THE BLOG

Sen. Clinton's SNL Staff is Making the Same Mistakes as the Rest of Her Team

03/10/2008 02:40 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The writers of Saturday Night Live delivered a third anti-Obama/pro-Hillary skit this weekend, confirming their new status as an unofficial branch of the Clinton organization. And they seem to have become infected with the same problems that afflict the rest of that team: Their latest anti-Obama sketch was mean-spirited, misleading, confused ... oh, and humorless.

SNL staffers helped their candidate a lot in Texas and Ohio. The sheer shock value alone must have created something of a boomlet for her. (And they certainly intimidated the media, which is asking far fewer tough questions of Sen. Clinton now.)

I was just a kid in 1968, so I might have missed it: Did people sit around wondering who Morey Amsterdam was gonna endorse? (Actually, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In did something for Richard Nixon that was very much like what SNL did for Hillary. They had a cameo of Nixon repeating their "sock it to me" tagline, and it undoubtedly helped him the way SNL helped her. But Morey Amsterdam, rest his soul, just kept on doing his schtick.)

The premise of SNL's latest little skit -- that Obama's too inexperienced and shallow to be president and needs to call Hillary for help at 3 a.m. -- shows the same tone-deafness that's infected the other arms of the Clinton campaign. It demonstrates that the SNL-ers:

* don't know when a theme is played out
* are willing to alienate half the Democratic Party
* will sacrifice their own "capital" to get what they want
* can't stay on point with their leader's ever-changing message

That "3 a.m." schtick is so yesterday. It was yesterday last Thursday, and it was three days before yesterday by Saturday. It was dead. To use it over the weekend was ringtone-deaf, just more "hanging on the telephone."

Can you hear me now? Sorry, wrong number.

It was dead like that.

The "capital" SNL has sacrificed includes the perception that they can comment on political developments as independent outsiders. They seem like Clinton subordinates now, pure and simple. It also looks like they're also willing to sacrifice what people think of as their main job -- to be funny -- in support of a vindictive agenda.

But squandering vital capital on mean-spiritedness has been a hallmark of this campaign. No less a personage than the former President, Bill Clinton, did it in South Carolina. Now he's reaching out to Obama supporters with inspiration and an olive branch -- something I suggested months ago -- but it's too late. Many Obama supporters view him now with discomfort, if not outright hostility. That's a huge loss for the Clinton team. And President Clinton's credibility is undermined every time his wife's campaign demeans the credentials of a candidate who is older than he was when he took office, and has four years of foreign policy experience where he had none.

And when I say "his wife's campaign" is undermining President Clinton's credibility, I mean you, too, SNL.

As far as their leader's shift in message and direction, the SNL-ers apparently didn't pick up on her latest campaign theme, which was elucidated by the former president the morning their routine was aired: namely, that Obama would be a dynamite vice president. When they attacked Obama on Saturday night as vain, talentless, and inexperienced, they were still on Friday's campaign message.

I can sympathize. It is hard to keep up with all the shifts in messaging. But if you're going to join the team you need to follow the playbook.

Nothing they did on Saturday descended to the level of their "bitch is the new black" routine a couple weeks back. Let's set aside the racial charge in the phrase (hopefully unintentional) and concentrate on the premise: Bitches get sh*t done.

Huh? Which "bitches" are we talking about? Where do we draw the line on this gender-only requirement? Would Madame Nhu be acceptable? How about Countess Elizabeth Báthory, who murdered hundreds of young girls (bathing, according to legend, in the blood of virgins)? Would any so-called "bitch" do, just as long as SNL women can say "I'm one, too"? That comes across as the narcissism of the famous, not the political engagement of concerned citizens.

And what "sh*t" are we talking about getting done here? Clinton's been a good Senator on everything except foreign policy, where her presidential ambitions have led her to tack right. A lot of people have suffered as a result, including the 100 American women who have died in Iraq since the start of the war. Do we want more of that kind of "sh*t"?

Now, fair is fair. My favorite Tina Fey joke is about a female head of state, Catherine the Great ("You can be a murderous tyrant and the world will remember you fondly. But f**k one horse...) And Hillary Clinton is a person of great abilities. Ironically, she was warmer and funnier on SNL than the pros were. Too bad she and her team made the decision to mount such a joyless, cold, and humorless campaign, when that wasn't necessary.

But then, she's made a lot of bad decisions as head of this campaign. And, don't forget, she's responsible for the strategy. Not Bill, not Mark Penn, not Patti Solis Doyle. No amount of pro-Clinton SNL spin can provide her with executive experiences she hasn't had, or cover up the management mistakes that plagued her health reform initiative and now dog her campaign.

No doubt SNL's writers feel they're performing a valuable public service. But in this case their involvement seems sadly misplaced, born more of vanity than idealism. Maybe that's because of the harsh and jaded way they framed their skits -- but then, that's a tone problem that's affected the Clinton campaign overall. Maybe there's some communicable form of counterproductive cynicism going around, and the people on this team have all caught it.

SNL has served the Clinton campaign well. But they've had their moment in the sun. It's time to move on. They can't help Sen. Clinton or harm the Democratic Party much more than they already have, but they can certainly harm themselves if they keep going.

Morey Amsterdam, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.