Sunday, November 25, 2012

TV: The 10 Most Disgraceful People

Each Thanksgiving weekend for the last years, we've offered a review -- at least one -- of the Thanksgiving specials.  But thing is, the networks offered no holiday specials.

There was Spike Lee's bad and confusing 'news' special on the anniversary of the release of Michael Jackson's Bad album.  Confusing not just because Bad is considered the weakest of the three albums Quincy Jones produced for Jackson (Off The Wall and Thriller being the other two) but also because it was released August 31, 1987.  So November 22nd really wasn't it's 25th anniversary.

Friday, NBC offered a  'special,' a dog show.  No, not a show starring dogs, the National Dog Show.  And if there's anything funnier than ABC billing Spike Lee's failed theatrical documentary as a "news special," it's NBC billing the dog show as "an NBC Sports special."

Yes, and we look forward to seeing the January ABC Sports special, the Miss America Competition. 

The dog show brought in more viewers than Lee's documentary but it still put us to sleep.


Allowing us to dream -- specifically of Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Disgraceful People.  There was Walters on the ABC in our minds, explaining that this year's selection included politicians, entertainers, officials "and even the rarest of all rarities, a book writer."

In fact, the book writer kicked it off.  Walters asked Joe Posnanski to explain his embarrassing book Paterno, specifically how, writing about disgraced college coach Joe Paterno, Posnanski could claim that Paterno never heard of the 1998 criminal investigation of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky assaulting a young boy -- this despite the fact that the Penn State investigation had already produced the report that documented Paterno knew in 1998 about Sandusky's criminal interest in young boys.  As Posnanski stammered and stuttered, Walters beamed for the cameras and said, "Disgraceful."

And now she was saying "from sports writers to sports, he was a world class hero, cozy with a former president named Bush and a faded singer named Crow, no one rode as high until, one day, a rock in the road sent his bicycle flying.  The rock, it would turn out, was performance-enhancing drugs."

And there was Lance Armstrong, sweaty faced and slack-jawed.

As he stared off into space, Walters noted, "You've been stripped of titles and banned from the sport of competitive cycling for life.  How does it feel to be a disgrace?"

With nothing to say for himself, Barbara Walters had little to do but go to a commercial break.  

"It was not a good year for politicians," Walters intoned as the broadcast resumed.

Turning her chair, she faced a nervous official.  Walters declared,  "Susan Rice, September 16th, you appeared on CBS' Face The Nation, NBC's Meet The Press, ABC's This Week, CNN's State of the Union, Fox News Sunday --  to discuss the September 11, 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Begnhazi in which Sean Smith, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty and Chris Stevens were murdered.  What you said wasn't correct, was it?"

"Well, Barbara," Susan said forcing a thin smile, "as I declared earlier, I only repeated what I was told and I was told wrong."

"Right, right.  So you weren't smart enough to do the work required yet you went on national television, on five different national channels, and reveled in your own stupidity, paraded your ignorance before America, showed them what their tax dollars were wasted on."

"Well --"

"I'm done with you," Walters said swiveling her chair to face the camera.  "The Indian philosopher Chanakya once wrote, 'It is better to die than to preserve this life by incurring disgrace.  The loss of life causes but a moment's grief, but disgrace brings grief every day of one's life.'  Susan Rice learned that in 2012 and she wasn't the only one.  Take our next guest, Roseanne Barr."

"Hey, Barbara," smiled Roseanne, apparently just happy to be back on network television.

"Roseanne, in the 80s and 90s, you were a successful TV star.  Today, you've had not one but two reality shows get the axe almost immediately, NBC passed on your latest sitcom and you campaigned to be the Green Party's presidential candidate but lost.  Upon losing, you demonstrated a lack of grace as you used the week of the Green Party's national convention to repeatedly attack Jill Stein who had won.  You made a lot about not agreeing with her but you wouldn't be specific.  Having rained on that parade, you then declared you'd run as an independent but instead ran as the Peace and Freedom Party candidate.  Your campaign was such a joke that your running mate Cindy Sheehan announced she was quitting the ticket and would have had it not been for the fact that it was too late to remove her name from the ballot.  Your campaign was plagued with charges that you failed to pay campaign staff and rumors that you'd become a shut-in."

"I got 42,970 votes in California alone," Roseanne said popping a bubble gum bubble.

"Yes, and on the same ticket in California in 2008, the nominee got 108,381 votes.  So you really didn't help build the party, did you?  My next guest won re-election weeks ago, won 63% of the vote.  It was his 10th Congressional election, all of which he won.  This one was different because he hadn't been seen since June.  It was also different because he just announced that he was resigning his seat.  Jesse Jackson Jr., how are you?"

