At the White House Correspondents' Dinner this year, Ben Stein's old sidekick Jimmy Kimmel did something others in his fraternity of brave comedians (cf. Saturday Night Live) would consider a hate crime: he told some jokes at President Obama's expense. The best one was when you weren't sure he was joking: "There's a term for President Obama. [Pause.] Probably not two terms." An earlier one played to the liberal audience: "The president wanted to move [the dinner] to the Kennedy Center, and the Republicans wanted to keep it at the Hilton. So, they compromised and here we are at the Hilton." And a third was downright mean, because it made fun of what might be considered a flaw in Mr. Obama's handsome looks—not that everyone didn't laugh, with Mrs. Obama leading the way, as if she were Phyllis Diller on Hollywood Squares: "[President Obama,] I know you won't be able to laugh at my jokes about the Secret Service. Please cover your ears, if that's physically possible."
Speaking of the Secret Service scandal, keynoter Kimmel noted: "If this had happened on President Clinton's watch, those Secret Service agents would've been disciplined with a very serious high-five." All fine and good, but didn't it trouble the Obama faithful that Kimmel ended his routine by exchanging a very serious high-five with Obama? Who played whom in this reenactment?
Meanwhile, it was telling that Kimmel's one shot at Mitt Romney missed, while Obama in his earlier remarks took at least four obsessive shots at the man he must know will defeat him this fall. As Grover Norquist suggested a few issues ago, Obama prefers running for president to being a lousy president, though now it appears he's become no less lousy a campaigner, whether at home or in Afghanistan. Grover's Romney-related column this month (p. 46) is premised on Obama's likely ouster for that reason. The president's policies and rhetoric have enflamed defenders of religious liberty, creating the opportunity for what should be a natural alliance with a Republican presidential nominee who is a leading member of a long-demeaned religious minority. The only question is whether Romney can ever be comfortable being openly Mormon when he's among non-Mormons.
And here we thought that the only major problem was whether Romney can come to an understanding with Republican conservatives. In his deft, eyes-wide-open report (p. 26), Jim Antle offers reasons for optimism on that score. And this time around, Romney doesn't have to be the conservative firebrand he tried to be in 2007, back when, as I recall, none other than Grover Norquist introduced him at CPAC. He just needs to be as committed to Big Tent Republicanism as Grover has always been.
I hesitated to say Romney just needs to be himself, because we're not really privy to his true self. Yet as Jeremy Lott writes in his in-depth examination of Romney and his Mormonism (p. 32), we can infer a great deal about the man from his religion and his commitment to it, most all of it positive and character-affirming. So why are we even having this discussion? Probably because it's frustrating that he's holding back on the best thing about himself. Which, when you think about it, is a very conservative thing to do.
Is it also conservative to contemplate the afterlife? You decide (p. 14). My sense is we're more likely to find heaven in heaven than we are in the U.S. under Jimmy Kimmel's laughingstock.
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