I’ve been waiting a bit to comment on the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. There are a lot of opinions out there, and I’m happy most of all that people are talking and writing and thinking about issues, humor and satire vs. criticism and insult, comedy as news, the role of a court jester, and so on.
Steve Bridges did a great imitation of Bush, and was obviously Bush’s own choice (for his own roast, he gets to choose?). I’ve heard that Bridges can do Clinton just as well. That was the light side of the dinner, although there were a couple of low-grade zings in that one, too.
But I have to say that I think Colbert’s performance was the more important. I did actually think much of it was funny, in the traditional way of a roast. As it went on, he transitioned through court jester, and went all the way to performative critique. The film clip of Colbert pretending to be the White House Spokesman forced the viewer to dwell in a fairly unpleasant space – it even made me a little anxious because of the genre of suspense, the music, the way it was drawn out. It was meant to make people squirm. It worked for that, but I could almost hear the pulse of a pounding vein in Bush’s own head by the end of it.
The video wasn’t funny – but it was performative, dramatic, and scathing in its depiction, and that was even better. Scott McClellan probably had the most right to feel attacked…. wasn’t that pretty much a depiction of him?
It focused on a single question, finally: Why did we really go to war in Iraq?
Helen Thomas herself – I swear I saw her wipe a tear. I was glad to see someone stand up for her, and for the questions she’s not been allowed to ask anymore despite her long history as the media hardnose to the President. And I was glad to see someone stand up for us, we who are being fed a bunch of hogwash propaganda day and night, straight from the White House to Fox News, etc.
Anyone who has watched the Daily Show or the Colbert Report would know what his humor was like. Remember, he was invited.
I fully expected Colbert to pull a Family von Trapp while the film clip was playing, but to my shock and admiration, he was still standing there at the end.
Thank you Stephen Colbert
The Speech Video
Stephen Colbert Musical Extravaganza
The Colbert Report
Colbert Clips on ifilm
Yes, I approve.
Why? Because I’m angry at his administration – Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, et. al. – as well as its bullied, corrupt, or spineless members of Congress, the controlled or cowardly media, and the American people themselves – who have allowed our country to be twisted and trampled into something it should never be. If we continue on this path, our future is dismal.
William Rivers Pitt puts it pithily (when angry, spitting and sputtering are common) – Why the anger?
Because millions of people are staggered by the idea that, yes Virginia, we have to go through this again. We have to watch soldiers slaughter and be slaughtered for reasons that bear no markings of truth. We have to watch the reputation of this great nation be savaged. We have to watch as our leaders lie to us with their bare faces hanging out.
Why the anger? It can be summed up in one run-on sentence: We have lost two towers in New York, a part of the Pentagon, an important American city called New Orleans, our economic solvency, our global reputation, our moral authority, our children’s future, we have lost tens of thousands of American soldiers to death and grievous injury, we must endure the Abramoffs and the Cunninghams and the Libbys and the whores and the bribes and the utter corruption, we must contemplate the staggering depth of the hole we have been hurled down into, and we expect little to no help from the mainstream DC press, whose lazy go-along-to-get-along cocktail-circuit mentality allowed so much of this to happen because they failed comprehensively to do their job.
George W. Bush and his pals used September 11th against the American people, used perhaps the most horrific day in our collective history, deliberately and with intent, to foster a war of choice that has killed untold tens of thousands of human beings and basically bankrupted our country. They lied about the threat posed by Iraq. They destroyed the career of a CIA agent who was tasked to keep an eye on Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and did so to exact petty political revenge against a critic. They tortured people, and spied on American civilians.
You cannot fathom anger arising from this?
There is at least a small amount of comfort in knowing that that the President had to hear, at least once, a few of the reasons why those approval figures are so low.