RUSH: A fascinating little story here, folks, a column by Chris Cillizza in the Washington Post. It is headlined: “Why No One Should be Surprised that Jay Leno Asked President Obama ‘Real’ Questions.”
Now, yesterday on this program, about 24 hours ago, I observed that I think this was the first time in my lifetime that a president of the United States had gone on a late-night comedy show to address the American people about something of potentially great consequence. Shutting down 21 embassies for a week in the Middle East is not an insignificant thing. And I pointed out the Jack Paar show did not feature John F. Kennedy. JFK did not go on the Jack Paar show to tell the American people about the Cuban missile crisis. And it just seemed to be emblematic of the plunge that the country is making in its devotion to the pop culture, the low-information segment of our country.
Now, nothing against Leno. I mean, I want to stress again, good get for him, to get the president. That’s cool. This is a White House decision. I’m not being critical of Leno at all. And I was not at all surprised that Leno would ask better questions than the White House press corps does. I’ve been a guest on The Tonight Show and when Leno had his primetime show. And I know when I’m there, all he does is ask tough questions. There isn’t any comedy, unless I interject it. I know he’s capable of it and I wasn’t surprised that he did it. But, usually in the past, when presidents have gone on comedy shows, not during moments of great import, but just a casual appearance, which by the way is relatively new in and of itself. I don’t think George H. W. Bush went on any of these shows. Clinton, I think, playing the sax on Arsenio Hall, might have been the icebreaker, certainly in the modern era. Which is not surprising. I don’t know if W. went on a comedy show or not — George W. Bush, don’t remember.
Anyway, whenever this would happen in the past, even when Clinton did it, the mainstream media would have a cow, because a comedian’s a comedian. I mean, this isn’t serious. The president of the United States is a serious guy, it’s a serious job. What is he doing talking to a comedian? They considered it a sell-out by a president to do it because you’re going up before a low-information audience. You’ve got a host who is not going to supposedly drill down the really tough questions. And it was viewed almost as an act of cowardice by the president to do it, in the eyes of the mainstream media.
Now, all of a sudden, Chris Cillizza, headline in the Washington Post: “Why No One Should Be Surprised That Jay Leno Asked President Obama ‘Real’ Questions.” He says here: “The overwhelming sentiment coming out of President ObamaÂ’s interview with Tonight Show host Jay Leno can be summed up like this: ‘Wow, Jay really asked serious questions.’ Russia, Edward Snowden.” By the way, the real news of that appearance was not the questions, but the answers and the gaffes, which we’re going to get back to here in just a second. I don’t want you to think I’ve lost my place.
Cillizza writes: “Russia, Edward Snowden and the NSA were part of the conversation. So too was the increased terror alert. And Hillary ClintonÂ’s presidential prospects. There was relatively little ‘Hey how are the wife and kids’ chatter that many people expected. (Leno did ask Obama how he spent his birthday; it wasnÂ’t a totally dry interview.)
No one who has watched the transformation of media — and how politicians have learned to take advantage of those changes — should be surprised, however.”
Because here is, according to him, the reality: “As the definition of who is a journalist has continued to expand, the line between ‘serious’ and ‘fun’ has blurred. There are examples of this phenomenon everywhere: the success of BuzzFeed and the rise of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as a primary news source for many people being the two most obvious. As we have written before in this space, the idea that a serious journalist canÂ’t have fun is not one thatÂ’s broadly held by the people who, you know, consume our journalism. LenoÂ’s interview with Obama proves that the opposite is also true; that a ‘fun’ person can also be serious.”
Now, it’s risky for me to get into this, because it could be misunderstood, but the Rush Limbaugh TV show was the Daily Show before the Daily Show. This radio program has always been something that, prior to it, really didn’t exist in major national media. I attempted to explain this now and then in the early days. When a mainstream journalist would interview me back in the days when I thought being interviewed was an opportunity to inform them and educate them, which it isn’t and wasn’t, but I would tell them what I do. They were not interested in hearing what I had to say. All they wanted to do was take shots at, make fun of or disagree with what my answer to them was. But the thing I said to them was that I do something that you don’t find elsewhere in the media. I combine the serious discussion of issues with irreverent satirical comedy, with credibility on both sides.
And then I would say, “Can you imagine if Letterman came out one night and actually did a serious monologue for five minutes?” People watching that show would not know what to do. They wouldn’t know how to react. That is not why they’re watching. They don’t tune to Letterman for anything serious. Ditto Ted Koppel and Nightline. If he opened Nightline with a 10-minute joke routine, a la Carson or Leno, people wouldn’t know what to do. That’s not why they’re watching. By the same token, if The Tonight Show started and Johnny Carson came out and did 10 minutes of drop-dead serious politics, people wouldn’t know what to do.
I’d tell these journalists in the early days of the program, “This is what I do. I do both those things with credibility. The fact that I do satire and irreverent humor does not take away from the credibility that I have with my audience when I discuss things seriously.” But because of that, in the early days, the media still used the fact that there was a lot of comedy on this program to poke holes. “Well, Limbaugh, he’s just an entertainer. I mean, I don’t know why the Republican Party pays so much attention to Limbaugh.” I mean, you still hear that today. “He’s just an entertainer,” meaning you can’t take him seriously. And then something will happen and the next week I will be the titular head of the Republican Party.
