President Wise-Guy

Look – as Fred Armisen might put it – I know that the Financial Times Deutschland is continually obliged to justify its right to the salmon-pinkish paper it is printed upon by upholding the same standard of serious and reliable business- and financial-journalism as that embodied by the original (British) Financial Times that engendered it . . . but perhaps sometimes it can just go too far.

As with the latest FTD opinion column by Henning Jess – entitled Präsident Witzig, which literally is “President Witty” or “President Funny” – whose point is to ask, “In these very serious times, how come Barack Obama and John McCain are joking around so much?”

The object of Jess’ ire would seem primarily to be the dueling stand-up comedy routines the two presidential candidates delivered last Thursday (16 October) at the white-tie Alfred E. Smith Memorial Foundation Dinner in New York City. (Those of you with a subscription to the on-line magazine Salon, or the willingness to sit through whatever advertisement they present you to watch for temporary access, can go here for a useful summary of the best lines plus the embedded video; the rest can surely find the latter on YouTube). He also expresses his objection to McCain following after Obama and “aping” him (heräffen) with a “frivolous grimace” involving the outward extension of his tongue. This must be an incident at the last debate that Jess is referring to – you can contemplate McCain’s “frivolous grimace” here – and he has definitely misunderstood what this particular episode was all about. For I have also seen the video, not just the still, and this countenance which McCain had the misfortune of offering to photographic posterity only represents McCain’s mock-expression of frustration at starting out to exit the debate-stage along the wrong side, before he stopped short and obediently went out the other – and so not any expression of mockery at Obama, or indeed any real attempt at humor.

That is how Jess chooses to interpret it, however, and that together with the sheer fact of having, together with Obama, devoted the following evening (i.e. after that last Presidential debate) to humor in general, in these grim times, seems to tick him off. Admittedly, he does not express any such sentiment in so many words, but maybe we can safely conclude that anyway from the heavy sarcasm that follows, as he offers suggestions as to what these gentlemen can do if they truly have such an urge to be comedians:

Actually, they both could make a comedy-show: McCain as the genial host who warms the crowd up with a few opening gags. And Obama kids around in the pedestrian-zone with seniors who can’t hear so well anymore. Yes, that would be great.

And when Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad then comes to the White House, at the the state banquet he will first find himself sitting down on a whoopie-cushion [German: das Furzkissen – consider this your German vocabulary word of the day, all in furtherance of the educational function we like to fulfill here at €S], and everyone will be on the floor laughing. When visiting troops in Afghanistan the future US president will pull such long funny-faces that everyone all the way to the very last Taliban will be holding their sides, begging for mercy. And bankers, climate-activists, the unemployed, and single mothers will get the message: Don’t be such sour-pusses! You all get a free seminar in humor. This is the New Deal.

Oooooooooh – so serious! Tell me, someone, does the real (i.e. dead-tree) Financial Times Deutschland print cartoons of any kind, editorial or otherwise?

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