David Letterman Responds To Right Wing Smears


On Monday’s show David Letterman made jokes about Sarah Palin and made a joke about her pregnant daughter. The joke was clearly about Bristol Palin–the daughter who had been pregnant and had recently been in New York publically discussing the topic. (Actually the joke was even more about Alex Rodriguez and his antics with women, but we don’t see Rodriguez protesting the joke.) Right wingers have been spreading outright lies about what Letterman said, claiming the joke was both about rape and about Willow Palin when there is no basis for either claim. More on the topic here.

Sarah Palin, who apparently lacks the intelligence to realize that such right wing smears are not to believed (largely as she has been known to spread a few right wing smears of her own) has picked up this lie. While tonight’s show has not aired yet, Entertainment Weekly is reporting that David Letterman does respond:

Taping tonight’s episode of The Late Show, David Letterman took a few minutes to respond to Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who called him “pathetic” in a radio interview after he made her and her family the butt of a recent Top 10 list. The late-night host had drawn particular fire from Palin and some pundits for a joke about one of Palin’s daughters being impregnated by New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez during a trip to Yankee Stadium. Camp Palin apparently took the joke to be a crack against Palin’s 14-year-old daughter Willow, who had recently attended a Yankees game, but Letterman insisted today that the real target was 18-year-old daughter Bristol.

“We were, as we often do, making jokes about people in the news and we made some jokes about Sarah Palin and her daughter [Bristol]… and now they’re upset with me…” Letterman says on tonight’s show. “These are not jokes made about her 14-year-old daughter. I would never, never make jokes about raping or having sex of any description with a 14-year-old girl…. Am I guilty of poor taste? Yes. Did I suggest that it was okay for her 14-year-old daughter to be having promiscuous sex? No.” Saying he hopes he’s “cleared part of this up,” Letterman extended an invitation to Palin to come on the show as a guest.

My bet is that those spreading the smear will continue to smear Letterman with their lies about what he has said as this is really not about any belief that Letterman had made jokes about a 14 year old girl. This is really about the desire of the authoritarian right to silence anyone who expresses opposing viewpoints. While Letterman’s jokes were not all in good taste, as he himself admits, late night comics have become a major source of dissent in this country as they mock the establishment, regardless of political party. The authoritarian right reflexively oppose any such questioning of right wing authority just as they opposed exposing how the Republicans lied us into a war and then committed war crimes against prisoners in Abu Ghraib and Guitanimo Bay. Spreading lies as they are doing with David Letterman is a typical tactic of the authoritarian right as they wage their battles in this dishonest manner knowing that they have no arguments which can withstand either factual analysis or rational thought.

Update: Fortunately the show did not dwell on giving Palin an apology which she did not deserve as Dave did get in some more jokes at Palin’s expense during the monologue. He said he felt depressed about being called pathetic by Sarah Palin. To get over it he went out and spent $150,000 on clothes, and he does feel better now. He did express some concern about pissing off a hunter.

After returning from the monologue Letterman read the protests from both Todd and Sarah Palin and said he totally  agreed with their condemnation of the types of jokes they described. Then he stated that “that’s not what I did” and proceeded to repeat the actual jokes he told–pointing out that it’s a joke, “that’s all its supposed to be.” He agreed the jokes were ugly and he regretted telling them, but there are thousands of jokes he’s told over the years that he regrets.

I suspect right wingers will be even more upset considering the frequent laughter and applause from the audience as he quoted the unwarranted attacks on him, repeated his actual jokes, and threw in a few new jokes. The funniest part was clearly that Palin and other conservatives were making such a big deal over a couple of jokes. All in all Letterman did a good job of responding to the attacks. He managed to both show respect for  idea of not joking about a fourteen year old while showing well-deserved disrespect for the bogus attacks.

Update 2: In the end I expect both Letterman and Palin to benefit from all this publicity (and expect that Paliln will accept the offer to appear on the show). It may or may not have anything to do with the Palin jokes, but Late Night With David Letterman has moved into first place in the late night ratings.

