THE BLOG
06/21/2006 11:18 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Gravity and Levity or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Let The President Buy Me A Drink

You want to be an actor for a minute or two? Help me out. Here's your scene:

You've hired a bunch of guys to come work on your house. During the course of the day, one of the men plunges a shovel into the packed soil and hits something hard. Not sure what it is, he tries again - raises the shovel up high, stabs it into the dirt and - BOOM! The gas line explodes - which leads to several successive explosions. Twelve houses burn to the ground in the subsequent fire. Thirteen people are dead, nine injured.

Wow, right? Thank Heaven you weren't home. Thank Heaven your family wasn't home. But, you probably feel pretty awful for the ones who were, and for the workers who died. You might even feel responsible.

No? Okay, let's add another element:

You knew the gas line was down there. You knew the city hadn't shut it off yet; they couldn't get to it until next week. But you'd already committed to start work, already booked the job. So, you figured, screw it - let's just dive in and hope for the best. What could really go wrong?

Bet you feel like shit now, huh?

Okay, now you're on television. The morning shows want you. So, the Today Show has sent a crew out and Matt Lauer is doing the interview via satellite. You have your grave face on. You're showing your regret, your genuine and profound grief. The families of the dead are devastated and you want to make sure they know that you are too.

Matt gets ready for his question. He says, "I'd like to ask you...."

But you cut him off. You say, "Are you going to ask that question with shades on?"

Matt says, "I can take them off."

You say, "I'm interested in the shades look, seriously"

(By the way, for the sake of our fictional scene, let's pretend that Matt started going blind from a rare retinal disorder and needs the shades.)

Okay, so Matt finally gets to his question when again you cut him off with, "Fine looking scarf...not scarf, what do you call that thing?"

Matt is a little perplexed, "Um.... thank you very much."

And you say, "It's strong."

Not quite understanding your chummy demeanor in a moment like this, Matt continues with the interview. He asks you about the deaths, the funerals, the loss of life and property. You do your best to express your grief. And it's real. You really feel horribly for these poor families. You tell him how you're going to donate a lot of money to the so-and-so fund for blabitty blah and you're hoping that it will yadda yadda.

Matt says, "You seem energized, sir, with your plans to bloobity bloo...."

And you say, "Actually, I'm a little jet lagged, as I'm sure you can imagine."

Matt says, "I can, sir."

And you say, "I'm not sure you could possibly empathize, but nevertheless...."

Let's end the scene there.

By now you probably realize that every line of dialog in your scene was taken verbatim from our President's own mouth during his press conference on June 14, 2006.

You and I may or may not agree on the war. Fine. But can we agree on this? Can we agree that when a family has given the ultimate sacrifice, the life of a son or daughter, a wife, a father, a mother, when they have to hear on the news that the light of their life has gone out, that the bodies of their sons were found mutilated, or that their daughter's legs were blown off, or been told that "daddy is missing"...can we please agree that that demands respect, gravity, and decorum? That it should inspire genuine sympathy, empathy, regret, and even grief.

I'm not saying that the President doesn't feel those things. How would I know what he feels? I'm saying that there is a time for levity. There is a time for so-called "towel snapping." There is a time for comedy. A press conference about a war, about death, about young men and women giving their lives is not the place for it.

And that goes for the journalists, too. Please stop embarrassing yourselves and your noble profession by guffawing at every bad joke, pun, and giggling cliché. Take it seriously, because it couldn't be more serious.