What do you say, Stephen? Does this deserve a wag of the finger?
I think what turned a lot of the paid pundits off is that he was uncouth, impolitic, brash and shameless in his application of mockery through buffoonery. Personally, I found the clips of Colbert's remarks to be hysterical -- to a large extent because he didn't play nice.
Update: Here are some funny clips via YouTube.com:
George Clooney must have laughed heartily but he and Helen Thomas were probably the only two who did. The rest of the room decided to crawl into the valley of depression the President was by then inhabiting. Laura Bush, meanwhile, creditably portrayed Medusa. Alas for her, she was unable to turn Colbert into stone as he then acknowledged the great big elephant in the room. "Joe Wilson is here, the most famous husband since Desi Arnez. And of course he brought along his lovely wife Valerie Plame. Oh, my god! Oh, what have I said. I am sorry, Mr. President, I meant to say he brought along his lovely wife, Joe Wilson's wife."
Had it been any other network, the camera would then have cut to Karl Rove's face. However, Steve Scully was probably standing with a knife at the cameraman's throat by then so all we saw was Valerie Plame throwing her head back to laugh.
The AP's first stab at it and pieces from Reuters and the Chicago Tribune tell us everything we need to know: Colbert's performance is sidestepped and marginalized while Bush is treated as light-hearted, humble, and funny. Expect nothing less from the cowardly American media. The story could just as well have been Bush and Laura's discomfort and the crowd's semi-hostile reaction to Colbert's razor-sharp barbs. In fact, I would guess that from the perspective of newsworthiness and public interest, Bush-the-playful-president is far less compelling than a comedy sketch gone awry, a pissed-off prez, and a shell-shocked audience.
This is the power of the media to choose the news, to decide when and how to shield Bush from negative publicity. Sins of omission can be just as bad as sins of commission.
I think Bill Maher has managed to keep himself funny while being explicitly political.
...which brings into question is sense of humor. (Bill has made the mistake of making his show all about himself, positioning the guests as the stooges. That's something that works for Colbert, but not for Maher's laid-back comedic sarcasm. Politically Incorrect: funny. Maher's HBO show now: unfunny.
George also makes the mistake of trying to compare Colbert to Jon Stewart and Johnny Carson. I've already noted how Stewart is much like Carson (and I also managed to misspell Jon's name). Every comic has a different style. The unique edge to Colbert's approach is that he doesn't let up, he stays in character, all the way down.
How else to spoof the shameless posturing of the right-wing media bimbos he emulates? Amrita says it so well:
But in a world obsessed with adapting oneself to the audience in a vain attempt to be loved by more and more people, Stephen Colbert stuck to his fake-pundit guns. He didn't pull his punches, he wasn't intimidated by a milieu that was far different from his own [or if he was, he kept it to himself] and he was exactly who he is on his show.
Put in a room with the President of the United States, administration officials, lawmakers and the men and women who bring you news of them, Stephen Colbert did something that should make every American proud.
He exercised the rights given to him by the Constitution of his country to speak his mind and to speak it freely even in the face of power. In those minutes I was reminded that in this country, in these United States, the citizen retains the ultimate power.
But, the point is -- there has to be a foil, a "straight man"to help put the vacuous boorishness of the Colbert persona in context. Without the foil, the character isn't nearly as interesting.
Ah, but the point is that Bush and the press superstars in attendance were the foils. They were the stooges. And while they may have been cringing, it was funny to anyone who wasn't in the room and feels the mainstream media circus needs its collective balloon popped.
A final thought: Bush's clownish banter with reporters -- which is on constant display during press conferences -- stands in such stark contrast to his administration's destructive policies and to the gravity of the bloodbath in Iraq that it is deeply unsettling to watch. This may be impolitic, but wouldn't refraining from frat-style horseplay be appropriate for this man? Or at the least, can't reporters suppress their raucous laughter every time he blurts out another jibe... the way they did when Colbert put them in their place?
No kidding. But hey, we're not inside the bubble -- er, I mean Beltway. They're all chums in there.
The reason it went over so poorly is because, we weâ€™ve mentioned before, Washingtonians have a bizarre sense of humor, and itâ€™s only funny to eviscerate the press if youâ€™re a member of the press. You can eviscerate the President, but only if the President knows who you are. Those are the rules.
Every day, I still see people driving around with their Bush/Cheney '04 bumper stickers proudly displayed on their cars. (Often they're right next to the American flag stickers collecting auto exhaust and road grime, which strikes me as real desecration, if you want to get into desecration, bubbas.)
