–Richard E. Vatz
I love Saturday Night Live and have through its long tenure, save a few lost years of unfunny non-Lorne Michaels tutelage.
Every four years, however, the show aims its rhetorical darts primarily at the Republican presidential and vice-presidential nominees, with a few soft jabs at the Democratic presidential and vice-presidential nominees.
So it was with 2004’s George W. Bush and John Kerry, although there was a perhaps unintendedly consequential good single rhetorical shot by SNL’s Seth Meyers at Sen. Kerry’s flip-flopping.
In 2008 it was not even close, as the serial shots at Gov. Sarah Palin by Tina Fey were never-ending, while the satirizing of Joe Biden was of a lovable, mistake-prone, but serious candidate. Sen. Barack Obama was lovingly depicted. Sen. McCain was treated like the average candidate who nominated a fool for vice-president.
Forward to 2012, and the ridiculing of Gov. Mitt Romney is ruthless, if often funny, while the impersonations of President Obama are respectful and limited to materials such at those of September 22, which had Mr. Meyers (a favorite of the writer, believe it or not, and the son of his former fellow counselor at a day camp) gently chiding the president for his allegedly unnecessary remarks, while Romney was allegedly destroying himself, that he couldn’t change Washington from the inside.
That was followed by a blistering — sorry, but funny — caricaturing of Ann Romney’s complaints about Republican criticism of her husband.
There is a large number of satirizable aspects of President Obama’s leadership, from his avoidance of addressing economic issues despite the horrendous economy, his fecklessness in foreign policy and, more innocuously, his golfing predilections and prioritizing of speaking on “The View” and avoiding of press conferences during times of political stress and stressful elections.
It is no less than a national shame to watch the pre-eminent American political humor show go in the tank so obviously every four years, and more this presidential year than ever.
Professor Vatz teaches political persuasion at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (2012, 2013)