NOTE TO GOP: LET IT BE…. President Obama hosted an event this week with Paul McCartney, where the legendary artist was awarded the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize. That wouldn’t be especially noteworthy, were it not for a 17-word joke the songwriter told. Salon‘s Alex Pareene had this report:

This is what happened: Paul McCartney won an award from the Library of Congress, because even though he had probably the third-best solo career as a Beatle, Ringo is not yet properly recognized for his songwriting prowess and the other two are dead. Sir Paul played a concert for President and Mrs. Obama.

At the end of the concert, Paul McCartney made a joke. He said: “After the last eight years, it’s good to have a president that knows what a library is.”

There are, to be sure, harsher jokes that can be told about the failed former president; I may have even told one or two. Indeed, this wasn’t especially surprising. As Pareene put it, “Hippie ’60s musician Paul McCartney, whose famous band championed a number of left-wing radical causes, made a joke about how he was glad to have a liberal intellectual as president instead of a conservative anti-intellectual.”

But the right seems surprisingly worked up about this. Not only did National Review run a couple of angry items, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), the man who intends to be Speaker of the House this time next year, went so far as to issue a public statement, calling on Paul McCartney to “apologize to the American people for his conduct.”


There are a few competing angles to this, but I’d like to emphasize just one. The same day McCartney told a harmless joke about George W. Bush’s limited intellect, George W. Bush boasted about having ordered torture as president, and insisted he wouldn’t change a thing if he had it to do over again.

So, just so we’re clear, a musician telling a Bush-is-dumb joke generates a fair amount of outrage in some conservative circles. A former president admitting to ordering torture — bragging about utilizing a technique that the United States has long considered criminal, and has even prosecuted — is completely fine.

One, in Boehner’s mind, requires an apology; the other is a source of partisan pride.

There’s something deeply wrong with this picture.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.