Robin Williams made me cry. Like his mentor, the late Jonathan Winters, Williams, who committed suicide Monday, made me laugh so intensely tears would come to my eyes.
Williams’ death made headlines and led TV newscasts. His comedic genius diverted us from stories about terrorism and other sadness in the world. That’s what comedy does. It makes us forget our troubles — national, international and personal — and for a moment, embrace happiness.
Williams, who seemed full of joy on the outside, was apparently tormented on the inside. He suffered from clinical depression. An estimated 19 million Americans suffer from depression, according to the Mayo Clinicwebsite(sic). He may have tried to conquer it in the ’70s and ’80s by self-medicating with cocaine, but the drug, while creating an intense high, is often followed quickly by “intense depression,” according to the Foundation for a Drug-Free World.
Many people misunderstand clinical depression. They think because someone has wealth and fame, or circumstances better than others, they should be happy, or at least content.
Robin Williams wasn’t normal. While he made others laugh — and in his serious roles, such as that of Sean Maguire in “Good Will Hunting,” for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, conveyed profound and timeless virtues — he was deeply troubled. Ironically, his part in this film was that of a psychologist.
President Obama referred to Williams’ numerous and diverse film roles: “Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny … and everything in between. But he was one of a kind.” Indeed.
Rolling Stone magazine reported; “Last month, Williams checked himself into a rehab facility to ‘fine-tune and focus on his continued commitment, of which he remains extremely proud,’ his rep said at the time.”
I asked Dave Berg, the former co-producer of “The Tonight Show,” for his greatest memory of Williams, who appeared on the show many times with Jay Leno. He sent this email:
“I once brought my two young children to “The Tonight Show” to meet Robin. They had watched the video of ‘Hook’ many times, and were mesmerized by his performance as Peter Pan in the 1991 film. When Robin came out of his dressing room, and saw my 3-year-old son David and my 7-year-old daughter Melissa, he immediately crouched down, so he could be eye level with them. David asked Robin how he was able to fly in the film. Without missing a beat, Robin answered: ‘A little magic and very tight pants.’ Both the kids and the adults laughed, but for different reasons because Robin was playing to both audiences. That’s true comedic genius.”
Psychiatrist Keith Ablow, appearing on Fox News, said “95 percent” of people with clinical depression are treatable. Whether Robin Williams was among the 5 percent who aren’t, or there were other factors, we may never know.
In one of his most profound roles, that of poetry teacher John Keating in the 1989 film “Dead Poets Society,” Williams told his students: “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
It’s sad to see someone who could make so many people laugh suffer from depression. Worse, his death and the loss of his talent add to the general gloominess that hangs over much of the world.
MY TWO SENSE:
Barack Obama — our imperial emperor in chief
By Cal Thomas
Published January 17, 2013
January 14, 2013: President Obama at a news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C. (REUTERS)
One definition of “imperial” on dictionary.com is, “of the nature or rank of an emperor or supreme ruler.”
At his news conference Monday, a petulant, threatening and confrontational President Obama spoke like an emperor or supreme ruler. All that was missing was a scepter, a crown and a robe trimmed in ermine.
This president exceeds even Bill Clinton in his ability to evade, prevaricate and dissemble. I didn’t think that possible.
Not only did he supply long answers to relatively easy questions, but much of what he said bore no relation to reality.
A petulant, threatening and confrontational President Obama spoke Monday like an emperor or supreme ruler. All that was missing was a scepter, a crown and a robe trimmed in ermine.
He spoke of having had the debate over the economy during the 2012 campaign and boasted, “…the American people agreed with me.”
By the way, can we now retire the phrase “the American people”? Too many politicians overuse it, including Speaker John Boehner. Forty-seven percent of voters supported Mitt Romney and other Republicans in the last election. Ninety-four million people eligible to vote didn’t vote. Can Obama really claim “the American people” agreed with him?
The president won the election, but he has yet to win the debate over smaller vs. larger government, and more vs. less spending.
The question Major Garrett of CBS News posed to the president on raising the debt ceiling in tandem with spending cuts exposed his hypocrisy and that of many congressional Democrats: “You yourself, as a member of the Senate, voted against a debt ceiling increase. And in previous aspects of American history, President Reagan in 1985, President George Herbert Walker Bush in 1990, President Clinton in 1997, all signed deficit-reduction deals that were contingent upon or in the context of raising the debt ceiling. You yourself, four times have done that. Three times, those were related to deficit reduction or budget maneuvers. What Chuck (NBC’s Chuck Todd) and I and, I think, many people are curious about is this new adamant desire on your part not to negotiate when that seems to conflict with the entire history of the modern era of American presidents on the debt ceiling and your own history on the debt ceiling. And doesn’t that suggest that we are going to go into a default situation, because no one is talking to each other about how to resolve this?”
The president dissembled, talking again (he repeated this at least three times by my count) about how Congress had authorized all the spending and how we must now “pay our bills.” But as Garrett noted, the president had a different view of the debt ceiling when he was an Illinois senator and voted against raising it. In 2006, he said, “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure.” Except when he’s the leader, then it’s someone else’s failure.
In 2003, during another debate over raising the debt ceiling, Sen. Max Baucus, (D-Mont.), said, “The federal debt is like the family credit card. Sooner or later you have to pay down the debts that you have already incurred. If you don’t, your credit rating will suffer. The way the government raises the debt limit is also like a family who just keeps calling the bank every time they hit the credit limit and asks the bank over and over again for an increase in their credit limit without regard to anything else. Rather than pay down their debt, they just keep on asking for a higher debt limit.”
Many other Senate Democrats, including Senators Harry Reid, (D-Nev.), and John Kerry, (D-Mass.), shared Baucus’ concerns, but that was during the George W. Bush administration.
The president says he will reduce debt with a “balanced approach,” by which he means offsetting higher taxes on the wealthy with spending cuts, which will never materialize. It won’t work. Whatever tax revenue government manages to save, Congress will always find a way to spend it.
The president has submitted a budget proposal to Congress for each fiscal year he’s been in office, but Congress has failed to pass a single one. That’s a staggering repudiation of his leadership.
President Obama will not negotiate about raising the debt ceiling? Not surprising. Imperial leaders don’t negotiate.
Cal Thomas is America’s most widely syndicated newspaper columnist and a Fox News contributor. Follow him on Twitter@CalThomas. Readers may e-mail Cal Thomas at email@example.com.
- Cal Thomas: Obama an imperial president (reporternews.com)
- Obama Says “Not Raising Debt Ceiling Is Absurd” But Voted Against It in 2006 (thegatewaypundit.com)
- REPUBLICANS: We’ll Raise The Debt Ceiling If The Senate Democrats Pass A Budget (businessinsider.com)
- GOP Senator Insists Congress will Raise Debt Ceiling (politicalwire.com)
- An Imperial President and The War Between the Amendments (conservativeread.com)
- How Congress Wrecked a Smart Debt-Ceiling Fix (businessweek.com)
- HYPOCRISY: Top Dems urging Obama to raise debt ceiling all voted against increase in ’06. “Decla… (pjmedia.com)