When the late Andrew Breitbart asked me in the fall of 2009 to start a new website called Big Journalism, the first thing I looked for in potential contributors was a sharp wit and a way with words. Luckily for me, one of the first people who signed on was Steve Grammatico, who quickly carved out a place for himself as our house satirist par excellence – the scourge of leftist cant, pious liberal nonsense and pie-in-the-sky progressivism.
Steve began his rise to punchlines and punditry in a typically 21st-century way, as the commenter “Sagman” on the influential lucianne.com website, where his sparkling insouciance quickly won him a loyal following. Wrote one fan: “writing good political satire involves more than wit and words; it requires exceptional knowledge of personalities, politics, and policies.”
Satire, as the great playwright George S. Kaufman famously noted, is what closes on Saturday night. As someone who, under the nom de plume of “David Kahane,” has written a fair amount of satire myself, I would amend that wisecrack to “bad satire.” Good satire – biting, crackling and always on target, but never simply mean and insulting – is what plays and plays. Because, at its heart, everybody knows its true. And even when it’s not, it is anyway.
If you doubt me, consider this: The Beggar’s Opera, a work of the English musical theater which skewered contemporary politicians, manners and mores has been playing, more or less continuously, since 1728. Yes, you read that right: for nearly three hundred years, both in its original form by John Gay and Johann Pepusch, and in its German incarnation by Bert Brecht and Kurt Weill, “The Threepenny Opera.” And you know what? It’s still funny.
Hence, this book, drawn from Steve’s work for Big Journalism and elsewhere. Chief among these pieces are the series of the Obama War Room parodies, in which all the villains of the administration are given free rein to express their innermost thoughts to a largely bewildered and clueless Barry, with the fun almost invariably ending when Michelle breaks into the room to berate the hapless president, her tirades ending with the words, “You hear me, Barack?”
In short, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wonder aloud, “what the hell were we thinking?” in electing Barack Hussein Obama president in 2008 and again in 2012. “My goal,” he says, “is to get people to laugh, to see my scenarios as a warped and often not so warped reflection of reality. For me, incongruity is at the heart of satire.”
So sit back, relax and enjoy this parade of poltroons, hoist high with their own petards. You’re in the hands of a master.
One of Steve’s favorite devices is to go inside the corridors of power, transform himself into a fly on the wall and then report back. Here’s a splendid example:
BENGHAZI: WHAT REALLY HAPPENED
White House Situation Room
September 11, 2012
LEON PANETTA: [to aide] Call the Residence. On speaker.
[First Lady answers]
PANETTA: Leon Panetta, Ma’am. We need the president in the Situation Room ASAP.
MICHELLE: He’s busy playing Ragnarök II— the Awakening on his Xbox. His forces are in the middle of a decisive action. Can’t you handle the problem?
PANETTA: Uh, no Ma’am.
MICHELLE: Oh for God’s sake. [yells] Barack! Pick up! It’s Panetta!!
OBAMA: Jeez, Leon. What’s so important? I’ve just breached Rozamin’s redoubt; Castle Covenant’s ripe for the taking. It’ll set the Outliers back on their heels for months.
PANETTA: Trouble sir, Benghazi. I . . .
OBAMA: Ben Ghazi? The Israeli Defense Minister?
PANETTA: No, sir. Our consulate in Libya. Ambassador Stevens and his team are under attack. OBAMA: Leon, weeks went into planning this siege. You want me to suspend the operation and come down there to do what, exactly?
PANETTA: Sir, only you possess the authority to . . .
OBAMA: Leon, I authorize you to do whatever successfully resolves the situation and accrues to my benefit. Should things blow up in our faces, it’s on you. I was out of the loop. Clear?
PANETTA: Yes, sir.
MICHELLE: [in background] Barack! Zulu 4 is in. They want to know if they should proceed to the Chamber of the Gods.
OBAMA: Gotta go, Leon. My people need me. I want good news in the morning.
OBAMA: I’ll make this quick, everyone. I can get nine holes in if I arrive a little early in Vegas for the fundraiser. The official story is, the FBI has launched a probe of last night’s events in Benghazi. Attorney General Holder promises a full accounting at some indeterminate point in the future, when the incident is forgotten or I’ve left office, whichever comes first.
DIANE SAWYER: Sir, why don’t we just ignore Benghazi the way we’ve done with “Fast and Furious,” Solyndra, the Black Panther whitewash, the . . .
OBAMA: I understand, Diane.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: I agree with her, sir.. The incident doesn’t impact the lives of ordinary Americans. Why even bring the matter up?
