Chelsea Handler: from jokes to talking points

Chelsea Handler

We used to think Chelsea Handler was, at her best, funny. On her popular late-night talk show Chelsea Lately, which was carried on the E! Network for several years, her persona was that of a laid-back, know-nothing, hard-drinking, sex-happy narcissist who spread her wealth around to her chums and in return got to treat them like vassals. Whether it was an act or not (one had the impression that her persona was a somewhat exaggerated version of her actual self), she put it over well, and at its best, as we say, it could be quite amusing.

Chelsea Lately

Chelsea Lately had a simple format: she opened with a sort-of-monologue, in which she went on for a few minutes, in her self-absorbed way, about some recent experience or personal complaint or griped about one of her friends or crew members; she then proceeded to have a lighthearted roundtable with two or three other comedians, with whom she traded silly quips and personal barbs; and she concluded by chatting one-on-one with some celebrity who was there, in the usual fashion, to promote something, except that Chelsea, instead of feigning interest in the project being promoted, fixated on her guest’s shoes or clothes or breasts, or professed to find the guest sexually attractive, or expressed a lack of interest in whatever anecdote her guest was trying to put over. There was certainly not the slightest whiff of politics about any of it: the whole idea, the whole schtick, was that Chelsea was too childlike and egocentric to possibly give a moment’s thought to such lofty matters as statecraft or international affairs or the welfare of others. Indeed, the main appeal of the show was its casual political incorrectness. (50 Cent: “I had some free time….” Chelsea, interrupting: “Were you in prison?”)  

It was all terribly silly – but it was aware of being silly. It was even, you might say, wittily silly. But then something happened. Like many funny people, Chelsea decided that she was tired of getting laughs. She wanted to be taken seriously. Calling it quits with her successful late-night show, she moved over to Netflix, where she started doing a “serious” weekly interview program. Yes, there were showbiz celebrities, but they were, more often than not, politically engaged showbiz celebrities who were eager to talk with her about such subjects as global warming and DREAMers and Islamophobia. In addition, Chelsea had long, earnest conversations with the likes of Gloria Steinem, Chelsea Clinton, Jake Tapper, Trevor Noah, Keith Olbermann, California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, former Mexico president Vincente Fox, and Democratic strategists David Alexrod and James Carville.

With Gavin Newsome

The premise was that Chelsea was “learning.” She was “educating herself.” This was how she described the show, and it was how Netflix promoted it: come along and watch Chelsea learn from the best and the brightest! But what really ended up happening on her Netflix show, as it turned out, was that Chelsea was sitting there exposing herself, and her viewers, to endless hours of Democratic Party rhetoric. It was pure brainwashing. Chelsea was not hearing both sides. She was not being taught how to use her mind to examine ideas critically. She was certainly not picking up any history lessons. On the contrary, she was being trained to spit back left-wing talking points. She thought she was thinking, but she wasn’t doing anything of the kind. Alas, she still doesn’t know what real thinking is.

When her show was canceled recently by Netflix, the news came as no surprise: American audiences had no interest in this new incarnation of Chelsea. They didn’t need to be lectured at by this woman who, until just the other day, was presenting herself as a bubblehead. But Chelsea lectured anyway. She lectured on her show – and, even after its cancellation, she continued lecturing on Twitter. We’ll get to that on Thursday.

 

Xavier Becerra’s California

Xavier Becerra

On Tuesday, we began discussing Xavier Becerra, who was named Attorney General of the State of California early last year by Governor Jerry Brown and who has made use of the powers of that office to stand up to President Trump’s policies on immigration and travel. Notably, he has challenged Trump’s attempt to restrict entry into the U.S. by people from certain foreign countries.   

But get this: while fighting Trump’s proposed travel bans from countries that represent a real threat to American security, Xavier Becerra has imposed bans on state- funded or state-sponsored travel from California to Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota, and Texas. Why? Because, he says, those states discriminate against LGBTQ people. Of course, some of the countries that would have been covered by Trump’s proposed travel bans execute gay people. But don’t try to view Becerra’s ideology through a lens of logic. He subscribes to the kind of leftist thinking whereby Americans who question the injection of puberty-delaying hormones into supposedly transgender children are vile bigots, whereas Muslims who throw gays off of the tops of buildings are acting upon the dictates of a culture that Westerners have no right to criticize. 

