- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2000

Late-night humor

"One aspect of [David] Letterman's almightiness is that he makes a virtue of that pitfall for every long-running TV show: repetition. Beyond the nightly Top Ten lists (which audiences still love, but which clearly bore the host), Letterman loves finding some silly phrase, pet peeve, or unrehearsed embarrassment caught on tape that he can refer to or play over and over… .

"Thus the jag he was on for a while about what a 'rip-off' the Internet is ('It took me six hours to get the weather in Milwaukee.'). And thus the endless replaying and mythologizing of that moment on June 16 when a dog accidentally bit Dave's face during Stupid Pet Tricks; 10 days after the glancing scratch, Letterman had inflated it into an attack by a 'wild dingo' and was still getting fresh comic nourishment out of it.

"While [Conan] O'Brien, Jay Leno, Craig Kilborn, Jon Stewart and Bill Maher have all settled on the tame political stereotypes they'll joke about Bush is a dumb party animal. Gore is a stiff Letterman is the only late-night host to suggest something a little more substantive: that Bush is a dangerous dumb party animal, that Gore is a worthless stiff… .

"Letterman … loves to spread absurd rumors, insisting that Joe Lieberman 'had a brief, stormy marriage to Melanie Griffith.' "

Ken Tucker, writing on "Night Shift," in the Sept. 8 issue of Entertainment Weekly

His legacy

"We are supposedly entering 'legacy time,' and I think history will record with some astonishment that this remorseless progress towards a corporate state was accompanied by a chorus of support from the politically correct.

"During the impeachment battle, for example, feminists rallied around a man who hit on the help and then trashed his conquests if they complained. African-American leaders described our 'first black president' a character who as a candidate had made a point of executing the mentally deficient Rickey Ray Rector, who ditched Lani Guinier, humiliated Betty Currie, and vetoed a United Nations resolution calling for international action to forestall the genocide in Rwanda.

"Liberal academics and intellectuals flocked to a president who had bombed Sudan in dog-wagging style, deceived his Cabinet, taken wagonloads of off-the-record money from Indonesian and Chinese special interests, and rented Mr. Lincoln's bedroom to the fat cats.

"A price has to be paid for all this, and the immediate as well as longer-lasting cost is this: American Democratic liberalism has lost its honor and prestige and has proved itself as adept at making excuses for power as any Babbitt in the Nixon era."

Christopher Hitchens, writing on "Bill of Goods" in the October issue of Mother Jones magazine

Heroes no more

"The heroic Czech dissident and statesman Vaclav Havel argues that our ancestors, despite their inferior scientific knowledge of the universe, 'knew something more essential about it than we do, something that escapes us.'

"What they knew, for all the disagreement over details from one culture to another, was 'the same basic message: People should revere God as a phenomenon that transcends them.' And as a corollary, they believed 'they should revere on another.' In that space for reverence, the hero resides… .

"Religious faith was vigorously attacked by secular intellectuals in the so-called Enlightenment. One of their slogans ran, 'No God, no master.' To that we may add, 'No souls.' And, 'No heroes.'

"A culture can live off the accrued moral capital of its religious forebears. It can continue to revere heroes after rejecting the religious view of the potential grandeur of beings made in the divine image. But only for a while. We have just about run out of capital. And that is why we have heroes no more."

Edward E. Ericson Jr., writing on "No Reverence, No Heroes," in the September issue of the American Enterprise

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