When reality bursts through the scripts: Yay!

Since I rarely watch Hollywood’s Oscar awards show, I had to go to YouTube to see an actor slug a comedian in the face. This happened on the live telecast, and the slapping actor twice shouted a word you can’t say on an FCC-regulated medium. Not following Hollywood, I didn’t get the joke,  apparently at the expense of the actor’s wife, that sparked the incident.

Nice people at tuxedoed and glittery-dress-clad events don’t descend  into...

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Since I rarely watch Hollywood’s Oscar awards show, I had to go to YouTube to see an actor slug a comedian in the face. This happened on the live telecast, and the slapping actor twice shouted a word you can’t say on an FCC-regulated medium. Not following Hollywood, I didn’t get the joke,  apparently at the expense of the actor’s wife, that sparked the incident.

Nice people at tuxedoed and glittery-dress-clad events don’t descend  into fisticuffs, much less on television. Insult a spouse, though, and anything can happen. It may have made for a memory the industry would rather have avoided. But what a hoot, seeing naked reality poke through the rehearsed hilarity of the Oscars!

The Sunday night incident followed what has been widely called a presidential gaffe over the weekend. I’d like to say, gaffe or not, can we give President Joe Biden a break here? At the end of a speech in Poland about the Russian war on Ukraine, the the president ad libbed, “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.” Biden was referring to Vladimir Putin.

The administration’s apparatchiks rushed to clarify: No, regime change is not U.S. policy. The president was only making an emotional and personal little outburst, they said. TV commentators, newspaper columnists, and high-ranking Republicans expressed all sorts of outrage and horror at the diplomatic error. It would interfere with negotiations! It would escalate the conflict! It violated the niceties of diplomatic discourse!

I say baloney. In fact, good for you, Mr. Prez! No one in their right mind thinks other than that the Russian President is nuts or acting nuts. But nuts in a vicious, wanton, violent way against millions of innocent people. President Biden said what everyone thinks: Putin should be outta there.

And no, the president wasn’t calling for a Special Forces attack on the Kremlin or for bombing Moscow. And neither is anyone else. His comment was more, to borrow from the novelist George Orwell, the sneeze of a horse that smells bad hay.

Diplomatic protocols matter, the politesse of sherry-sipping-pinkie-out niceties designed to prevent war and grease relations among nations. Of course they do. But sometimes plain English matters. When something is so manifestly wrong or evil, events have moved past the point where the delicacies make any difference whatsoever. Sometimes circumstances make the nuances downright maddening. Winston Churchill didn’t mince words about the threat of Nazi Germany. Would carefully-shaped, not-to-offend diplo-speak have had any effect on the intentions and actions of Der Führer?

Does anyone really think the president was saying anything other than what everyone else thinks?

Large corporations and government agencies have become adept at couched, guarded, sometimes toothless talk. Often it serves their purposes. Often it keeps irrational or hair-trigger adversaries from having something fresh to chomp on. In the diplomatic sphere, such talk is designed to convey real meaning but in a face-saving way. That’s why it’s refreshing when a president says something with such clarity. Tear down this wall. Ich been ein Berliner.

It’s too late, maybe, but I hope President Biden sticks to his guns on this. Putin really is a stinker, and everyone would like to see him — to put it diplomatically — relegated to obscurity on one of his dachas. In this case, Mr. Biden was merely uttering the obvious.

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