Update 3: Replies tended to be of two types. Many attacked Letterman because of making a joke about Bristol Palin, often going on to talk about the virtues of Jay Leno, Conan O’Brian, or other comedians. While I would prefer that Bristol Palin not be a target of such comedians, the fact is that every one of them has made similar jokes about Bristol Palin. Jay Leno, Conan O’Brian, Jimmy Kimmel and Craig Ferguson, along with Letterman, have all made jokes about Bristol Palin. It makes no sense to single out Letterman.

This is not really about him telling a joke about Bristol Palin. It is about a smear campaign from right wingers who were first angry because he told jokes about Sarah Palin, and then realized he had also told a joke about Bristol. Attacking him for making a joke about Bristol wouldn’t get much millage, so they invented the false claims that the joke was about rape and that it was about a younger daughter.

Many of the comments concentrated on personal attacks on David Letterman, with them typically being far more vicious than Letterman’s jokes.  Such attacks (which have been deleted) hardly support any attempts to take the high ground against Letterman. It should also be remembered that Letterman’s jokes were just that, jokes, and not the types of personal attacks now coming from the right.

Update 4: Besides what I mentioned in the above update, there is one additional common attack being made on Letterman–claims that the joke is motivated by partisanship and that he wouldn’t make such a joke about a Democrat.  These attacks most likely come from people who 1) don’t really watch the late night talk shows and know what types of jokes are common and 2) buy into the right wing meme of being persecuted.

Letterman regularly makes fun of politicians and people in the pubic eye regardless of party. It certainly is not, as some have claimed, a matter of attacking the children of people he disagrees with.  Bristol Palin has become a common target of comedians because of the humor value, not for partisan reasons. Letterman also tells jokes about John Edwards and Eliot Spitzer, and would have no qualms about telling jokes about a daughter of a Democrat in a similar situation. Letterman, like all the late night comics, thrive on jokes involving sex. Party does not matter here.

Update 5: Sarah Palin Jokes About Willow While Rejecting Letterman Offer

Update 6: Sarah Palin Continues To Drag Daughter Through Mud For Political Gain

Donald Trump to Carrie Prejean: You’re Fired


I defended Carrie Prejean when there was talk of stripping her of her Miss California crown because of expressing her views on gay marriage (despite my disagreement with her) and when pictures of her posing semi-topless surfaced. She has now lost her crown, but not over these reasons. Instead she lost it due to breach of contract, for failing to make appearances she was contractually obligated to attend.

Donald Trump defended her when there were demands to fire her, but now he has had enough:

Trump told us Carrie refused to appear at around 30 events on behalf of Miss California USA. He says Prejean was contractually bound to appear and she just wouldn’t do it. He doesn’t think her attitude has anything to do with her politics.

Trump said: “To me she was the sweetest thing. Everyone else — she treated like s**t.”

Prejean claims that they were trying to whore her out to  Playboy. Carrie had previously claimed her topless pictures were a result of the wind blowing her shirt off.

White Supremacist Kills Guard At U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

Remember when conservative bloggers got all upset about the Obama administration declassifying a report on right wing terrorism earlier this year? They got all upset about right wing terrorism being raised as an issue of government concern, while ignoring the facts that the report was written by a Bush administration appointee and that DHL had also declassified a report on left wing terrorism. For some reason liberal bloggers had no problem with such concern about violent extremists regardless if from the left of the right, but conservative bloggers had a problem with open discussion of the very real problem of violence from the far right.

The murder of George Tiller proved that right wing terrorism is a serious problem, and worthy of being discussed by the Department of Homeland Security. We had another tragic example of right wing terrorism today with the shootings at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum by a white supremacist.

In retrospect, nutty right wingers who express their frustration by spreading lies about what David Letterman said on his show are far preferable to this more violent variety.

