It’s clear that Mike Potemra is a nicer person than I am. He watched David Letterman last night and saw grace by someone in a terrible situation.
Personally, I thought Letterman’s extended apologies last night were very, very funny. He has always been able to use timing — particularly the silences — better than most, as he did in his public apologies to wife and staff. He’s better at mock remorse than lip-biting Bill Clinton, and does Midwestern, Protestant guilt more subtley than Garrison Keillor, who is a genius on the subject. His mockery of the rituals of remorse we demand from adulterous politicians or abusive or addicted celebrities — “This is only phase one of the scandal. Phase two, next week I go on Oprah and sob.”– was spot on. That’s why they pay him the big bucks: For $30 million a year, you get a slick performance, even under duress.
(It goes without saying that all those sorry politicians, Spitzer, Sanford, and Co. would have looked better if they could have delivered a brilliant comedy routine about their transgressions.)
I don’t particularly care about what he has done, since it never occured to me that Letterman was a paragon of moral probity. He is a comedian, who held out against marriage for a very long time, which might indicate serious resistance to the strictures of monogamy. I suspect that, as the story unfolds, it will become more sordid. It’s hard to see David Letterman as a victim. And for me, it is hard to see brilliant damage control as sincere remorse.