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When Politics Is Funny

I have about a zillion other things to do today -- there are books to write, errands to run, phone calls to make -- but as I can't seem to concentrate on anything else but the election. I went back and watched, again, the Saturday Night Live episodes featuring Sarah Palin (the real one) and John McCain. I also watched, again, the truly extraordinary video of the Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation dinner three weeks ago. If you haven't seen it, watch it today; it will make you feel better about the election, whoever you're voting for.

Both candidates were there, both made speeches and both were genuinely funny. They laughed at themselves, at each other and at the asembled guests. "Even in this room full of proud Manhattan democrats," said McCain,"I can't shake that feeling that some people here are pulling for me... I'm delighted to see you here tonight Hillary." Everyone roared. Even Hillary herself.

As I've written, there is something rather extraordinary about the role humor plays in American politics: It reflects the fact that politics in the United States isn't, as in many places, a matter of life or death -- whoever loses today is not going to jail, and his followers will not be removed from their jobs or houses. It also means the political class has some healthy distance from what it does, at least a few nights a year.

Looking back on it, though, I think there was another significance to that dinner -- which was one of the few times during this campaign that the two candidates appeared together outside the debates or the Senate. Though the event didn't quite get the media attention it deserved, it did break some kind of tension. Afterwards, I'm convinced, the tone of both campaigns grew milder. Having clearly enjoyed one another's jokes ("I can do maverick... Messiah is above my pay grade" said McCain) the desire to skewer one another on the campaign trail was dampened. The worst thing Obama has said about McCain, in the past few days, is that he resembles George Bush; the worst thing McCain has said about Obama is that he will raise taxes. On a historical scale of political insults, these must rank pretty low.

Both candidates also look looser, happier, now, than they did a few weeks ago. But maybe that's just because it's all over.

By Anne Applebaum  | November 4, 2008; 8:01 AM ET
Categories:  Applebaum  | Tags:  Anne Applebaum  
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This campaign provided enough of its own humor. From McCain's comments addressing his "fellow prisoners" to his statement that he "couldn't agree more" with Murtha's concern about Western Pennsylvania. From Palin talking about being able to see Russia to mocking fruit fly research that led to genetic understanding.

Given the strength of the humor and the great SNL skits, I am hoping to see a Palin run in 2012.

Posted by: vaney18 | November 4, 2008 1:17 PM | Report abuse

"I have about a zillion other things to do today -- -- but as I can't seem to concentrate on anything else but the election."

You're not alone. Let's get this thing over with and start fixing the mess that Bush and the Republicans made of America!

Posted by: thebobbob | November 4, 2008 1:29 PM | Report abuse

Two moments that will forever stand out in my mind would be funny if they weren't so tragic, both from McCain:

1. "I know how to catch Osama Bin Laden." (NOW he tells us? If true, he should have been on the phone with Rumsfeld 7 years ago.)

2. "We know what the problem with Social Security is and we know how to fix it." (Again, why not bring this up say ... 25 YEARS AGO?)

Country first, my sweet patootie.

Posted by: TheProFromDover | November 4, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

"Know what the problem is with Social Security?" - Easy, the "democrats" gutted it! They taxed the contributions, put the funds into the General Fund, and taxed the payouts, all after promising that they never would! Also, they gave it to immigrants who never paid in, and NOW intend to give it to ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS (along with Universal Health insurance, Medicare and Welfare!)
Two things stand out about this election. One, how low the "democratic" has fallen in morality, two, how the press shamelessly parrots the democrats' lines.
Case in point - One of America's core beliefs is the right to the secret ballot. The democrats totally support the unionists recent and current attempts to ELIMINATE the secret ballot, which would give them "Big Brother" power over their members, allowing intimidation, harassment, and recriminations. Have you heard ANY democrat or "news" reporter speak out against this blatant attempt to curtail freedom in America (or "Rev." Wright, Ayers, Rezko, ACORN, "Redistributing the Wealth", etc.?) No, and you WON'T! The unions and the democrats are in bed together, along with their press groupies! They HATE freedom, they LOVE only the power to CONTROL. If you vote for Obama, you're voting AGAINST the secret ballot, AGAINST one more of our traditional American freedoms! One step closer to one-party Socialism!

Posted by: lightnin001 | November 4, 2008 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Lets just hope that the states are ready for a black president. We all hope so voer here. - Daily Updated Media madness

Posted by: tphps | November 5, 2008 8:28 PM | Report abuse

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