As if trade wars, border walls, shutdowns and other crises manufactured in Washington weren’t bad enough, now we have a real problem: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences can’t find a host for the Feb. 24 Oscars presentation.
The Trump administration has developed an equivalent to the Academy Awards conundrum, shedding White House chiefs of staff so fast that the post now is held by someone with “acting” in his title.
The Oscars organizers had given the nod to comedian and actor Kevin Hart, but someone forgot to run his name through the PC purity assurance department before releasing it to the public. Twitter users did so and found anti-gay jokes in some of Hart’s old tweets. The ensuing outrage pushed Hart out of what should be a plum gig.
The last time the show went host-less, in 1989, it was widely seen as a disaster. This year the Academy was looking for a host who could draw new viewers and reverse a five-year ratings slump.
Hart is hardly alone. Now that a public figure’s every recorded utterance can be unearthed and fed like chum to hungry Twitter mobs, Hollywood’s biggest names are opting to stay in the audience on Oscar night. Even if your past record meets the ever-evolving standards of political correctness, one careless remark could land you in the stocks.
The White House chief of staff, a prestigious office tasked with managing the president’s schedule and personnel, also has fallen on hard times. Trump went through two chiefs, Reince Priebus and John Kelly, before the halfway mark of his term and then was turned down by his third choice, Nick Ayers. He settled for an acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney.
Several others whose names have been floated for the job have said they’re not interested. No wonder. Anyone who works for Trump can become a target of his acid tongue — just ask Rex Tillerson and Jeff Sessions. Trump’s White House is by all accounts a den of backstabbing and chaos, and when he tires of you, you can expect the president to make your departure as humiliating as possible.
So where can Hollywood and the White House find candidates for these once-coveted positions? The safe route is to go with experience. The landscape has grown too treacherous for neophytes to roam across it naked and afraid. Time to bring out the big guns, even if their barrels show a little rust.
But there’s a problem. The Oscar folks fear that a familiar, bland choice of hosts will produce equally bland TV ratings. And the White House, while it clearly needs order and stability, is led by a man who craves novelty and surprise.
The situation calls for a clever blend of the old and the new. Let’s bring back a pair of veteran chiefs of staff from the Gerald Ford administration and have them co-host the Oscars. Can you imagine the excitement when Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney take the stage?
Not only would the Hollywood elite’s heads go through the ceiling (sending red-state ratings through the roof) but it would make a nice outing for the two old warhorses, who could meet fabulous superstar celebrities they otherwise wouldn’t recognize in an elevator.
As for President Trump, he has an opportunity to hire a chief of staff who has demonstrated a willingness to offer him frank and honest feedback. The ideal candidate would also allow him to showcase his commitment to diversity and his legendary willingness to forgive and forget.
Four-time Oscar host Whoopi Goldberg, sign right here.
Reach Michael Smith, a Lexington office worker, at firstname.lastname@example.org