"The reviews from the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner are in, and the consensus is that President Bush and Bush impersonator Steve Bridges stole Saturday's show -- and Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert's cutting satire fell flat because he ignored the cardinal rule of Washington humor: Make fun of yourself, not the other guy."Froomkin says that captures the sentiment of the Washington Post newsroom. Surprise! But for all the opinionating that has come from the blogosphere, it's the Washington reporters -- the butts of the jokes -- who wind up looking like asses.
Milbank: "I don't think he really crossed the line. I just think he wasn't terribly funny. And he had the misfortune of following Bush, who actually did put on one of the better performances of his presidency."
...which is an observation that reveals so much about how the DC press corps just love to chum it up with their Beltway colleagues. See, silly me for seeing the humor in Colbert's biting satire and not seeing humor in a negligent, incompetent and prevaricating president's clowning around for the press.
"But I also had the sense that Colbert's toughness on Bush made people squirm because it raised that age-old question that goes back to the republic's start. How do you criticize the president without disrespecting the presidency?"Easy: You make fun of the president, not the office of the president. (I even thought that up myself. Obviously I went to college. Me so proud!)
â€œI donâ€™t want it that badly,â€ McCain says. â€œI will continue to do what is right. I will continue to pursue torture, climate change. If that means I canâ€™t get the Republican nomination, fine. Iâ€™ve had a happy life. The worst thing I can do is sell my soul to the devil.â€The context:
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.
There is some recognition that the grass roots efforts that started relatively late in the game, combined with some lobbying by e-commerce companies, is starting to have an effect. We've probably got a couple of weeks before the full telecom bill goes to the House floor. (As I write this, the final vote hasn't happened yet, but there's no doubt the Committee will approve the bill.)
This turned, unfortunately, into a partisan fight. Only one courageous Republican, Heather Wilson of New Mexico, voted in favor of the amendment. These Democrats left the reservation: Ed Towns of New York, Bobby Rush of Illinois, Al Wynn of Maryland, Gene Green of Texas and Charlie Gonzales of Texas.
There are other developments. The House Judiciary Committee's special Telecom Task Force had a hearing on the issue the other day, and was deeply concerned about the issue. And there is legislation in the Senate that could also get serious consideration.
There's hope. Take action. The GOP is trying to push this through before they're pushed out of controlling the House.
This is free speech at stake. If this isn't stopped, we'll be joining China in having a censored internet.
That's what reporters do. They want quick answers. They want the thumbnail understanding. They're like boxers -- I keep thinking of Apollo Creed in Rocky being coached to "stick and move, stick and move" -- that's reporting. Give it a zing. It's black, or white. Give a nod to complexity, but then dismiss it by not going there.
SHERMAN OAKS, Calif. -- In the angry life of Maryscott O'Connor, the rage begins as soon as she opens her eyes and realizes that her president is still George W. Bush. The sun has yet to rise and her family is asleep, but no matter; as soon as the realization kicks in, O'Connor, 37, is out of bed and heading toward her computer.
Out there, awaiting her building fury: the Angry Left, where O'Connor's reputation is as one of the angriest of all. "One long, sustained scream" is how she describes the writing she does for various Web logs, as she wonders what she should scream about this day.
What follows is what seems like an attempt at humorous caricature, painting a picture of a madwoman smoking a cig while trying to think up the most horrible awful thing to blog about. I don't know Maryscott, but I know her writing, and some of it is very powerful. Maybe she's really like this.
But doesn't the reporter -- David Finkel, fans -- really have any interest in exploring why?
The man completely misses the story here. He gets off on a shallow, mocking portrait of a day in the life of a blogger, and doesn't see -- or simply ignores -- that he's seeing a citizen trying to deal with today's politics, that blogging is citizen publishing, that millions of people are blogging.
"But that's not his assignment," you say?
Therein lies the problem. Because what we have here is a dismissive article that uses exaggeration and selective observation (like focusing on the most inane comments made in discussion threads, while ignoring anything in depth) to undercut the credibility of a person who's been made the sacrificial goat of the day to slay the insurgent communications medium -- blogging -- while selling soap (or, on the web page I'm looking at now, HP brand servers and equity loans).
Not convinced? Then consider how the article moves straight from the cartoonish portrayal of Maryscott's "Angry Left" rage to this: