"Dick Cheney Shoots Attorney. Attorney Apologizes"
Okay. It's not exactly "Batboy Impregnates Shroud of Turin" but a month ago, both headlines would have been assumed to be lifted from satirical swags like The Onion or The Daily Show. Today, we're waking up almost daily to "too farcical to be true but it is, yeah, I'm not kidding, it really is, look, even Lou Dobbs is reporting it" true stories that one would swear came from the pages/website of National Lampoon.
When I was political editor at the Lampoon, I was told that one of the prerequisites of good satire was that the reader might read it, thinking, "This might be true." Hysterical, of course, but wholly possible. And it was always based on the truth. Truth that wasn't all that funny, because, well, although truth can be stranger than fiction -- except for the Tonight Show which has been mostly just word play -- "funnier" was not a factor...
"Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over"
Or blatantly obvious...
"Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says"
Or blindly ironic...
"War Dims Hopes For Peace"
And then there's just the plain stupid...
"Cartoon Causes Riots and Death"
Funny stuff, huh?
But nowadays it seems that absurdity has hit the fan as this White House has moved their headlines from the Washington to the Weekly World News rack at the local 7-11. Previously limited to the President's own ingenious shifts in logic - re: "Rarely is the question asked: Is our children learning?" - the actual news coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania rivals the most outrageous satire that floats about the Internet.
"Failed Arabian Horse Consultant Chosen To Run FEMA."
"Twenty-four Year Old College Dropout Approved by White House to Rewrite Government Scientist's Research"
"Texas Sheriff Sees No Reason To Question Vice President Who Drank A Beer Then Shot a Guy in the Face"
Problem is, a couple years ago, those headlines would've been difficult to believe, a clear deterrent to solid satire. That is, until they spring the one on you, that comparably, makes all the rest almost logical.
Witness "Bush Turns Over American Ports To Taliban-Supporting Arab Country."
Which led to "Rumsfeld Not Aware of Deal Turning Over American Ports To Taliban-Supporting Arab Country.""
Then "White House Reveals That President Didn't Know of Deal Turning Over American Ports To Taliban-Supporting Arab Country Until Deal Was Approved."
And finally to irony's crowning achievement...wait for it...wait for it...
"O'Reilly Agrees With Franken"
Real news was supposed to be our source, not our competition. The White House was always intended to be the target for our brilliantly clever twists meant to cut down the powerful, not its author. It's tough enough to make a living writing funny, did the administration have to create a Comedy Development Department? It would lead most of us into the unemployment line, if it weren't for the fact that we already have a locker down there.
What's even more unfair to those struggling wits attempting to out-funny reality, is that the President seems to have channeled one of satire's truly great minds -- and now seeming prophet -- George Orwell. "This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table," is plain and simple, Mr. Orwell's "doublethink" (the power to hold two completely contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously and accept both of them).
All I'm suggesting is that the White House keep doing the splendid job they do running the government and leave the comedy to the professionals. It's dangerous placing satire in the hands of amateurs as the public many confuse a joke with what is, in reality, a clear and present danger. Or, in the case of this President, both.