February 4, 2008

I’m curious, if one of these days, John McCain's acerbic sense of humor might get him into a little trouble. In 1998, for example, at a Republican Senate fundraiser, McCain thought he was very clever when he told a nasty, tasteless joke about Chelsea Clinton, describing the president’s daughter as “ugly,” and suggesting that Janet Reno is a man. More recently, he was asked how soon we can go to war with Iran. McCain, trying to be funny, starting singing “Bomb Iran” to the tune of the Beach Boys’ “Barbara Ann.”

Yesterday morning, the senator, apparently doing another stand-up routine, but didn’t get too much laughter with this material:

“[After introducing former Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas], and from the great state of South Carolina, Sen. Lindsey Graham. After this meeting, if you’d like to talk to senator, either senator Graham, we will provide translators for any of you that need to, find them hard to understand. I find them hard to — anyway....

I’m trying to imagine what the reaction would be if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, campaigning in “liberal Massachusetts,” mocked people with Southern accents and suggested his audience might need interpreters to understand those from South Carolina.

I realize McCain was trying to be clever, just as he was when he started singing “Bomb Iran” or when he maliciously went after Chelsea Clinton. I suspect there are going to plenty of people who hear all of this and say, “Lighten up; he was just kidding around.” Maybe so.

But my point isn’t to be up-tight about bad comedy; my point is that John McCain’s comedic styles are going to get him into some political trouble one of these days. Mocking southerners for their accents seems like he’s playing with fire.

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