Colbert in the White House

Posted on May 5, 2006

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Somehow the fact that Stephen Colbert of the Daily Show turned up to the annual White House Press Corps dinner seems to have slipped by most Americans, probably because it happened on a Sunday night and probably because Colbert seems to have torn the President a new a-hole, right to his monkey face and in front of Christ and everybody. You can see the clip here. Colbert was literally 3 feet away from the man, but issued consecutive nailings (and not in the nudge, I’m just ribbing you vein, the tone was angry and vengeful) without hesitance. Many things about this incident are confusing, however. Firstly, I can’t imagine that Bush wasn’t aware of Colbert and company’s anti-Bush stylings. Having watched one of Colbert’s post-Iraq invasion clips a few minutes or so ago, there is no doubt that Bush could have been unaware of Colbert’s utter contempt for his administration. Furthermore, I can’t imagine that Bush doesn’t have complete mastery over what does and does not happen at this annual celebration of unabashed sycophancy, where he is always the uncontested headliner (remember that shameless ‘where are the WMD’s’ routine) So, of course, the question must be asked; how the hell did Colbert get booked for what has always been little more than a complete homage to the good-naturedness of the commander in chief? What at first seems like an awesome victory for progressives, Bush critics and fans of funny people, must be reevaluated in this light (but it should be noted that the mainstream media–who were all there, hello–mostly ignored Colbert’s participation, focusing on a rather uninspired routine by Bush). There seem to be a few possibilities here:

1. I have heard more than a few people aver that Colbert presented Bush handlers with an approvable version of his monologue and then switched at the last minute. This seems possible, in which case, its nice to imagine the sinking feeling felt by Bush at commentary about his blatant mendacity and rigid theocratic view of the world. Especially, grating to him thus, must have been the Rocky bit, where Bush is Rocky and Apollo Creed, is “everything else in the world”. Or his comment that Bush believes “the same thing on Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened on Tuesday.” Or Colbert correcting the metaphor for cabinet changes from “switching deckchairs on the Titanic” to “switching deckchairs on the Hindenburg” . And his bits about W.’s wife bordered on (gratifyingly) offensive. If this version of events is true, God bless this man. Unlike other hollywood types and entertainers who talk a good game on their off-hours, but change nothing about their behavior, their lifestyle, or the vehicles they star in, Colbert and his crew on the Daily Show, continue to take bold and principled risks with their careers. They have almost single-handedly kept dissidence in reach of the average disempowered every-(wo)man, who for nearly two generations have been waiting for vocal heroes with access to the airwaves to speak out their frustrations and their intolerance for any more bullshit.

2. Bush knew exactly what Colbert was up to. And, it follows, that Colbert knew that Bush knew. In that case, there is nothing here to celebrate or note. Colbert is advancing his career, Bush is shoring up another one of the weaknesses identified by his detractors, that he is close-minded and insulates himself with uninspired yes-men. In that light, the casting of Colbert is a logical progression in similar reshuffling that brought a Fox talking head supposedly critical of the President to the position of Press Secretary. If this is true, then Bush certainly looked like the better man, sitting there and taking it with a polite grimace and even congratulating the comedian after his brutal pounding.

In any case, of course, it changes little. Its not like what people think really matters. I mean, no one really thinks that people voted for this sucker to begin with, right?

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