Kate Steinle

Becerra has, unsurprisingly, also stood up for the so-called “sanctuary cities,” suing the U.S. Department of Justice in August for limiting certain types of funding to municipalities that systematically refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, even harboring felons in order to protect them from deportation. (As it happens, California became a sanctuary state at the beginning of last year.) As federal officials have noted, sanctuary city policies have been responsible for the murders of several U.S. citizens, most famously Kate Steinle, killed in San Francisco on July 1, 2015, by a Mexican who at the time had seven felony convictions, had been deported from the U.S. five times, and was in San Francisco precisely because he knew that it was a sanctuary city whose government would help him evade federal immigration officials. Implicit in the arguments of Becerra and other champions of sanctuary city policies is that lives like Steinle’s are worth sacrificing in order to protect illegal aliens.     

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Becerra hasn’t been exclusively preoccupied with immigration and travel issues. On March 28 of last year, he took action on those controversial videos in which Planned Parenthood officials were caught having chilling, unconscionable conversations about their practice of selling fetal body parts obtained through partial-birth abortions. Needless to say, Becerra didn’t go after these reprehensible Planned Parenthood officials – he went after the activists who had recorded the videos, whom he slapped with fifteen felony charges. (The charges were later dismissed by a Superior Court judge.)

Becerra’s California

But nothing Becerra has done as Attorney General approaches the chutzpah of his latest move. As the Washington Free Beacon reported on January 19, Becerra “warned employers in the state that they will face legal consequences if they voluntarily provide information on their employees’ immigration statuses to federal authorities.”

In other words, if you are a law-abiding citizen who dares to help federal law-enforcement officials carry out their legal obligations, you will be viewed as a criminal by the State of California. Meanwhile, actual criminals – people who have entered the U.S. illegally – will be protected from your efforts to help bring them to justice. Welcome to Xavier Berecca’s California, where the very meaning of the word justice has been turned upside down.

Taking on Trump: Xavier Becerra

Some of us never imagined we’d ever see such a thing happening in the United States: last Thursday, Xavier Becerra, Attorney General of California, warned employers in that state that if they assist federal officials who are looking for illegal immigrants, they will be prosecuted.

Xavier Becerra

More on that later. But first, who is Xavier Becerra? Born in Sacramento to Mexican immigrants, he went to college in Spain before earning a B.A. and J.D. from Stanford. After working in a private law practice, he went into politics, serving, in turn, as an assistant to a California state senator, as the state’s Deputy Attorney General, as a member of the State Assembly, and as a member of Congress. California Governor Jerry Brown named him state Attorney General on January 23 of last year. He is the first Latino to hold that position.

Becerra to Trump: “Be careful!”

His ideological agenda was clear from the start. A sympathetic profile of Becerra in the Atlantic began with the news that he was “issu[ing] a warning to the President of the United States:

“Be careful,” he said in a singsongy voice. “Be careful!” A wicked smile appeared.

Becerra, wrote Atlantic reporter Michelle Cottle, “clearly relishes his role as a burr in Donald Trump’s backside.” What business does a state Attorney General have issuing warnings to Presidents or being burrs in their backsides? Why was the new Attorney General of America’s largest state focused on challenging the newly elected President’s politics rather than on prosecuting people arrested for committing crimes in his (frankly) crime-ridden state?

Becerra’s ideologies allies

When talking to Cottle, Becerra had nothing to say about such matters – which are, after all, the appropriate province of a state Attorney General. No, what he was interested in was using his new position to push California, and thus the U.S., even further to the left, especially on the issue of illegal immigration. “Becerra sees California playing a special role by virtue of its size and ‘forward leaning’ politics,” wrote Cottle. As Becerra told her: “Sometimes it takes a generation, but we pull the country in certain directions.”

More Becerra allies

His first major action as Attorney General was to join a lawsuit that managed to put the kibosh on President Trump’s January 27 presidential directive that sought to restrict travel to the U.S. from certain Muslim countries that were deemed to represent dangers to American security. When Trump issued a new order on September 24, seeking to limit travel from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad, North Korea, Venezuela, and Iraq, Becerra again leapt into action, accusing Trump of pushing “a political agenda rooted in fear and bias” and insisting that California would “continue to welcome and embrace people of goodwill from all backgrounds, religions, and ethnicities.”

More on Thursday.

Debra Messing: Saving the world, one red carpet at a time

This year’s red carpet

It goes without saying that sexual abuse is a despicable crime. But how many of the men who walked the Golden Globes red carpet this year had their own dark secrets? How many of the women owed their success, at least in part, to decisions to yield to sexual aggression by powerful producers or directors or stars – and to keep quiet about it? As the scale of the sex abuse scandal ballooned over the last few months, many people wondered how Hollywood, once awards season came, would deal with its shame.