My point here is that all kinds of allowances are being made for the watering down of journalism in order to accommodate Obama. That is the point that’s being made. Normally — and you can go back and you can look — a Washington Post, New York Times columnist would be really upset at a president who appeared more often on comedy shows than he did in the White House pressroom or doing formal press conferences. You can go back and you can find that that would have been.
If George W. Bush in the middle of the war in Iraq, or after Abu Ghraib had gone to Leno or Letterman, the Washington press corps would have had a field day ripping Bush to shreds for that, for being a coward, for avoiding them. Then you would have been able to read a little jealousy or envy for whatever late-night show that Bush had appeared on. But now that it’s Obama? Well, guess what?
“Oh, journalism is changing. Even the funny can be serious. Oh, yeah! It ain’t no big deal,” and that’s what the point here is. “Nobody should be surprised that Leno asked Obama real questions.” No, really? It wasn’t that long ago you would have been ticked off that Obama wasn’t making himself available to you for these so-called serious questions. But whatever Obama does, whatever standard is being destroyed or blown up, has to be tolerated in order to accommodate Obama.
Because what this really means is, “There’s nothing wrong with Obama going on a comedy show. What’s wrong with that?” Well, I maintain to you that it’s not a serious thing to do. It’s not a place to discuss what Obama was going to discuss. That’s just me and my tip of the hat to tradition, but it’s also the idea that I take foreign policy and the office of the presidency pretty seriously.
It’s not something to be joked about and watered down for the sake of building a bridge of compatibility to the low-information population. But that’s what it’s being used as. So given now that it’s perfectly fine, “We shouldn’t be surprised that Leno asks tough questions and we shouldn’t be surprised that Obama went there. Because the definition of a journalist is expanding — and that, of course, is having to accommodate whatever Obama does.
“Because we cannot,” if we’re in the Drive-By Media, “criticize the imperial president, Barack Obama. No way. No how. It can’t happen.” In fact, I’ll even make this point: If the president today were George W. Bush, and George W. Bush had gone on Leno and gotten the same questions that Leno asked Obama, I don’t think that we’d be reading today about how Leno asked Bush tough questions or real questions.
I think that the Drive-Bys would categorize Leno as lobbing softballs at Bush if George W. Bush got the same kinds of questions from Leno that Obama got. Because if Bush had gone on there and Leno hadn’t asked, “How come you don’t care that 3,000 people died in Iraq?” And “How come the world hates you?” You know, all of these stereotypical templates and narratives that they think were true. If Leno hadn’t brought them up, it would have been a softball interview.
So it just means, folks, that standards are not worth much anymore. Standards are declining left and right, and it doesn’t matter. It’s whatever is necessary to prop up Obama.
RUSH: I have a little story here from Mediaite on this whole business of the Drive-By Media not actually probing Obama with tough questions. Mediaite, by the way, is no conservative website. The headline here: “The Other Benghazi Scandal: Journalists Worry Covering the Attack Threatens White House Access.” The thrust of this story is that CNN had a random act of journalism the other day in which they reported that there were a bunch of CIA agents on the ground in Benghazi.
CNN actually reported that what might have been going on there (and the reason the ambassador was there) was a gun-running operation to the rebels in Syria, who were opposing Bashir al-Assad. There’s a story here from Mediaite that the people at CNN are now scared to death that they were tough, that they were critical. Not critical, but just that they reported the truth! They’re very worried at CNN that they might not have as much access to the White House now, and they’re not alone.
This story from Mediaite goes on to say that journalists throughout the Drive-By Media, the Washington press corps, are just very reluctant to tell the truth about this administration, because they will be denied access. They won’t be able to hang around Obama. They won’t be able to get leaks. They won’t be able to talk to Obama. They won’t be treated nicely by people in the White House. So it’s about access.
They won’t be able to talk to Obama!
That’s why this story says that there aren’t any tough questions, and that is why we have to rely on late-night comics for it.
RUSH: The journalists, they’re so devoted to Obama. They are such sycophants that they’re worried about access. Here’s a network insider, unnamed, speaking to Mediate about this.
“Access is a very serious consideration when it comes to stories that could adversely impact a show, correspondent, or networkÂ’s relationship with the administration, a campaign, or any political leader. I would suggest itÂ’s not an accident that those who have been given a lot of access to the president have generally been AWOL when it comes to stories that might reflect poorly on him.”
And that’s why Leno asked the tough questions, and that’s why the Drive-Bys are now saying it’s no big deal. Hey, you can have fun and be serious at the same time. Folks, I don’t want to make a bigger deal out of this than it needs to be. I mean, this is not earth shattering stuff here. But I’m just telling you that it wasn’t all that long ago that journalism, by definition, wasn’t fun. It was too serious. These people take themselves very seriously. I mean, they are elitists. They have a constitutional role, of course, in our country.
I always used to say when people said, “Well, you’re a journalist.”
“No, I’m not. I laugh.” Jocularity was not associated. But now all of that is off the table. Whatever it takes to accommodate Obama, because the media has never, where Obama has been concerned, been reporters. They’re nothing but suck-ups. That’s why I call them State Controlled. They are suck-ups. They want to run around and talk about how close they are to Obama, as though he’s their friend, confidant and buddy. I mean, the line between journalists and government, becoming friends with who you cover, it’s a huge no-no.
All of that is out the window now. And it’s part and parcel of the mediocre problematic coverage that we get. I guess in one sense I find this interesting personally. It may be a little too inside baseball, but the idea that we have a story, “Hey, it’s perfectly fine that a comedian asks serious questions. Everybody is a journalist now.” I’m telling you, that would never fly with any other president.