. And on Social Action: much of the ex-President's air-time was spent on his Global Initiative, which has raised billions in foreign aid of one kind or another. But he deflects graciously and skillfully when Dave expresses regrets that HE hasn't done enough in that area--You've got a five-year old, right? Listen, anybody who can raise a five-year-old is doing all the social good we need.
Daddy Dave got right to the kids with Obama, as he does with his guests more than ever of late--How they were holding up under the spotlight; How they spent their summer vacation. Well, we thought about summer camp and such things, but basically they just goofed off ... [long pause for the punchline] ... which I couldn't do. Much laughter and clapping followed, acknowledging the allusion to Obama's Summer of Hell on the domestic front. Picking up on that, Letterman brought up the subject of angry tea-baggers and raucous Town Hall meetings via Jimmy Carter. He mentioned that the ex-President had speculated that a lot of this animosity and unsavory behavior is rooted in racism. Obama had a grabber ready--First, it's important to remember that I was black before the the election ... Which, after the laughs and appreciative applause, put Dave in the same Steve-Martinesque mode --Just how long have you been a black man?
Inevitably casting a unfortunate pall over all this warm and fuzzy by-play about fathers and kids and family was, however, THE WAR. For all of 30 seconds at the end of the Obama interview. We'll have all of the combat troops out of Afghanistan by 2011. Well and good maybe, but how many soldiers will be killed, wives widowed, children orphaned ... in the meantime. Not to mention the horrendous civilian casualties. How well has Obama been doing after all? What kind of grade has our fledgling President earned so far? (more)