Bye-Bye Birdie

Mark Steyn:

Sesame Nation

Apparently, Frank Sinatra served as Mitt Romney’s debate coach. As he put it about halfway through “That’s Life”:

“I’d jump right on a big bird and then I’d fly . . . ”

That’s what Mitt did in Denver. Ten minutes in, he jumped right on Big Bird, and then he took off — and never looked back, while the other fellow, whose name escapes me, never got out of the gate. It takes a certain panache to clobber not just your opponent but also the moderator. Yet that’s what the killer Mormon did when he declared that he wasn’t going to borrow money from China to pay for Jim Lehrer and Big Bird on PBS. It was a terrific alpha-male moment, not just in that it rattled Lehrer, who seemed too preoccupied contemplating a future reading the hog prices on the WZZZ Farm Report to regain his grip on the usual absurd format, but in the sense that it indicated a man entirely at ease with himself — in contrast to wossname, the listless sourpuss staring at his shoes.

Yet, amidst the otherwise total wreckage of their guy’s performance, the Democrats seemed to think that Mitt’s assault on Sesame Street was a misstep from whose tattered and ruined puppet-stuffing some hay is to be made. “WOW!!! No PBS!!! WTF how about cutting congress’s stuff leave big bird alone,” tweeted Whoopi Goldberg. Even the president mocked Romney for “finally getting tough on Big Bird” — not in the debate, of course, where such dazzling twinkle-toed repartee might have helped, but a mere 24 hours later, once the rapid-response team had directed his speechwriters to craft a line, fly it out to a campaign rally, and load it into the prompter, he did deliver it without mishap.


Mitt’s decision to strap Big Bird to the roof of his station wagon and drive him to Canada has prompted two counterarguments from Democrats: (1) Half a billion dollars is a mere rounding error in the great sucking maw of the federal budget, so why bother? (2) Everybody loves Sesame Street, so Mitt is making a catastrophic strategic error. On the latter point, whether or not everybody loves Sesame Street, everybody has seen it, and every American under 50 has been weaned on it. So far this century it’s sold nigh on a billion bucks’ worth of merchandising sales (that’s popular toys such as the Subsidize-Me-Elmo doll). If Sesame Street is not commercially viable, then nothing is, and we should just cut to the chase and bail out everything.

Conversely, if this supposed “public” broadcasting brand is capable of standing on its own, then so should it. As for the rest of PBS’s output — the eternal replays of the Peter, Paul & Mary reunion concert, twee Brit sitcoms, Lawrence Welk reruns and therapeutic infomercials — whatever their charms, it is difficult to see why the Brokest Nation in History should be borrowing money from the Chinese Politburo to pay for it. A system by which a Communist party official in Beijing enriches British comedy producers by charging it to American taxpayers with interest is not the most obvious economic model. Yet, as Obama would say, the government did build that.

I wonder if Mitt Romney knew what the reaction would be when he brought up defunding PBS. I doubt it – if he did then he’s waaaaay smarter than anyone gives him credit for. But whether he planned it or not it’s a conversation we need to have.

Sesame Street is not really the issue here. I’m pretty sure that franchise would survive just fine without government assistance. Mitt never said he wanted to kill Big Bird, he just wants to kick him off the dole.

PBS, on the other hand, might not survive without a government subsidy. If they do survive they will probably need to start selling advertising. Who knows, they might start even with selling ads for Sesame Street toys and clothing.

The problem isn’t that PBS is a bad thing, nor does it eat up some big portion of the federal budget. The problem isn’t that we can’t afford PBS. It’s that PBS is representative of a bigger problem.

Right now our government borrows $.40 out of every dollar it spends. That’s right, FORTY PERCENT (40%) of everyday government spending is put on our national VISA card.

That has to stop. And don’t give me no bullshit about how a government budget is different from a household budget because the same mathematical principles apply to both. We cannot spend our way out of debt. Let me repeat that:


To borrow from an anti-war slogan, “Spending your way out of debt is like fucking your way into virginity.” It is also a violation of the First Rule of Holes.

