Uncle President Makes a Funny
With this joke during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, President Obama elicited the Groan of the Union:
Yes, it was a dumb joke, but was he smart to deliver it? Unfortunately, this joke may be too dumb to withstand closer scrutiny.
Here’s the kindest thing you could say about it: in an effort to demonstrate the nonsensical nature of government regulations, Obama punctuated the point with a nonsensical punchline.
Only after diagramming this joke and breaking down its noun-verb agreements, pronouns, and indirect objects can one conclude that “it” must have been a dairy farmer. A clearer version would have been: “With rules like that, if you were a farmer you’d be crying over spilled milk, too.” Better yet, the president should have crossed it out in his last run-through, leaving it where it probably always belonged—in the trash bin of history.
The Boy Who Cried Baloney
Back in New Hampshire, when Mitt Romney offered a laughable explanation for why he didn’t seek a second term as governor, Newt Gingrich characterized his opponent’s denial of being a career politician as “pious baloney,” thus coining a phrase that had currency.
Newt is reaching for lunch meats once again. On Monday, he described Romney’s latest attacks as “desperate baloney.” Said Newt: “As president, he’ll be able to open up a delicatessen.”
Bad news for Newt: this time there’s no baloney. That check he cashed from Freddie Mac for $1.6 million and the one he wrote for $300,000 to the House ethics committee will strike most people as facts. Maybe he should hit Rick Santorum on his pork-laden earmarks? He should keep trying—maybe he’ll come up with his “Where’s the beef?” eventually.
Mitt Caught Looking
When Romney tried to illuminate Newt’s hazy distinction between historian and lobbyist, all he had was this lame duck:
Monday night’s debate in Tampa demonstrated that Mitt’s new debate coach, Brett O’Donnell, can supply good lines but can’t stand in the former governor’s shoes on live TV.
So when Newt admitted he'd hired a lobbyist expert, Romney missed a fastball thrown right down the middle of the plate, inexplicably ignoring the noteworthy admission.
Howsabout if he had said something more like this: “Newt, if you hire a lobbyist expert to figure out if you are a lobbyist, you might just be a lobbyist.” There’s a soundbite that might be heard round the world.
Put it in his pocket for next time, Brett.
What’s Missing From This Audio?
The 2012 GOP campaign has already secured Newt Gingrich’s supremacy as a master debater. But as an arena full of Floridians assented to Brian Williams’s request for decorum, it was plain to see that Newt without applause is like Morton Downey Jr. without his audience.
This answers the age-old conundrum: if an angry man delivers seething retorts to a quiet audience, will he make a soundbite?
Newt spent the day complaining about the media’s attempt to squelch free speech as expressed in hoots and hollers. Not surprisingly, the Romney campaign responded by circulating a familiar headline. If Newt somehow goes on to win the nomination, this image will be flashed before your eyes many more times to come.
Newt’s Moment of Zen
Romney filibustered Monday night when questioned about his greatest achievements in advancing conservatism. Within the hour, Newt’s Debate Spin War Room sent this email to reporters:
On-message humor delivered in zero syllables. Kudos for the most succinct line of the night.
Mark Katz is the founder and principal of the Soundbite Institute, a creative think tank that specializes in on-message humor. At the Tactical Humorist, Katz breaks down the laughs in the 2012 presidential campaign.
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