Debra Messing before the big show

After all, they’ve been posing for decades as pillars of virtue, lecturing to the American public in their projects and in their talk-show appearances. Surely the scandal would embarrass them, mortify them. How, under such circumstances, could they go through with their annual self-celebration? What’s clear now is that Hollywood doesn’t have any shame – these people’s egos are so massive, their sense of superiority to the hoi polloi so unshakable, that even now they still feel perfectly comfortable preaching into the cameras.

Which brings us back to Will and Grace star Debra Messing, whose recent turn to outspoken political activism we began discussing on Tuesday. Listening to her red-carpet rant, you’d have thought, for a second, that you were witnessing some revolutionary gathering of the downtrodden rather than a glamorous black-tie event for some of the most privileged people on earth. You’d have thought that Messing was standing not on a red carpet but on some barricade out of Les Miz. As we noted on Tuesday, she called for “intersectional gender parity.” How many viewers who’d tuned in seeking diversion from their real-life problems knew what on earth Messing was talking about? “Intersectional gender parity”? It was not only obnoxious and inappropriate, but also wildly pretentious.

Harvey Weinstein

Plainly, Messing, like so many of her showbiz colleagues, wants to be seen as a spokesperson for ordinary women and people of color and poor folks generally; she wants the world to see her as a great big heart overflowing with sensitivity and sympathy for those less fortunate than herself. But how many of the real-life people for whom she pretends to speak have any idea what “intersectional” means? Has the question ever crossed Messing’s mind? This, folks, is precisely the essence of Hollywood radicalism these days: it’s not remotely about the limousine set identifying with the rabble or wanting to help improve their lot; it’s about showbiz luminaries virtue signaling to one another.

Ronan Farrow

Naturally, the mainstream media loved it. For example, NBC News called Messing’s comments “fearless” and “powerful.” Now, NBC News, it will be remembered, is the news organization for which Ronan Farrow prepared his exposé on Harvey Weinstein – the sensational story that kicked off the whole Hollywood sex scandal. It will also be remembered that NBC News, which is now so eager to praise people like Messing as “fearless” and “powerful,” was itself too timid to run Farrow’s story itself – which was why it ended up being published in the New Yorker. Ah, the courage!

Don’t mess with Debra Messing!

Born in 1968, Debra Messing has had a stellar acting career. Her breakthrough role on the NBC sitcom Will and Grace (1998-2006) led, via a series of supporting roles in obscure movies and one-shot performances on various TV series, to her triumphant current gig in, um, the retread of the NBC sitcom Will and Grace (2017-).

Debra Messing

Okay, we won’t knock her career. Let’s face it, she’s been lucky. However horrible Will and Grace was (and is), the residuals certainly can’t be anything to sneeze at. Still, to those who aren’t Will and Grace fans, Messing is probably best known for her recent forays into political commentary. In a relatively brief time, she’s become quite the nag. In the spring of 2016, when actress Susan Sarandon, a longtime feminist and leftist radical, expressed her lack of enthusiasm for the presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton and suggested that the country might be better off under Donald Trump, Messing was outraged, writing on Twitter: “Wonder if she’d say that if she were poor, gay, Muslim or imm[i]gr[a]nt.”

Blake Shelton

That was just the beginning. In July, after country singer Blake Shelton told an interviewer that “Whether you love [Trump] or hate him, he says what he thinks, and he has proven that you don’t always have to be so afraid,” Messing was – again – outraged, accusing him of supporting an enemy of women’s rights. (Shelton explained that he wasn’t supporting either Trump or Hillary.)

Susan Sarandon

Following Trump’s election, it was back to Sarandon again, who opined on Twitter that progressives needed to “reach out in dialogue to those who voted 4 [Trump]. We can’t afford a blanket judgement [sic] of them. We need allies in that camp. Possible.” Once again, Messing went berserk: “JESUS CHRIST. NOW she wants to give racist, islamophobic, homophobic, sexist, mysogynists a chance! ‘Pure’ 4 Bernie. F*** everyone else.”

For years, Messing pretty much kept her mouth shut except when reading lines penned for her by screenwriters. Now – well, we suppose that thanks to Will and Grace she has pockets full of “F*** you” money and is now taking advantage of this financial independence to try to out-Lena Dunham Lena Dunham. Earlier this month, while being interviewed by a reporter for the E! network on the red carpet at the Golden Globe Awards, Messing served up a shrill demand: “Time is up. We want diversity and we want intersectional gender parity!” She proceeded, according to NBC News, “to demand more diversity among workplaces, emphasizing women of color, and a gender balance of ’50/50 by 2020.’”

