It's one thing to irritate your opponent. It's another to irritate a newsperson. But when you irritate the guy who's made a living out of making people laugh for more than 26 years, any criticism may pack more of a punch.
misunderestimate David Letterman. Letterman's been on the air since 1982. While his show has always been a ratings success, numerous wannabees crashed and burned, badly. Magic Johnson's "The Magic Hour" and "The Chevy Chase show" are just two examples of heinous late night Hindenburgs. It's a tough gig.
So when John McCain cancelled on Letterman - at the last minute - you could hardly expect that the comic would take it easy on him. He didn't.
First, he replaced McCain with what some of the Republican's campaign might consider the anti-Christ - Keith Olbermann. That was after, however, his opening monologue which was, for McCain supporters, brutal.
"Maybe you've heard the big news," Letterman began. "John McCain, Senator John McCain, Republican candidate for President, was supposed to be on the program tonight. Were you aware of that? But he had to cancel the show because he's suspending his campaign because the economy is exploding. You know who John McCain is... he's the running mate of Sarah Palin.
"So John McCain calls up and says I'm not going to be there kids, because everything is going to hell," he continued. "But the funny thing is that no one told his vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, and honest to God, right now she's still circling the theater in a white minivan. She's gonna pick him up later..."
"She was at the General Assembly and someone said to her, "Oh, look over there. That's the President of Georgia," And she said, "Wow, Jimmy Carter." And then she said, "Boy, I hope I get to meet Queen Latifah."
Letterman got plenty of laughs from the usual targets - celebrities and current affairs. When discussing the shaky economy, Letterman said he wasn't concerned.
A serious Dave?
But it wasn't all laughs for Letterman. He wasn't happy with the cancellation and it was apparent in his remarks. After all, the two go back. McCain has appeared on the Letterman show 12 times.
"So now I wonder if he'll ever come back," he said. "Do you think he'll come back? A hero. An honest-to-God hero. An American hero. Maybe the only actual hero I know. I've met the man. I know the guy. So I'm more than a little disappointed by this behavior. 'We're suspending the campaign.' Are we suspending it because there's an economic crisis or because the poll numbers are sliding?"
With the video feed of McCain and Couric displayed for all to see, Letterman quipped, "He doesn’t seem to be racing to the airport, does he? Hey, John, I got a question! You need a ride to the airport?"
As for the McCain team, they apologized for the last-minute cancellation. On the Today Show, a McCain spokesperson said it "wasn't a night for comedy."
"We deeply regret offending Mr. Letterman, but our candidate's priority at this moment is to focus on this crisis," Nicolle Wallace said.
Of course it wouldn't be a David Letterman show without a "Top Ten List." And last night's expectedly was aimed at John McCain.
The Top Ten Questions People are Asking The John McCain Campaign
10. "I just contributed to your campaign - how do I get a refund?
9. "It's Sarah Palin - does this mean I'm pars'dent?"
8. "Can't you solve this by selling some of your houses?"
7. "This is Clay Aiken. Is McCain single?"
6. "Do you still think the fundamentals of our economy are strong, Genius?"
5. "Are you doing all of this just to get out of going on Letterman?"
4. "What would Matlock do?"
3. "Hillary here - my schedule is free Friday night."
2. "Is this just an excuse to catch up on napping?"
1. "This is President Bush - what's all this trouble with the economy?"