The Times-Picayune’s James Gill has built a reputation as an equal-opportunity trasher of political types, and because he’s often quite artful in doing so I’ve got a rather solicitous view of his columns.
This morning’s piece is a stinker of monstrous proportions, however.
Gill starts with a reasonably valid premise; namely, the invitation on Saturday of Obama impersonator and comedian Reggie Brown to perform at the Republican Leadership Conference in the Big Easy. Brown’s appearance on, and his rather untimely exit from, the RLC stage was worth writing about as a sidelight to what was otherwise a fairly intensive three-day diet of political speeches.
And there is valid criticism to be made of the hook Brown got. It seemed quite clear during the event that Saturday’s proceedings were running behind, so when Brown ran over time it should have been somewhat unremarkable that he would have been pulled. That the event’s organizers pulled him because he began taking shots at GOP candidates, an admission of which was made to the Washington Post later, is unfortunate; one could conclude from that action that Republicans can dish it out but can’t take it.
Gill makes that conclusion. He’s entitled to; if I were the guy making the call to yank Brown I’d have denied until the cows came home that the hook came because he was ripping Michele Bachmann and I’d have insisted Brown was the victim of a tight schedule and nothing more. That would have been an easy way to escape an unnecessary controversy.
So I don’t have a problem with the cantankerous Picayune pundit’s clobbering of the event’s organizers…
Brown obliged, greatly amusing delegates, for instance, when he suggested Obama celebrated only half of Black History month because of his mixed parentage. It does not take much to get a laugh at political conventions.
Brown was bundled off the stage, but evidently not because his jokes were too feeble or because of offenses against the inclusive ideals of the Republican Party. Indeed, he was done with his racial repertoire and had started mocking contenders for the Republican nomination when an apparatchik brought his act to a premature end.
Some of those contenders were present, and perhaps it is bad form to harp on the shortcomings of your hosts. But big-time politics requires a thick skin, and giving Brown the bum’s rush was bound to leave the impression that the GOP is the hands of bigots at one end and wusses at the other.
Except by the time Gill had started in on the RLC management he’d already trashed the attendees as bigots…
Let’s give credit also to local party officials, for they were pretty brave to book the engagement in the first place.
Perhaps they figured the GOP no longer has to worry about a white and elitist image when they hired Brown, whose shtick is a bang-on impersonation of President Barack Obama. Either that or they hoped to pick up a few jokes they could tell at the country club later.
And then Gill laid into Bachmann with the sort of vim and vigor usually reserved for attacks on Sarah Palin…
It is a shame Republicans lack the ability to laugh at themselves, because they are missing a lot. Indeed, when Brown was escorted off the stage, the giant screen was already showing a picture of his next target, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
Only a thoroughgoing spoilsport would have intervened at that stage, because it was going to be hilarious. We knew this because everything about Bachmann is hilarious. She has made so many famously dumb pronouncements that you only have to say “Michele Bachmann” and everyone within earshot will convulse. Well, maybe not tea party members.
Brown would not have had time to jest about all her idiocies but he would surely have made some reference to the Founding Fathers, who, according to Bachmann “worked tirelessly” and ended slavery.
Although Bachmann offered plenty of scope for mirth, she was a decidedly mixed blessing for Brown. Imagine being a comedian in a crowd that actually regards her as a serious presidential candidate. No way could you top that.
The piece may have been intended as humor, but instead it just comes off as nasty. Trashing people who spent money to come to New Orleans, stay in its hotels, eat at its restaurants and patronize its retail establishments as racists looking for black jokes to tell at the country club is the same sort of stereotypical bigotry Gill insinuates exists within his victims. He doesn’t know that to be true, and the fact that among the candidates not spamming the vote Herman Cain finished behind Bachmann in the straw poll after giving an extremely well-received speech is a pretty strong indication that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Crapping on Bachmann is pretty unoriginal and boring as well. If she’s made a couple of gaffes amid hundreds of speeches and TV appearances, what of it? If Gill judges her an imbecile as a result, does he issue the same verdict on the current occupant of the White House who visited all 57 states, mistakenly called himself a member of the Senate Banking Committee in 2008, thinks at some point you’ve made enough money, waxed eloquently about Navy corpsemen, pointed out the inefficiencies of the Post Office while touting a government takeover of health care, didn’t know they don’t speak Austrian in Austria and believes the day before Cinco de Mayo is Cinco de Quattro? Has Gill expounded on those idiocies, and more?
If he has, I’ve missed it. Our readers are invited to search the archives at the New Orleans paper and come up with Gill’s scathing critique of Obama to match the one he made of Bachmann today.
Perhaps the fact that the Southern Republican Leadership Conference’s two-year run of New Orleans appearances is now at an end – next year’s event will be in Charleston in January – means Gill is free to shoot the delegates and speakers in the back as they ride out of town. If he’d like to do that, though, he might want to load better ammunition.
What he brought today were blanks. The piece lacked insight and it substituted vitriol for wit.