Lena Dunham at a Golden Globes afterparty

Messing wasn’t the only political activist on the red carpet. Far from it. The Golden Globes ceremony, after all, was the first major Hollywood awards show of the season since the industry’s biggest scandal of all time kicked into high gear a few months ago, with one powerful industry figure after another being brought down by accusations of sexual harassment and abuse. The result has been a hashtag campaign – #metoo – on behalf of the victims and, at the Golden Globes, a purported display of solidarity in the form of black gowns (for the women) and stylish “Time’s Up!” buttons (for the men), meaning that the era of male sexual predation in Hollywood was supposedly over.

Almost all of those attending the ceremony, in short, were – at least in their own minds – bold heroes, tireless activists. But none of them outdid Messing. More on Thursday.

Keith Ellison, Antifa fan

Keith Ellison

On Tuesday, we met Keith Ellison, the first Muslim in the U.S. Congress – who, among much else, has defended Louis Farrakhan, likened George W. Bush to Hitler, and compared Trump unfavorably with Kim Jong-un. As we’ve seen, Ellison, who represents Minneapolis and environs, has been quite chummy with the terrorist-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations: he’s spoken at CAIR events, and CAIR leaders have spoken at Ellison fundraisers.

Ellison addressing the US Council of Muslim Organizations

But CAIR isn’t the only dicey Muslim group with which he has cozy connections. He’s addressed at least three conventions of the Hamas-linked Islamic Society of North America. In 2007 and again in 2008, he was the keynote speaker at conventions of the Muslim American Society (MAS), appearing on the second occasion with an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. MAS, which has been linked to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al-Qaeda, and which the United Arab Emirates has designated as a terrorist group, has called for jihadist violence and the murder of Jews, and, in its official magazine, routinely refers to suicide bombers as martyrs and to terrorists as freedom fighters. In 2016, under pressure, Ellison withdrew as speaker from a MAS event.

Ellison with jihad enthusiast and faux feminist Linda Sarsour

As we made clear on Tuesday, Ellison’s radical record was no mystery when Minneapolis voters sent him to Congress in 2006. It is hard to know what to make of the fact that they’ve sent him back five times since then, during a decade when his ties to pro-jihad groups and his hostility to Israel have been repeatedly on display. Less difficult to explain is why his fellows Democrats chose him – by unanimous acclamation – as the deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee: he represents the party’s “progressive” wing, and these days, in that party, “progressive” includes everything from socialists-bordering-on-Communists to Muslims (and friends of Islam) whose public criticisms of jihadist terrorism sound painfully tame and pro forma.

Ellison with Mark Bray’s book

The latest cause for widespread concern about Ellison was a tweet he sent out on January 3. It read: “@MoonPalaceBooks and I just found the book that strike [sic] fear in the heart of @realDonaldTrump.” Accompanying the text was a photo of Ellison holding a volume entitled Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook by Mark Bray. Antifa, of course, is the umbrella term for a number of groups that, during the last couple of years, have joined together in violent protests against conservative, libertarian, and other non-leftist speakers at various U.S. college campuses. As the Daily Caller noted, “While the group [Antifa] claims to be anti-Fascist, they routinely shut down the speech of people they disagree with.”The Washington Times described Bray’s book as “a history of anti-fascism movements and guide to aspiring radicals.” Some reports have maintained that the book is nothing more than an objective account of its topic (Newsweek called it “politically neutral”), but this claim is nonsense: as an Associated Press report indicated, Bray “calls violence during counter-protests ‘a small though vital sliver of anti-fascist activity.’” Bray also maintains that certain ideas are undeserving of First Amendment protection.

Ben Shapiro

In response to Ellison’s tweet, Alex Griswold of the Washington Free Beacon tweeted: “Um, the deputy chair of the DNC is endorsing a book that advocates for violence in the streets.” The Young America’s Foundation (YAF) chastised Ellison for his tweet, calling it an “inexplicable embrace of violent Antifa tactics.” YAF, which has been involved in arranging many of the campus speaking events that Antifa has sought to disrupt, commented: “No one knows the dangers posed by Antifa better than the conservative college students YAF works with around the country who have been threatened, stalked, and at times attacked by the radical leftists who make up its ranks. Most notably, Antifa thugs attempted to shut down YAF’s campus lecture with Ben Shapiro at the University of California, Berkeley.” 

