Donald Trump's War on Comedy

04 February 2013
Published in Blog

Just when you thought Donald Trump couldn’t possibly slither to a lower level, he has done it. The paradoxically thin-skinned, yet leather-faced Trump announced Monday that he’s going to sue comedian Bill Maher for $5 million dollars in essence because of a joke Maher told mocking The Donald.

What led to Trump getting his hair all in a wad? It all started in January when Bill Maher was on “The Tonight Show” and joked that Trump was the, “spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan.” Maher’s reasoning was that the only thing in nature that has the same orange-ish color hair as Trump is an orangutan, hence, Trump must be part orangutan. A split screen of Trump and orangutan did reveal an uncanny resemblance.

Maher, to the delight of “The Tonight Show” audience, then offered to donate $5 million dollars to charity if Trump produced his birth certificate. (This $5 million number was the same amount Trump had offered in October to donate to charity if President Obama would produce his passport and college records.)

Maher even suggested some appropriate charities that Trump could donate the millions to such as, “The Hair Club for Men or the Institute for incorrigible douche baggery.” (Pretty sure Lance Armstrong is also in that Institute.)

Trump, instead of simply ignoring this joke like all other billionaires would, actually responded by producing his birth certificate to prove that he was 100% human. (Call me a “Trumper,” but I’m still not buying it’s a real birth certificate.)

Trump then demanded Maher pay up on the “offer.” Since Maher has refused to pay, Trump is now filing a lawsuit versus Maher for $5 million dollars.

Who except a publicity craving, megalomaniac could think Maher’s joke was a valid offer to pay $5 million dollars?! I’m a former lawyer, I can tell you it’s highly unlikely that any judge would find that Maher’s joke was intended by him to be a binding offer to enter into a contract with Trump. When you look at the context of the “offer” and the place it was told- “The Tonight Show”- most rational people would understand it was a joke.

Obviously, Donald Trump’s goal here- as with most things - is to attract press. He’s like a vampire who needs publicity instead of blood to survive. (Clearly his hair has been dead for years.) If we collectively ignored Trump, he might actually wither away like a vampire exposed to sunlight. And, to be honest, I would usually encourage us all to just that.

But to me, Trump has a more sinister goal with this lawsuit: To send a message that if you tell jokes about The Donald that he doesn’t like, he may sue you. Like a dictator in a third world country, his majesty Donald Trump tells us all that if we mock him, we will be punished. 

Look, if you are a public figure who has thrust yourself into the spotlight like the publicity whore Trump has, you will be the subject of jokes. That comes with the territory. But Trump hates being mocked. Think back to the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in 2011 when SNL’s Seth Meyers crushed Trump in a sea of ridiculing jokes. Trump should have simply laughed and tipped his hair to Seth.

Instead, Trump didn't crack a smile.  As the audience laughed at Trump, he increasingly looked angry. The Donald later lashed out at Seth mocking his delivery of jokes. Trump even called Seth a “stutterer.” Not sure where he heard Seth stutter – maybe there’s an echo in Trump’s empty head.

The media should not dismiss this lawsuit by Trump as simply another pathetic and desperate attempt at publicity. It’s more dangerous than that. It’s an attack on comedy. It’s an attack on freedom of expression.

My hope is that comedians, and non-comedians alike, will not back down to Trump. Instead, I propose that we make it a daily ritual to mock Trump on Twitter. In fact lets have a “Ridicule Trump Day” later this week on Twitter-Trump’s Twitter handle is @realDonaldTrump.

We shouldn't cower from this orange haired, leather faced billionaire bully. Instead we should respond in the very way he hates most: By mocking him. He can’t sue all of us! (Right?)

Is Mitt Romney actually “Stupid”?

18 July 2012
Published in Blog

Could Mitt Romney be “stupid”?

That’s the question CNN’s Erin Burnett posed on her show this past Monday when discussing Romney’s refusal to release his past income tax returns. Actually, she hypothesized that there were three possible reasons Mitt refused to release them:

“One, he had a lot more money in tax shelters in prior years than he does now."

"Two, he did something shady.”

“Or, three, he's stupid."

Could Mitt’s refusal to release these documents--which are clearly hurting his campaign—be because of stupidity?

Look, there’s no doubt Mitt is very book smart. He earned two graduate degrees from Harvard--an MBA and Law degree-which he received after cramming 5 years of studying into 4 years. Only about 12 people per year achieve this feat at Harvard. 

But in the immortal words of “Forrest Gump:” “Stupid is as stupid does.” Which means that even if you have the best education in the world, and are a multi-millionaire, if you do stupid things, you’re stupid. It’s that simple.

Maybe the dictionary can help us decide this issue.  Merriam-Webster’s tells us that the most appropriate definition of the word “stupid” is: “Given to unintelligent decisions or acts.”

So, is withholding tax returns an “unintelligent decision” aka "stupid"? It would seem to be when polls indicate that 61% of Independent voters think Romney should release his returns from the last 12 years. (To date, Romney has only released his 2010 returns and an estimate for 2011.)

Add to that, Republican leaders have been increasingly calling for Romney to release these returns, including Congressman Ron Paul, Texas Governor Rick Perry, and Alabama Governor Robert Bentley.

And, add even to that, well-known conservatives in the media such as George Will, Bill Kristol, and “The National Review” have, too, called upon Romney to be more forthcoming and release returns for additional years.

It's true that presidential candidates are not legally mandated to release their tax returns. Yet candidates since FDR have voluntarily released them. These candidates--Democrats and Republicans alike--understood that this is about transparency. We, the people, are entitled to know how our possible future president made their income, how much taxes they have paid as well as to know what and where they have invested.

That is why Mitt Romney’s own father--George Romney--released 12 years of his tax returns when he was seeking the 1968 Republican Presidential nomination. Bob Dole--the Republican presidential nominee in 1996—released 30 years of his past returns, while George W. Bush released nine years and Barack Obama seven.

And when presidential candidates refused to be forthcoming in releasing tax returns, such as in the case of Democratic presidential candidates Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton, the media hammered them until they were released.

Lets state the obvious to make the stakes clear: Mitt Romney is seeking to be the head of the biggest economy and most lethal military in the world. He will in essence be the leader of the free world and one of the most powerful people on this planet. Thus, we deserve to know as much as possible about him and certainly information regarding facts which are solely within his possession--like his tax returns.

This growing controversy is reminiscent of the one started by the right that President Obama was not born in the United States. These “birthers” kept pressing this issue until it became a distraction to President Obama’s agenda. Consequently, President Obama had no other way to put the issue to rest than to finally release his long form birth certificate in April 2011.

Mitt Romney is obviously aware of both the birther issue and the past “taxer” issues. And just as in those instances, this issue is becoming a distraction to his campaign and an ever-expanding albatross around his neck.

This brings us back to the original question: Could Romney be stupid? Very doubtful. But not releasing his tax returns is stupid. It will plague him through the campaign until Election Day. However, despite this obvious downside, Romney still refuses to release the returns.

To quote another iconic line from "Forest Gump:" “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Well, only Mitt Romney knows what’s in his income tax returns and he’s certainly fully aware of what he’s “gonna get” in response if he releases them.

It appears that Romney would prefer to be labeled “stupid” than release his past tax returns. Could it be that the consequences of releasing his returns are far worse?