When times are tough we sometimes need to put some stuff on credit. But that is a temporary measure. If you are facing a drop in income or an increase in expenses you need to go through your budget and figure out what is essential and what isn’t. Then you start cutting the non-essentials.

PBS is about as non-essential as it gets. If we can’t cut PBS what can we cut? Mitt offered us an excellent test for all government spending:

Is it worth borrowing money from China to pay for?

That test should be applied to every single item in the federal budget.

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41 Responses to Bye-Bye Birdie

  1. jeffhas says:


    My goodness, you sound like you’ve never heard of Nobel Laureate Dr. Paul Krugman (NLDPK)

    Surely you jest, as the good Dr. has explained to us lessers how ‘an economy’ really works.

    One gets the impression this ‘Crawdad Hole’ might be full of rubes?… and other varmints.

  2. myiq2xu says:

    This is the funniest that SNL has been in years. They spoof the MSNBC debate reaction:

    • DeniseVB says:

      I even got the one tinsy mispronounced word from Mitt, replaying it in slo-mo and freeze framing a silly expression, as a tribute to MSNBC’s unfair coverage of him.

      S.E. Cupp’s portrayal reminded me how they portrayed Sarah Palin, cute and dumb as a box of rocks.

  3. driguana says:

    one of those “can’t resist” moments…

  4. bluestate says:

    [T]he president mocked Romney for “finally getting tough on Big Bird” — not in the debate, of course, where such dazzling twinkle-toed repartee might have helped, but a mere 24 hours later, once the rapid-response team had directed his speechwriters to craft a line, fly it out to a campaign rally, and load it into the prompter, he did deliver it without mishap.

    lol typical obama. as far as i’m concerned, obama gave the same performance in the debate he gave against mccain in 2008. the only differences were the performance of the opponent, which was much better than mccain’s, and the reaction to obama’s performance. i guess by giving a really great performance, romney made obama’s lackluster one stand out. finally.

  5. driguana says:

    and, of course, what a ridiculous moment in musical history…a good Sunday morning yuck…

  6. yttik says:

    The CEO of PBS makes close to a million dollars a year. The average salary for Sesame street execs is 390,000 a year. PBS is not a struggling non profit trying to survive on a shoe string.

    Besides, technology has changed since Big Bird was born. People can now freely broadcast their own radio, TV, blogs, you tube. I’ve been hearing how not only does Mitt plan to murder Big Bird, he’ll be shutting down free speech, too.

    As to commercials, PBS has gotten just as bad as anyone else, already! They run commercials, fundraising pleas, honoring our foundation segments. This segment was not “brought to you by the letter A,” anymore, it was brought to you by our corporate sponsors who have produced this commercial.

    • myiq2xu says:

      I remember when PBS was one of the basic (2-13 VHF) cable stations.

    • angienc says:

      Mitt wants to murder Big Bird & shut down free speech — from the people who are totally cool with the murder of our ambassador & 3 others and actually are shutting down free speech if it “hurts the religious feelings of Muslims.”

  7. angienc says:

    Oh, Romney is *that* smart — there are hundreds of items in the federal budget that are not *so critical* that we should borrow money from China to pay for it. He chose PBS as an alpha-dog move to fluster Lehrer *and* because he knows PBS is a sacred cow to many on the left. Their hysterical reaction proves that — although Romney may have underestimated the reaction, he knew he’d get one that would expose the arrested development of the far left. People have real problems in this country because 4 years of Obama has given us cheap money & no jobs. The GDP is down to 1.3%!!!! Obama & the progs looks like complete children who have not & will not approach cutting the budget in a serious manner & with open minds toward members on the other side of the aisle.

    • yttik says:

      I agree Angie, I think Mitt really is that smart. He knew my facebook was going to be filled with photos of Mitt violently murdering Big Bird, which was even going to start to annoy some diehard PBS fans with it’s repetitive and juvenile stupidity.

    • bluestate says:

      it’s funny when you think about it how he was like, “i’m going to fire the moderator!” i think that was his alter ego ronnie’s idea.

  8. myiq2xu says:

  9. myiq2xu says:

  10. DeniseVB says:

    Funny spoof on those PBS fundraisers from Fraiser about a decade ago, still makes me ROTFLMAO …..

