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Phil West

Phil West

Posted: November 11, 2010 11:53 AM

The day after the 2008 Elections, I made a point of listening to Rush Limbaugh's radio show. Trust me, it's not something that I do regularly, but I felt it necessary, given the self-congratulatory banter of my lefty friends, to check and see what the defeated side was thinking in the wake of the post-Obama glow.

The general gist of Aftermath Day at Camp Rush was "we're pissed," which was probably as good an indication as any that the Tea Party was going to happen. It was certainly instructional to hear, as hard as it might have been to hear that the entire nation had not en masse signed on for the post-partisan epoch that was supposed to commence that very day.

Of course, especially with the death of Air America earlier this year, there's not a viable radio equivalent to Rush to see how things went for the losing side in the wake of last week's mid-term elections, which, as you may have heard, did not go so well for the Democrats.

But there is The Daily Show, which has not only given the news of the day an irreverent focus in recent years, but has become a de facto place for people who identify themselves on the political left of the spectrum to gather, especially when MSNBC becomes, how shall we say, too shrill.

In the past two weeks, The Daily Show -- which still thinks of itself entertainment rather than news -- hosted a "Rally to Restore Sanity" in Washington, D.C., drawing more than 200,000 to what host Jon Stewart hilariously assessed as "a sign-making convention," and also hosted President Obama on a special edition of the show from D.C, which the President used to make a decidedly sober appeal to midterm voters. That particular TV event was remarkable in that it had an audience who actually cheered what the President had to say, which seems to almost never happen anymore.

In the days following the midterms, the program's followed its typical course -- send-ups of politicians, spoofs of the media, and interviews, such as the David Sedaris interview last Thursday, having very little to do with politics at all.

In the Obama interview, Stewart archly characterized the Democrats' mid-term election message as, "Please, baby, just one more chance," and in the show immediately following the election on Wednesday night, spoofed Meg Whitman's spending, John Boehner's emotional victory speech, and Carl Paladino's bizarre concession speech with baseball bat, which Stewart connected to a particularly gruesome scene in The Untouchables. The funniest moments, however, may have been send-ups of the cable news stations' all-hands-on-deck coverage, in which disaster-y hyperboles like tsunamis and earthquakes were wheeled out by pundit after pundit to characterize the Republican gains.

But this past Monday night, Texas Gov. Rick Perry made an appearance on The Daily Show, ostensibly to talk about his new book Fed Up!, but looking very much like a Presidential candidate with a distinct anti-Washington message taking it to the people on a comedy talk show. Yes, the future you thought not possible two years ago -- Governor from Texas runs for President -- could very well be upon us. Back in Austin, Austin American-Statesman political reporter Jason Embry noted that Perry seemed much more comfortable than a lot of politicians who go on Stewart's show, even though Perry did at one point uncomfortably trace the current anti-Washington woes and distrust of liberalism to Woodrow Wilson and the 16th Amendment, even in the face of Stewart pointing out that maybe the allowing women to vote and instituting child labor laws, which came out of that era, were maybe a good thing.

For Texas observers, Perry's immaculate hair and newscaster good looks and general polish (perhaps over-polish) is quite familiar and has been joked about for years. He also has the resilience of zombies or the New York Yankees, depending on whatever you think is worse. Appointed to the governor's post in 2000 as George W. Bush was getting ready for his inauguration, Perry has now won three straight elections, including last week's walk-in-the-park against former Houston mayor Bill White, and the bizarre 2006 four-way race involving a cigar-chomping humorist named Kinky Friedman and a longtime politician, Carole Keeton Strayhorn, who's been both a Republican and a Democrat, has had several different last names, and was so wedded to the campaign slogan "One Tough Grandma" that she tried to have Grandma as part of the official listing of her name on the ballot.

To The Daily Show's credit, it seeks the whole political spectrum for its guests. Rush Limbaugh rarely has guests on, let alone whoever Perry's current equivalent on the left might be. Rachel Maddow makes it a practice on her show to invite right-wing pols who don't particularly want to be on her show, and then announces when they don't show up as a smiling "Hey, we tried" mea culpa.

Yet, if you're looking to a possible point a year from now when disaffected independent voters are saying, "Hey, Texas Governor again, why not," the moment in which this seemed not so implausible might have been Monday. In an age where telegenic still is one of the essential qualities for who we put in the Oval Office, Perry did what Perry does, with charm and swagger and enough substance to separate himself from another certain telegenic governor (well, former governor) who seems even more obvious about her 2012 aspirations. And though it's too early for Dems to be Chicken Little about 2012, Monday's show gave a glimpse at someone who The Daily Show's writers and performers could become very familiar with over the next few years.

 

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