"For seventeen years I have given 100 percent of my time, energy, and life to public service.  However, over the past several months, as my health has deteriorated, my ability to serve the constituents of my district has continued to diminish --"

"Doctors?  While you have been in rehab, you're also under federal investigation."

"I am aware of the ongoing federal investigation into my activities," Jackson Jr. said nodding his head, "and am doing my best to address the situation responsibly, cooperate with the investigators, and accept responsibility for my mistakes, for they are my mistakes and mine alone."

"Well they're not mistakes, Congressman Jackson," Walters pointed out.  "Mistakes are things like leaving a 6% check because you did the math wrong.  The feds do not investigate mistakes.  They investigate crimes."

As Jackson tried to insist that he should "be remembered for what I did right," Walters cut him off to go to commercial.

"We're back," Barbara Walters declared.  "And as we go into the top five, we spend the next three with disgraces of a sexual nature.  First up, our guest is Major General Margaret Woodward.  And, to be clear, she was not involved in a scandal; however, she did lead an investigation this year into allegations of misconduct and she wrote the report on her findings.  As I understand it, General, you investigated complaints about 25 military training instructors at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas and 11 have now been charged, with five convicted for everything from inappropriate sexual relations with recruits to rape.  This is astounding.  And what is the reaction of the people on the base?  Are they trying to ignore the issue?"

"We have some incredible -- a great number of incredible Americans serving at Lackland as military training instructors," Major General  Woodward responded.  "And they're all extraordinarily proud, as they should be, of what they do and how important their mission is.  They believe in our Air Force culture so -- and our Air Force core values.  So they are as horrified by what's taken place by fellow -- a few of their fellow MITs, as General [Edward A.] Rice [Jr.] and I and -- and anyone else is.  And the sense I got was that as -- disappointed is probably the best word -- in their fellow MTIs, it does not detract from how important their mission is and how they believe in it."

"MTIs would be Military Training Instructors.   Well, while that's good, you talk about core values and how they are believed in and how the core values were widely known,  I would assume that they were known by those who broke the rules and, in some cases, committed crimes.  Is that correct?"

"I would say it's very clear -- every single -- of the 215 witnesses we interviewed, there was not a single individual that did not know exactly what the AETC policy and what their responsibilities as individuals were.  So the ones that chose to violate that knew that they were violating a regulation or a policy and that was very clear to them," Major General Woodward responded.

"Thank you very much, General Woodward," Barbara Walters said.  "Six commanding officers received some form of a disciplinary actions and two more were removed, according to the Air Force.  My next guest chose to remove himself.  He flew from obscurity to national prominence with the help of media admirers like Thomas E. Ricks.  Interestingly, Ricks has a book that insists that generals should be fired when they don't win wars but Ricks has spent the last weeks defending this man.  Former general David Petraeus, at one point, the top US commander in Iraq.  Oversaw a failed war and what some call an unethical policy of counter-insurgency.  Despite those realities, President Barack Obama would go on to put Petraeus over the war in Afghanistan and then to make the military retired Petraeus the CIA Director.  It was a sensitive post and one that must be free of any potential scandal out of concerns over blackmail.  Mr. Petraeus has resigned over an affair which, he insists, did not start until after he left the military in 2011.  Director, how do you explain this affair?  And why did you decide to resign not when the FBI learned of the affair but when you learned the affair was going to be made public?"

We were as shocked as Walters when David Petraeus' knees parted and Thomas Ricks crawled out from between them and began speaking.

"We now seem to care more about the sex lives of our leaders than the real lives of our soldiers."

As Ricks attempted to filibuster and brought up President Dwight D. Eisenhower's alleged affair when he was a general, Walters cut him off.

"You are a disgrace but not enough of one to be on this show.  Why do you prattle on about this general and that general and the military and all the other crap?  He is not a general who was forced to resign because of the military code of ethics.  He was a CIA Director.  As usual, your stupidity has confused the issue. As I was saying before, the Director could live with the feds knowing of the affair but could not handle it going public.  Which would indicate that if a foreign government discovered the affair and attempted to blackmail him with it, he would be very open to blackmail because he so clearly did not want the affair to go public."

As Ricks attempted to babble, Walters motioned for the burliest members of her crew who quickly escorted Ricks forcibly from the studio.  (Petraeus left on his own accord.)

