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Michelle Wolf at the door, but her best snarls were saved for last at the White House Correspondents Dinner


Michelle Wolf in overdrive at White House Correspondents Dinner.

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
The detractors and defenders of Michelle Wolf continue to pile up like a chain collision on a slippery freeway.

Most of America’s latest case study in “tribal” polarization is over the pointed shots she took at White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was seated just a few chairs away from her at Saturday night’s annual White House Correspondents Dinner.

My interest here isn’t in the propriety of those jokes, although the full-blown outrage from some defenders of President Trump is ironic if not laughable in the face of the many coarse insults he’s lobbed at anyone perceived as an enemy. Wolf, now likely to have a huge hit with her upcoming The Break with Michelle Wolf talk show (May 27th on Netflix), is neither Joan of Arc nor Cruella de Ville. Whether she’s funny is another matter entirely. I was hit-and-miss amused -- but on the whole more amused than not -- after catching Wolf’s act on TV and then re-reading her entire presentation. But we don’t have to agree on any of that.

What most of the hand-wrenching analysis is missing, though, is the utter truth of her big finish Saturday night. It was directly aimed at the media’s continued slavish devotion to all things Trump.

“There’s a ton of news right now,” Wolf said. “A lot is going on, and we have all these 24-hour cable news networks, and we could be covering everything. Instead we’re covering three topics. Every hour is Trump, Russia, Hillary, and a panel full of people who remind you why you don’t go home for Thanksgiving . . .

“You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties, or Eric. But he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. If you’re going to profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money -- because he doesn’t have any.”

And by the way, she said in closing, “Flint still doesn’t have clean water.”

Amen, sister, with a special debt of ingratitude to CNN.

As I’ve written before, no network has been more fixated with Trump, during both his campaign and his presidency. Whatever Trump’s wealth, he couldn’t begin to pay for all that free, uninterrupted air time -- whether it’s his speeches or whatever “chaos” currently is bedeviling his administration. Stormy Daniels’ spotlight-grabbing attorney, Michael Avenatti, might as well pitch a tent outside CNN’ studios. Why is he on so much? Because CNN potentate Jeff Zucker, who made Trump a “reality” series star while running NBC, sees the Avenatti/Stormy/Trump trifecta as a win/win/win bet. A president who has bragged about grabbing pussies, a porn star whose privates have been on display to him and many others and a telegenic pit bull of an attorney who loves to prod the President and his representatives.

From almost Day One at CNN, Zucker demanded that the network “own” a story by covering it to the virtual exclusion of all else. The infamous Carnival “Poop Cruise” and the missing Malaysian airliner were early manifestations of that game plan. At the 2014 White House Correspondents Dinner, President Obama got perhaps his biggest laugh of the evening when he deadpanned, “I am happy to be here even though I am a little jet lagged from my trip to Malaysia. The lengths we have to go to to get CNN coverage these days.”

Only on Sunday nights does CNN usually rest with its prime-time lineup of original series and documentaries. Wolf touched on this earlier, noting that “we’ve got our friends at CNN here. Welcome guys, it’s great to have you. You guys love ‘Breaking News.’ And you did it. You broke it. The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles.”

But CNN, regularly ridiculed by Trump as television’s main repository of “fake news,” is not the principal culprit on another news battlefield. MSNBC and Fox News Channel are television’s Grand Poobahs of polarization. Their prime-time lineups are wall-to-wall fortresses for the respective true believers in Trump and all who oppose him. It’s all part of their business plans, and business has seldom been better. Meanwhile, the foundations of our democratic system and journalism in general are not well-served by two “news” networks that pledge allegiance to one side or the other while CNN provides a marginally more balanced alternative.

Wolf let both FNC and MSNBC off easily in terms of specifically ridiculing them for their roles in exacerbating the country’s Great Divide. I would have preferred more barbs at their expense rather than a tame riff on how MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow “never gets to the point” or a bare mention of FNC’s Sean Hannity being exempt from comedic criticism because “this dinner is for journalists.”

Instead she tore into the now basically irrelevant Megyn Kelly in what arguably was the cheapest broadside of the night. “What would I do without Megyn Kelly?” she asked. “Probably be more proud of women. Megyn Kelly got paid $23 million by NBC and then NBC didn’t let her go to the Winter Olympics. Why not? She’s so white and cold and expensive she might as well be the Winter Olympics. And by the way, Megan, Santa is black. That weird guy going down your chimney was Bill O’Reilly.”

The White House Correspondents’ organizational brain trust now must decide what to do for an encore. They over-corrected the last time a comedian created such a stir, hiring impressionist Rich Little as their entertainment in 2007, the year after Stephen Colbert tore into President George W. Bush. Charitably speaking, Little was painfully awful.

Don Imus also offended some of the masses with his dicey monologue at the 1996 White House Correspondents Dinner. This time the Clintons were on the receiving end, and conservatives weren’t exactly outraged.

Whether these “Nerd Proms” should be held at all anymore is an increasingly valid question. But it’s assumed that the shows will go on while Michelle Wolf’s career soars on the strength of her newfound notoriety.

Whatever the case, the Republic will survive. It even survived Rich Little. But the three principal cable news networks continue to sew their seeds of discord while taking Trump to the bank. The Clinton News Network? What a ridiculously out-dated notion. Contrary to the President’s rhetoric, CNN dearly loves being all Trump all the time. Don’t think otherwise -- not even for a minute.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net