Despite his low approval ratings, Bush continues to skate on all the crap he's pulling on the American people, such as:
Signing laws, and then declaring that he's not going to follow them;
Crying gloom and doom about the "evil-doers who will stop at nothing to destroy America" ... and then complaining that people don't believe him when he says the war on Iraq is just jim dandy;
Continuing to babble the same talking points about the Iraq war as a year ago;
Spying on Americans, and sneering at anyone who criticizes such illegal behavior;
Dodging and squirming and doing everything he can to avoid owning up to his shit, like leaking Valerie Plame's then-secret status as CIA operative;
...and more of the waddayagonnadoabowdit behavior we've seen from him and his homies.
Personally, I find the fact that fully 1/3 of Americans fully approve of Bush's conduct to be rather disheartening. I'm also, let's say, "disappointed" that Democrats who were so eager to jump on the Clinton-bashing bandwagon over oral sex refuse to even consider censure -- let alone impeachment -- for a president who is lying to the American people every day.
I remember all the hubbub over Monica's blow job, but have trouble seeing anywhere on C-SPAN or any of the mainstream media any critical discussion of Bush's own compensating for his own shortcomings. I mean, we're talking about another order of magnitude of the fragile male ego.
So boys will be boys, and middle-aged men will miss their cock-sure clarity of their 20s. But in counter-constructive acting out behavior, Bill had an affair, but George launched a war on a country quite a ways down on the national security threat scale. Collateral damage: an intern's career vs. tens of thousands of lives lost. Clean-up: removing cum stains with a long-overdue dry-cleaning, vs. banning the press from covering the return of flag-draped coffins of Americans who gave their lives as a matter of doing their duty.
Or: A majority of Americans hold honor and honesty as important values.
At least that's the implication of the Wall Street Journal poll, caught by Raw Story and published in the Washington Wire (though now is virtually impossible to find), indicating that 69% of Americans support public hearings into the Plame leak.
What's more, 43% of Republicans support this. Maybe they remember that George W. Bush ran in 2000 as the man to restore honor and integrity to the White House, and want him to live up to that promise -- at least to the extent that's possible, after five years of lies, war, pillaging, pork and healthy amounts of self-righteous denials of any responsibility for anything that ever went wrong.
So far, with Bush the buck stops way down in the noncom ranks.
Yet 54% of the American people hold Bush responsible. And many more want this to be looked into -- publicly.
Needless to say, the Republicans in Congress, continuing their march out of step with Americans, oppose any inquiry that might hold anyone in their party responsible for anything.
Go to that link, and choose the "email this article" option. Send it to some of the emails on the list I gave you, preferrably one at each paper or network. You might want to add a note that you hope they won't let the Republican talking points about this not being a crime or Valerie Plame not being under cover go unchallenged.
It would be great if those of you who do choose to do the actions would leave a note in the comments. Peace!
It seems that we've moved into a new phase of the Plame-leak scandal. The Rove-a-dope isn't seeming to wash with the special prosecutor. The LA Times headline:
CIA Probe Moves from Leak Source to Perjury, Obstruction
The special prosecutor in the CIA leak investigation has shifted his focus from whether White House officials violated a law against exposing undercover agents to determining whether evidence exists to bring perjury or obstruction of justice charges, according to people briefed in recent days on the inquiry's status.Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, and his team have made no decision on whether to seek indictments, and there could be benign explanations for differences that have arisen in witnesses' statements to federal agents and a grand jury about how the name of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent who had worked undercover, was leaked to the media two years ago.
The investigation focused initially on whether administration officials illegally leaked the identity of Plame, the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, in a campaign to discredit Wilson after he wrote an op-ed article in The New York Times criticizing the Bush administration's grounds for going to war in Iraq.
According to lawyers familiar with the case, investigators are comparing statements to federal authorities by two top White House aides, Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby, with testimony from reporters who have acknowledged talking to the officials.
It's pretty clear: someone is lying. And while that may be no big deal in Washington, and perhaps a character requirement for Bush politicos, prosecutors don't like it when people lie to them, lie under oath, lie to grand juries.
Lawyers involved in the case said there are now indications that Fitzgerald did not initially know or suspect that Rove was Cooper's primary source for the reporter's information about Plame. That raises questions about how much Rove disclosed when first questioned in the inquiry or how closely he was initially queried about his contacts with reporters. Rove has testified before a grand jury and been questioned by FBI agents on at least five occasions over the past two years.
It seems that the more they struggle and squirm, the tighter the noose gets.