"We round out the filth section with 24-year-old Rihanna.  She became a superstar in 2009 after her boyfriend beat her.  The ensuing case and her 'I'm a survivor' image allowed Rihanna to achieve new fame.  This year found Time placing you on their '100 Most Influential People in the World' list, you became the most popular artist on Facebook and the accolades never stop.  Or didn't seem to.  But your ex-boyfriend, Chris Brown, received five years probation while, in the second half of 2012, you became something more than a social embarrassment.  Entertainment Weekly called you out in August for your Oprah interview saying, 'All in all, it was just terribly sad to see Rihanna, a strong woman and sensational artist, say with tears in her eyes that "I think he was the love of my life".'  While many abused women return to their attackers, you're not many women.  You're incredibly powerful within the music industry and millions of young girls look up to you.  So what kind of message does it send when you say that garbage to Oprah about your abuser or when you decide to record a duet with him?  A 13-year-old girl whose boyfriend hits her looks at you and says, 'Well Rihanna still loves Chris Brown.'  So what kind of message are you sending, especially when young teenagers are your target audience?"

As Rihanna attempted to respond, Walters cut her off, "Why don't you just stop right now?  You've done enough harm to the young girls in America.  The mistake the public made was not grasping that you are so sick you don't even realize it and that a beating to you is just another way of showing 'love.'  So when your next boyfriend beats you with a tire iron, we'll all remember not to ask you, 'Are you doing okay?,' but instead, 'Was it a mind blowing orgasm for you?'  As 19th century humorist Josh Billings once observed, 'No one can disgrace us but ourselves'."

As the show resumed after yet another commercial break, Walters informed, "We're now down to our last two disgraces, the two most disgraceful of the year, in fact.  First up, a woman I took to task in 2009 for a children's cookbook.  I told her, 'This is a cookbook for kids.  Obesity is the No.1 problem for kids today.  Everything you have here is enormously fattening.  You tell kids to have cheesecake for breakfast.  You tell them to have chocolate cake and meatloaf for lunch.  And French fries.  Doesn't it bother you that you're adding to this?'  And my guest said no, it did not.   But at the start of this year, Paula Deen announced that she had Type II Diabetes.  And she was diagnosed three years prior to her announcement.  So while promoting her fattening and sugary cookbook for children, she was already a diabetic.  The Mayo Clinic notes, 'There's no cure for type 2 daibetes, but you can manage -- or even prevent -- the condition.  Start by eating well, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight.'  Eating well is not eating the sugar rich, high fat garbage that Deen has promoted in books, multiple TV shows and in her magazine Cooking With Paula Deen."

Deen babbled away about how she had to come to the right moment, spiritually, to share her disease with America and, God must have wanted it because, that was when the drug makers at Novo Nordisk came calling -- like a little sign from above: 'You make 'em sick, Paula, and we'll supply them with the treatment.'  As soon as Deen finished plugging her sponsor, Walters noted that it was now time for the most disgraceful person in America for 2012.

"President Barack Obama," Walters began, "you started the year signing the National Defense Authorization Act which, in violation of the Constitution, gave the government the right to lock people away without trial on your say so.  You appear to be ending the year backing out of your promise to provide the full truth on Benghazi.  You promised to close Guantanamo but the prison remains open.  You said all troops would be out of Iraq but hundreds remain as 'trainers' and Special-Ops while you moved 15,000 from Iraq to the border country of Kuwait, where they remain and will for many years to come. You have claimed you can kill anyone you claim to be a foreign terrorist if they are on foreign soil -- even if they are American citizens.  You have expanded your predecessor's policy of spying on American citizens.  You are both a failure in terms of what people wanted and thought they were voting for and you are also a disgrace.   How do you respond to topping our list of The 10 Most Disgraceful People?"

"Why can't I just eat my waffle?" Barack asked staring at Walters.  "Just let me eat my waffle."

"And there you have it," announced Walters.  "Big statements and then he waffles.  Pledges and promises, followed by his waffles.  President Obama is but one The 10 Most Disgraceful People this year.  As you have seen in this hour, a lot of people have done their part to disgrace not just themselves but also the country as well.  Some have threatened the country's physical health like Paula Deen.  Others, like Rihanna, threaten our mental health.  And to top the list, you have to be a threat in every direction possible which generally means you have to reside in the White House.  As we head in to 2013, I'll keep my eyes peeled for those excelling in shame and I know you will as well.  For ABC News, I'm Barbara Walters and this has been Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Disgraceful People.  Thank you for spending your holiday hour with me, an hour where we moved a little beyond glib and fluff."

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