  11. myiq2xu says:

    What I like best about the internet:

    If anything funny or newsworthy happens it ends up online so I don’t have to waste time watching hours of boring television shows hoping for a few interesting minutes.

  12. yttik says:

    I’m starting to wonder if any of these PBS fans ever actually watch PBS? A lot of people are upset because PBS “would be completely destroyed if they had to start running commercials.” Uh, they’ve been running commercials for a while now.

    • myiq2xu says:

      The last time I watched PBS was . . . .

    • DeniseVB says:

      I gave up on PBS years ago when their telethons were the only times programs of interest to me came on. Annoying !

    • yttik says:

      I watch a lot of PBS on Netflix and DVD now, because their constant commercials and telethons drive me nuts. I like the British Sherlock and Doc Martin.

      The modern Sherlock is fun. It’s politically incorrect to smoke a pipe or snort cocaine these days, so he has to wear 10 nicotine patches and pop anti depressants instead.

      • Lulu says:

        I watch Masterpiece stuff but that is it. NatGeo going with their own network pretty much killed off PBS as far as I’m concerned.

  13. AniEm says:

    While uncovering my ‘inner conservative’ for the past four years, I find Mark Steyn one of the people I most admire. Love his irony and his insight and his ability to cut through the B.S. Glad you highlighted this.

  14. myiq2xu says:


    Just because debates weren’t decisive in the past doesn’t mean that this one won’t be decisive now. The most lopsided factor in this election is the character of the candidates. What we saw last night is a unique and unprecedented event in American political history. We have never had a president like Barack Obama, and the American public got its first peek at the man behind the curtain.

    Barack Obama is a narcissist and a sociopath, with the skills of persuasion that children abandoned by their parents learn as a survival mechanism. In the adoring light of the liberal media, Obama reflected power and self-confidence — so long as he was in control, and stood in front of the teleprompter. The real Barack Obama is the one who cowered in the Oval Office protected by his Praetorian guard, who declined to hold cabinet meetings or meet with Republican leaders: McBama surrounded by the weird sisters, Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice and Michelle. Obama’s greatest strength always has been his greatest weakness, potentially a catastrophic one: he manipulates so effectively because he has a compulsion to be in control. When he knows that he is not in control, Obama is paralyzed. Absent last night were the easy rhetorical flourishes and rock star pose of 2008.

    When he is not in control, as in last night’s debate, he freezes. Obama’s stumbling delivery and poor body language betrayed a frightened and enraged man who desperately wanted to be somewhere else than on a public stage, mano a mano with Mitt Romney. The most pertinent question to ask the Obama campaign now is which psychiatrist they have put on retainer.

    • Lulu says:

      Weird sisters, Praetorian guard, skills of persuasion that children abandoned by their parents learn as a survival mechanism, psychiatrist they have put on retainer. The Republicans got Obama’s number and they are not going to stop until he is a grease spot.

      Obama gave me the creeps in 2007-8. He was fake and “off”. His message was simplistic and moronic. Four years later he is being deconstructed by his enemies in a way that I’m sure never occurred to him and his weird sisters. The social firewall that has protected him has been breached and the truth is tumbling out.

      • jeffhas says:

        The only problem is, this has to happen in settings like that debate – and those situations are skillfully avoided by his campaign at all costs – for good reason.

        There really are only two more opportunities to validate this exposure…. the media will still protect him in every other venue.

  15. Simofish says:

    On the farm we couldn’t get PBS

    Here’s Big Bird with Moochelle

  16. Mark Steyn does have a marvelous way with words. Good point about Big Bird being able to carry himself.

    Quick request for Myiq: Can we please push your next scheduled post back an hour or so? I’ve got an open thread scheduled for the radio show. Thanks!

  17. HELENK says:

    Big BIrd is part of the 1%. does he get tax breaks you bet. He and his crony’s do not pay taxes at all on millions of dollars of income. They also have overseas income that is not reported.
    They have a captive audience and even have parents fighting over their products remember tickle me elmo?

    Where are the occupiers?????????? this deserves at least a sit in

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