Update: “It was a warning to us all, and it appears now they were right.” That’s from Shep Smith of Fox, not some left wing blogger. The video:

Update 2: A Republican blog for some strange reason linked here while both denying the problem of violence from the extreme right and falsely claiming that “none of them [liberal blogs] have brought up the hate-crime murder of the Army recruiter. it doesn’t fit the meme I guess.” Of course I, along with many other liberal bloggers, have commented on that while opposing  extremist violence from both the left and right. Why do so many Republicans have so little regard for the truth?

Placing Blame For The Deficit

As someone who is fairly fiscally conservative this has not been a good time. I spent the last several years criticizing the Bush administration for running up deficits and corporate welfare only to see similar policies from Obama. Of course in Obama’s case I understand that this is a response to an unusual financial crisis, rather than a reflection of his underlying policy goals. Many conservatives have developed a unique amnesia, seeing everything as coming from Obama. David Leonhardt puts this into perspective:

The story of today’s deficits starts in January 2001, as President Bill Clinton was leaving office. The Congressional Budget Office estimated then that the government would run an average annual surplus of more than $800 billion a year from 2009 to 2012. Today, the government is expected to run a $1.2 trillion annual deficit in those years.

You can think of that roughly $2 trillion swing as coming from four broad categories: the business cycle, President George W. Bush’s policies, policies from the Bush years that are scheduled to expire but that Mr. Obama has chosen to extend, and new policies proposed by Mr. Obama.

It is well worth reading through the specifics. For those who prefer a quick visual summary, Matthew Yglesias has produced a handy chart to show where to place the blame:


— “The first category — the business cycle — accounts for 37 percent of the $2 trillion swing.”

— Second, Bush-era legislation “like his tax cuts and the Medicare prescription drug benefit, [that] not only continue to cost the government but have also increased interest payments on the national debt.”

— Third, “Obama’s main contribution to the deficit is his extension of several Bush policies, like the Iraq war and tax cuts for households making less than $250,000 […] 20 percent of the swing.”

— Fourth, “About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February.”

— Fifth, “only 3 percent comes from Mr. Obama’s agenda on health care, education, energy and other areas.”

I remain an agnostic as to whether Obama’s economic policies will work, preferring to see the facts over time as opposed to falling into ideological certaintude, but I certainly do not buy the attacks from the right that Obama is responsible for bankrupting the country.

More Health Care Distortions and Misunderstandings

Matthew Yglesias reports on a distortion of the health care debate from Tom Colburn but unfortunately both he and Steve Benen repeat a common misunderstanding in the liberal blogosphere.

On CSPAN this morning, Senator Tom Coburn made the case against a government-run insurance plan on the strange grounds that a government-run health care delivery system would be ineffective. Specifically, he claims that “the VA is not up to the level of care of the rest of the country.” In reality, as Phillip Longman has detailed it’s true that VA Health Care is not of the same quality as health care elsewhere—it’s better.

The important point is that nobody is talking about promoting a government-run health care delivery system like the VA. Such proposals are not on the table. There is no need to confuse valid arguments for reforming the insurance system with such arguments which only play into the right wing’s scare tactics about government taking over health care. However I wish liberal blogs would cut out such claims about the VA. Citing flawed reports on quality of care undermine the validity of more truthful arguments for health care reform, especially among those who are aware of all the flaws in the VA system.

Evaluations of quality in health care are very primitive, and typically come down to what is reported as opposed to measures of actual quality. They measure only a handful of parameters but do not measure the quality of care in other areas and doctors in private practice typically do not have the time to devote to reporting what they are doing as the VA does. Systems which grade based upon a handful of parameters but which are labor intensive to report work to the benefit of the VA but do not represent the actual quality of care.The VA’s computer system gives them a huge edge in such quality measures which has little to do with actual quality.I have discussed this in more detail in previous posts such as here.

When you move beyond the flawed measures cited in the other blogs, care from the VA is highly mixed.  The problems with their care is one reason why many people, including Democrats, have been arguing that the VA system should be changes so that vets can receive reimbursement for receiving treatment elsewhere in private practices.