LETTER: Political comics the NRA of the 1st Amendment

To the editor:

Think of our constitution’s First Amendment as a muscle. Ideally, it is powerful, strong, and our best defense against anyone who wishes us ill — from either outside or within. It is, likely, a better defense than that Second Amendment, which is important, too. Any muscle must be frequently exercised to remain viable; the flabby, withered ones are useless. Good exercise breaks down a muscle just a little and makes it sore, but leaves it stronger.

Judging by her critics, comedian Michelle Wolf gave that muscle a vigorous workout at the April 28 White House Correspondent Association’s annual dinner. A May 4 writer in this space complained, “All of her words were directed at Sarah Huckabee Sanders.” He should have paid closer attention.

Ms. Wolf’s trenchant barbs skewered some two dozen named folks who have chosen the public sphere: nine current, or former, elected office holders; eight media personalities — NBC, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox among them; four un-elected members of the administration, including Ms. Sanders; two adult Trump family members other than the president; and, both Harvey Weinstein and attorney Michael Cohen.

Unlike her boss, Sarah Sanders was on hand for the grilling. After his 2011 experience there, Mr. Trump is simply too thin-skinned, and fearful of the event.

I agree with the May 4 writer’s assertion, “Comedy is, for the most of us, funny.” But funny is in the ear of the beholder. The late Jerry Clower, staunchly Christian, made us howl with his hilarious tales about the “Ledbetter” clan.

Political comedy, though, is commentary in another form. Both Ms. Wolf and Bill Maher strike me as funny. Each pushes limits, including some observations that, occasionally, leave me a little uneasy. In other words, both are probably about right as political comics. Besides, after the president’s manifold “gems” along the 2016 campaign trail, can any Trump advocate really complain, with a straight face, about Michelle Wolf?

Could political comics be the NRA of the First Amendment? At least their “assault weapons” leave no one dead.

Our first amendment left its April 28 workout sore, but unbroken, and the stronger for it. I suspect Michelle Wolf earned her evening’s paycheck when some saw “vile, despicable, and insulting,” while many of us saw the powerful squirming and reminded not to get too comfortable.

The comfortable are the Putins, the Xi Jinpings, and the Kim Jong-uns of our world.

Douglas Smith