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Harry Shearer to White House: Help NOLA


The Sleuth backstage with Harry Shearer. Photo by Carol Joynt, whose son is Shearer's godson.

Updated, 3:45 pm: The White House has responded - not to Harry Shearer, but to the idea that President Obama did nothing in the stimulus package to help Louisiana. The state did get billions of dollars, the administration points out (though, again, none of it specifically directed for hurricane rebuilding efforts).

One White House official who asked not to be named (as he didn't want to engage in a tete-a-tete with Shearer) says, "The stimulus bill wasn't about earmarks, it was about helping the country recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."

Really? No earmarks in the stimulus package? There were about 9,000 of them, according to this story. Earmarks by any other name, as Pro Publica puts it:

In theory and publicity, the package is "earmark free." But it contains dozens of narrowly defined programs that send money to specific areas or cater to special interests, despite President Obama's pledge to pass "an economic recovery plan that is free from earmarks and pet projects."

Guess it all depends on what your definition of "earmark" is.

Original posting follows:

Hundreds of enthusiastic fans packed the Warner Theatre in Washington last night for a reunion concert by Christopher Guest, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean, the famous mockumentary trio from This is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind.

But one Shearer fan missing from the crowd, much to Shearer's chagrin, was White House senior adviser David Axelrod.

Shearer said he has desperately has been trying to reach Axelrod to give him an earful about New Orleans, the comic actor's second home and great passion.

Shearer has been more than ticked off that the mammoth $787 billion stimulus package signed into law in February does not include "one dime" specifically earmarked for hurricane rebuilding efforts.

And he had heard the White House adviser was a fan of his radio show, so hoped to reach his powerful fan to lobby for federal help for his beloved city. The comedian sent messages to Axelrod through two different channels and finally received a call back from the White House -- from David Washington, the associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Shearer said the White House aide's attempt to "help" was to put him in touch with the Army Corps of Engineers' congressional liaison.

"That's like me calling the police to report a crime and they put me in touch with the bank robbers," Shearer said, cracking a half smile.

(A comment from the White House should be forthcoming. A White House spokesman tells us he's compiling a list of things President Obama is doing to help New Orleans, so we'll update this as soon as we get that.)

Shearer pointed out that the Army Corps of Engineers' reputation is in such tatters that it has launched a multimillion dollar public relations campaign, which, given the outcry over the price tag, probably won't help matters much.

We spoke to Shearer backstage, just after he had finished a rousing, laugh-filled two-hour-plus concert, which included the hit theme song and other Folksmen tunes from A Mighty Wind, plus classic Tap tunes, such as "Big Bottom" and "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight." Washington, luckily, made the cut for the trio's "Unwigged and Unplugged" tour marking the 25th anniversary of "This is Spinal Tap."

They also played other good songs, including "All Backed Up," an ode to Elvis Presley's untimely death while sitting on the toilet, and, of course, their classic: "Sex Farm."

The 60-somethings parody themselves as aging once-upon-a-time semi-cool guys. "Who can keep up with the bloggers and their Twitters and the tea baggers?" joked McKean at one point. Shearer talked about using "the Googles."

And McKean, during an audience participation portion of the show, was asked the question few would dare ask: "Do you still talk to Squiggy?"

"Yes, David Lander and I do still talk," McKean replied (remarkably without rolling his eyes), referring to his role as Lenny in the late '70s hit show "Laverne and Shirley."

Backstage, Lenny was a super friendly, gregarious guy. He somehow was convinced he knew C-SPAN general counsel Bruce Collins, who had a pass to meet the band. Others backstage included CNN political analyst Bill Schneider, Mother Jones' Washington bureau chief David Corn and his wife, Welmoed Laanstra, and gal about Georgetown Carol Joynt, the owner of Nathan's restaurant, whose son, Spencer, is Shearer's godson.

We also spotted the man we believe to be the anonymous musician Blind Boy Whitehead but, as usual, he had no comment.

Shearer, as always, wanted to talk politics. And last night, his focus was on New Orleans and the Obama administration. He said he wishes he could like President Obama more.

"It's nice to have a smart president for a change," Shearer told us, adding, "But I want to see him do something for New Orleans." He said at least the president is living up to his campaign rhetoric on New Orleans -- "which was essentially nothing."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  May 14, 2009; 1:34 PM ET
 
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Comments

I don't know what to think about this stimulus plan. Watch Funny Videos

Posted by: roverfind | May 15, 2009 6:43 PM | Report abuse

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