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October 15, 2012

How Paul Ryan Is Like Madeleine Albright and John Brennan (also, Saddam Hussein)

If you hate ever being asked tough questions — i.e., ones where an honest answer would make you look horrible – you should definitely go into American politics. The U.S. media is awesome at putting together video promos with Brian Williams where he furrows his brow and crosses his arms skeptically and says "We ask the tough questions," but they're incredibly bad at actually asking those questions.

But against all odds, it does sometimes happen. If you're a politician, what do you do then? I mean, obviously you're not going to actually answer the question.

The solution is: look very concerned, and say: I wish we had enough time to delve into this complicated issue.

That's what Paul Ryan recently did when he was asked how the Romney/Ryan tax plan could cut tax rates by 20% across the board yet somehow not reduce government revenue:

CHRIS WALLACE: So how much would it cost?

RYAN: It’s revenue neutral…

WALLACE: But I have to point out, you haven’t given me the math.

Ryan: No, but you…well, I don’t have the time. It would take me too long to go through all of the math.

It's also what John Brennan, Obama's top counterterrorism advisor, did when he was asked why al Qaeda wants to kill us:

HELEN THOMAS: And what is [Al Qaeda's] motivation? We never hear what you find out on why.

BRENNAN: Al Qaeda is an organization that is dedicated to murder and wanton slaughter of innocents. ... it’s because of an al-Qaeda organization that used the banner of religion in a very perverse and corrupt way.


BRENNAN: I think this is a – long issue, but al-Qaeda is just determined to carry out attacks here against the homeland.

THOMAS: But you haven't explained why.

And it's what Madeleine Albright, then Secretary of State, did at a town hall in Columbus in 1998:

QUESTION: I have a question for Secretary Albright. Why bomb Iraq when other countries have committed similar violations? For example, Turkey has bombed Kurdish citizens. Saudi Arabia has tortured political and religious dissidents. Why does the U.S. apply different standards of justice to these countries? What do you have to say about dictators of countries like Indonesia, who we sell weapons to, yet they are slaughtering people in East Timor?


ALBRIGHT: Let me answer that. I suggest, sir, that you study carefully what American foreign policy is, what we have said exactly about the cases that you have mentioned. Every one of them has been pointed out. Every one of them we have clearly stated our policy on. And if you would like, as a former professor, I would be delighted to spend 50 minutes with you describing exactly what we are doing on those subjects.

In dictatorships it works pretty much the same way, except that instead of politicians being asked tough questions once every ten years, it only happens when they're captured and put on trial for war crimes:

Yesterday in Baghdad Saddam was called to account for the crimes, but he remained defiant...

Asked to plead guilty or innocent on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity, Saddam offered brazen defiance. "That would require volumes of books," he answered.

So there you have it: Paul, John, Madeleine and Saddam absolutely want to answer your tough question, but they're very very busy people and unfortunately have to leave immediately for their next engagement. Sorry.

—Jon Schwarz

Posted at October 15, 2012 04:45 PM

" What we have heah is a failuah to communicate!"(Cool Hand Luke)---for those of who've got the time.

I absolutely see their point (Paul, John, Madeline, & Saddam's). Start explaining reality to the Unwashed Masses---next thing ya know, they're out there with their little picks&shovels, digging up the unwashed mass graves.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at October 15, 2012 07:24 PM

*but they're very very busy people and unfortunately have to leave immediately for their next engagement.*


Paul Ryan has to hurry to plan on more tax cuts for the wealthy and voucher for seniors, Brennan has to rush to the Prez to recommend another country in Africa to drop bombs on, Albright is rushing to meet her admirers who want to nominate her for 2013 Nobel Peace Prize......she is going to teach them, only as a professor can, how to go about it....!!!
Poor Sadam Hussain, he does not know who he has to meet with next.....or may be he does! He is probably stalling his certain execution!!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at October 15, 2012 10:16 PM

technically, ryan's answer is the most honest- there is a quite straightforward reading of it that says he cannot do the math

Posted by: frankenduf at October 16, 2012 09:19 AM

I don't think it's that they're too busy to answer: it's that they don't want to waste our precious time explaining it, we shouldn't worry our pretty little heads about such things, we lack the attention span necessary to listen to the full picture.

Posted by: Duncan at October 16, 2012 09:45 AM

The same shtick on a lesser scale of perfidy: Jonah Goldberg could so too comment insightfully on this important subject, but he's very very busy.

Posted by: Batocchio at October 18, 2012 03:37 AM