- - Wednesday, March 12, 2014



Every time I sit down to write my column, my wife or my son or my daughter will wander in and say: “Whucha’ dune?”

I always say, “Writing my column.” Then they always say: “What about? How bad Obama is — again?”

Now, let’s be clear: President Obama is a terrible president, truly awful, the worst in a century (sorry Jimmy). He’s not only failed to spur the U.S. economy after five years in office, he’s made things worse. Much worse. Are you better off? No. He’s also made a mess of foreign policy. His tactic of dividing Americans — white against black, rich against poor, gay against straight — is despicable. And his health care reform law is a disaster. And what’s more, he —

Wait, hang on. Back to my point, with me at the computer and my family members hovering. “Well, yes,” I usually say, “kinda’ about how bad Obama is. But see, you won’t believe what he did this week, when he —” Then they burst in, blurt out in unison: “Why don’t you write something nice for once!?”

So here you go, family: President Obama did something very funny and quite clever on Tuesday, appearing with comedian Zach Galiafianakis for a short sketch on “Between Two Ferns.”

The six-minute bit is, at times, laugh-out-loud funny, with the president getting in several well-timed zingers and burns — and playing a great straight man when Zach gives him a few hilarious thumps. The idea to target young people through a “Ferns” sketch, instead of, say, Saturday Night Live or some YouTube video, was nothing short of brilliant.

That’s right, brilliant. I said it.

Here’s why: Mr. Obama needs young people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act (last time I checked, that was the law of the land, and while half the country doesn’t like it, the other half does). So, he’s made a big push to find kids where they live, like doing an AMA on reddit.com, “slow-jamming” the news on Jimmy Fallon, and, now, a “Ferns” segment.

Did it work? Let’s see: In three hours, the clip got 2 million views, Variety reported. Meanwhile, healthcare.gov, which the president plugged in the sketch, got nearly 900,000 clicks on Tuesday, up 40 percent from the day before. What’s more, 95 percent of those clicks were new visitors.

Conservatives, though, blew all their gaskets. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly said “Abe Lincoln would not have done it.” “There comes a point when serious times call for serious action,” he said. Other Fox hosts also got their undies in a wad. “Pretty tragic,” said morning talker Brian Kilmeade. “Inappropriate,” said fellow host Elisabeth Hasselbeck.

The Washington Free Beacon called the appearance “dreadful” And “gross.” Laura Ingraham tweeted that “presiding over America’s decline is a knee-slapper.” Roger Friedman, editor-in-chief of Showbiz 411 and a former Fox reporter, got even more worked up, calling Mr. Obama’s appearance “less presidential than Richard Nixon saying ‘Sock it to me’ on ‘Laugh In.’ “

But that’s the thing: Dick Nixon did it, then Gerald Ford appeared on “Saturday Night Live.” Bill Clinton played saxophone on the “Arsenio Hall Show” and even George W. Bush appeared on “Deal or No Deal.” And frankly, Mr. O’Reilly, we don’t know whether Lincoln would’ve done “Ferns.” He seemed like a wryly funny guy.

Still, ABC’s Jim Avila, in full dudgeon at the daily briefing, demanded to know “how much discussion was there in the White House about the dignity of the office.” Clearly not a “Ferns” afficionado, he also asked: “Was it a comedy routine that was done in advance, or was this an actual interview?”

“I think what it says is that gone are the days when your broadcasts, or yours, or yours, can reach everybody that we need to reach,” said spokesman Jay Carney.

“You bring in Zach Galifianakis and all your problems are solved?” another reporter sniffed.

People, people, people. Calm. Down. It was a six-minute goofy appearance by the president. The right is forever castigating Mr. Obama as elitist and out of touch, so now, when he does a silly little sketch for an internet site, he’s suddenly sullied the presidency beyond repair?

Having covered politics a long time, one thing has always bugged me: How a large majority of each side, Democrat and Republican, literally hates every single thing a president of the other party does. Many Democrats despised George W. Bush — personally, the man himself — and to them, he did not accomplish a single decent thing in his eight years. Of course, they forget about the prescription drug plan and the education bill he crafted with Sen. Ted Kennedy, to name just two.

Same with Mr. Obama. Terrible president? You bet — in my opinion. But every single act wrong and stupid? Please. That’s not true for anyone, so it’s also not true for the president. And for me, the end of existing conditions disqualifying people for health insurance and keeping your kids on your policy until they’re 26, to name just two ideas, are pretty good.

And while we’re at it, let’s throw these facts out there, too: Mr. Obama loves his wife, loves his two daughters, wants to see them grow up in a safe and secure world. More, the man is probably doing his flat-out best to run the country, and if he needs to take an afternoon off for a round of golf, all I can say is, fairways and greens, Mr. President.

With that, I’ve got to say sorry to my family. That’s the best I can do for compliments. Next week, my column will most likely begin with: “You’ll never believe what President Obama did this week ” But to the president I say, thanks for the laughs. And really, I think both sides can agree we could all use a little bit more laughter in this world.

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @josephcurl.

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