Thursday, August 17

Doing his best Yakov Smirnoff, Joe Lieberman took the stage with an enthusiastic, "Is America a great country or what?" Unfortunately, it quickly became clear that the senator lacks the comic timing of the Russian master. Though the New York Times, desperate for a filler story, compared him to Henny Youngman, Rodney Dangerfield and Jack Benny, Lieberman’s comedy stylings were so cringe-inducing they made the rest of his God-and-country oratory seem positively subtle by comparison.

Let’s examine Lieberman’s biggest joke, regarding the inclusive tone of the GOP convention: "We may be near Hollywood tonight, but not since Tom Hanks won an Oscar has there been that much acting in Philadelphia." First of all, the Hollywood mention does nothing except telegraph the punchline: pay attention, I’m about to make an acting joke. And the joke doesn’t even make sense: "that much acting…"? They don’t give Oscars for quantity, Joe. However, the real laugh-killer is that every time Lieberman finishes a joke, he mechanically flashes his teeth and his eyebrows shoot up in the facial-tic equivalent of a rim shot. It’s enough to make us wistful for George W’s steadfastly furrowed brow.

Fortunately, Lieberman was not exactly following a tough act. The cheers for his wife Hadassah’s halting introduction proved that the long-suffering crowd at the Staples Center was by then willing to get excited about anyone who wasn’t Jon Corzine. Lieberman thanked his wife with a Clintonian "Isn’t she great?" then folded her into his what-a-country routine. After recounting Hadassah’s parents’ story, he declared, "The fact that half a century later their daughter would be standing on this stage is a testament to the continuing power of the American dream." Yes, in America, any woman can grow up to be the wife of a powerful man.

When the speech finally ground to a halt, CNN’s Judy Woodruff attempted to find something interesting about it. "We did not hear him mention Bill Clinton," she pointed out. "We did hear him mention Ronald Reagan." Actually, Lieberman’s exact words were, "as presidents from Lincoln to Roosevelt to Reagan to Clinton have reminded us…" But we certainly don’t blame Woodruff for zoning out.

Besides, CNN had more important issues on its plate. In stark contrast to the previous day’s coverage of nearby protests, CNN last night presented a virtual indictment of police heavy-handedness. "That officer! Does anybody have his name?" Bernard Shaw exploded, watching a video of a cop jabbing a woman with a baton. "He’s a corporal," Shaw continued, tapping his inner investigative reporter. "He has two stripes." Curiously, the New York Times continued to downplay the protests–"the police largely remained cool"–but then, the woman getting her ribs broken in the video didn’t work for the Times. She did work for CNN. Any LAPD-inflicted injuries among non-media personnel were not addressed.

The evening wrapped up with testimonials from Al Gore’s daughter and his college roommate, both of whom announced their intentions to vote for him. So that’s two down. From here on in, as another friend of the vice president’s told MSNBC, it’s "a good strong dose of Al Gore." That should really help Judy Woodruff sleep.

—Daniel Radosh

[ 100% True ]

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