Nancy Pelosi

Even House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has vilified Antifa, saying last August: “You’re not talking about the far left of the Democratic Party – they’re not even Democrats. A lot of them are socialists or anarchists or whatever.” But Ellison isn’t the only high-profile establishment figure to signal his fondness for Antifa, and after his tweet went public – and garnered criticism – some mainstream publications dismissed the furor as a far-right tempest in a teapot. “The anger toward Ellison is increasingly a fringe movement,” Newsweek insisted, the implication being that any hostility directed at him is by definition racist and Islamophobic.

Keith Ellison, Congressional radical

Keith Ellison

Forget Bernie Sanders (who, after all, isn’t really a Democrat anyway). Keith Ellison is the face of today’s far-left, identity politics-obsessed Democrat Party. He was the first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, in 2006. (But he’s already not the last: two years after his election, Hoosiers sent André Carson to Washington.) 

Louis Farrakhan

Raised Catholic, Ellison became a Muslim at 19. In law school, he wrote a series of articles in which he sought to defend Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and his flunky Khalid Abdul Muhammed (a Holocaust denier who had called Jews “hook-nosed, bagel-eatin’, lox-eatin’ impostors”) against frankly indisputable charges of being anti-white and anti-Semitic.

Ellison speaking at an anti-Israeli event

Ellison, who originally ran for office under the name Keith Ellison-Muhammed, spent four years in the Minnesota legislature before running in 2006 for the U.S. Congress. During the 2006 campaign, his opponents brought up his failure to pay income taxes for several years in the 1990s. (As a result, the IRS had put liens on his home.) He’d also failed to pay parking tickets and fines, causing his driver’s license to be suspended repeatedly. You might consider these actions to be a sign of – at the very least – a lack of civic responsibility, and you might think that civic responsibility would be the first requirement for a member of Congress. But never mind.

Opponents also brought up his longtime association with Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. In response, Ellison readily denounced both the organization and its leader. You might wonder how sincere his denunciation was. You also might wonder how principled a man is when he’s willing to kick to the curb, prontissimo, a man who, however execrable, was apparently one of his heroes. But never mind.

Nihad Awad

Curiously, even as he distanced himself from the Nation of Islam, Ellison accepted support from the equally reprehensible, terrorist-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations, whose then executive director, Nihad Awad, spoke at one of his fundraisers. Ellison also spoke numerous times at CAIR events, while Awad and at least one other CAIR official also personally contributed to the Ellison campaign. Ellison’s Republican challenger criticized him for taking terrorist-tainted money. (Awad, a former official of the Islamic Association of Palestine, a group drenched in the blood of terrorist victims, had also donated to Hamas.) You might think all of this would have given voters pause. But never mind. In the end, none of it mattered. Ellison was elected to Congress, where he has since represented all of Minneapolis and parts of two adjacent counties.

Ellison speaking at a CAIR event

He was the first member of Congress to take his oath on a Koran. But the controversies didn’t end there. In a 2007 speech, he suggested that the U.S. was a “totalitarian” power, compared George W. Bush to Hitler, and implied that 9/11 had been engineered by the Bush White House. Ellison later walked back those statements, acknowledging that Osama bin Laden, not Bush, was in fact behind 9/11.

Sami al-Arian

In 2007, in violation of administration policy, Ellison and other members of Congress visited Syria, a designated state sponsor of terrorism. In Saudi Arabia, Ellison waxed poetic over the experience of being in the same country as Mecca and Medina. In 2008, he expressed support for Sami al-Arian, who had been dismissed from the faculty of the University of South Florida for aiding the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In 2010, Ellison decried supposed Israeli influence over U.S. foreign policy, finally sparking criticism by the Anti-Defamation League, which had previously bent over backwards to avoid chiding him.

Kim Jong-un and friends

While frequently excoriating Israel for defending itself against terrorist attacks, Ellison has had good things to say about Iran – and even North Korea. Speaking on a panel last August, he said that while “the world always thought” Kim Jong-un “was not a responsible leader,” the dictator was in fact “acting more responsible [sic] than this guy is” – “this guy” being the President of the United States, Donald Trump. Ellison had to walk back that statement, too.

In November 2016, Ellison was the “progressive” choice for chair of the Democratic National Committee. When Tom Perez beat him, Perez asked that Ellison be chosen to serve as his Deputy Chair; Ellison won by a unanimous voice vote. His ascent to this party position clinched his role as the most powerful and prominent Muslim in the U.S. But, as we’ll see on Thursday, it certainly didn’t persuade him to take a less radical line in his politics.