WOLF BLITZER: The story’s already broken out.
JAY CARNEY: Exactly. So, downplay it. With ten seconds left at the end of the broadcast after, for example, the plight of Yellowstone’s wild burros, refer to an incident in Libya that’s still being sorted out.
SCOTT PELLEY: What a coincidence! The wild burros story is our lead tonight.
Another Sagman specialty is the fake press release, which can easily be mistaken for the real thing. Here’s one now!
CARVILLE NAMED “RIGHT WING THREAT ASSESSMENT CZAR”
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Obama introduced James Carville today as Homeland Security’s new “Right Wing Threat Assessment Czar.” A political science professor at Tulane, Carville is inexplicably married to Republican strategist Mary Matalin.
The president praised Dr. Carville’s “unparalleled understanding of the danger the right poses to his vision for America. He will work with Attorney General Holder and the IRS to ferret out and expose subversion masquerading as dissent.”
Carville— or “Serpenthead,” as he is known to political herpetologists—announced he will launch an investigation into the origins and funding of the “tea party” movement that has spread across the country and cost Democrats at the polls despite the efforts of the DNC to portray Tea Partiers as the American Taliban.
“Ya got these here ‘tea pirates’ hijackin’ the national conversation, talkin’ trash, holdin’ up the Constitution as some kinda sacred text ‘at empowers ‘em. They messin’ wid simple, hard workin’ folks’ heads, people never give the IRS nor deficits no never mind before, gettin’‘em riled up ’n spoutin’ anti-gummint nonsense.
“Limbaugh, Hannity, Levin, the Reynolds fella,” Carville continued, “they leadin’ the pack, but I’m gonna call in my own dogs to wet the fire ’fore the hunt’s done, the moon’s come over the bayou, we’ve et the mudbugs, and the jambalaya’s simmerin’ in the pot.” Asked to explain, Mr. Carville responded, “Say what?”
Finally, no day at the White House would be complete with a visit to its village idiot, Joe Biden. Here he is, having at go at playing statesman on TV:
JOE BIDEN ON 60 INTERMINABLE MINUTES
BYRON PITTS: Thanks for coming in, Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: Glad to, Brad. How’re Angelina, the kids?
PITTS: Um, fine, sir.
BIDEN: Hey, this interview’s on deep background, okay?
PITTS: We’re live, Mr. Vice-President.
BIDEN: Whatever. Hit me with your best shot.
PITTS: List some accomplishments of the Obama administration.
BIDEN: Sure. One, Americans don’t hafta worry about the Black Plague; two, as we unilaterally decommission our nukes, we gain credibility with Putin, the Ayatollahs, and Kim Young-un. Finally, our immigration policy guarantees everyone landscaping services at an affordable price.
PITTS: Hypothetical: Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear sites. What does the president do?
BIDEN: Won’t happen. Contingency plans exist to take out Israel’s air force and Fox News headquarters if a strike appears imminent. That’s classified, Bret. Can’t talk about it.
PITTS: Okay. We capture a Tea Partier with al Qaeda ties who’s still so upset over the GM bailout he’s planted a nuclear device somewhere in Washington. Your advice to President Obama?
BIDEN: First, I confirm they’ve saved me a spot in the White House Operations Bunker , which is situated 300 feet beneath the East Room and accessible by a secret elevator in the Residence. The bunker’s a world-class panic room protected by 10 foot thick concrete/ rebar walls and a coded 25 ton triple-tiered steel blast door. Safest place on the planet. Well, against a nuke maybe. But a terrorist could introduce some fine-powdered anthrax into the bunker if he accessed the heating vents outside the . . .
PITTS: Your advice to the president about the Tea Party jihadist, sir?
BIDEN: I said, “Look Boss, we gotta squeeze ‘im for info, but humanely. How? Mortarboard the guy.”
BIDEN: Teams of CIA religious scholars in full academic regalia lecturin’ him around the clock on the superiority of Shia Islam over Sunni Islam. Until he breaks.
PITTS: If he doesn’t?
BIDEN: Then he gets nothin’ to drink but D.C. tap water, day in, day out, just D.C. tap water. After 48 hours, he’ll sing like a canary.
PITTS: Water boredom? We’d go that far?
BIDEN: It’s in the new interrogation manual Eric Holder ran by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s Number One. He signed off on it.
PITTS: We’d better stop here. Thanks for your time, Mr. Vice President.
BIDEN: You got it, Brad. Oh, hey, the Boss said to book him a week before midterms next year. He wants Steve Kroft again.
PITTS: (after listening to mic) He’s on the calendar, sir.