by Benn Ray
JOIN THE COLBERT NATION
"Why are you making me watch this," Rachel asked me last night.
I was making her watch the White House Correspondents Dinner on C-SPAN (super geeky, I know).
I said, "because George W. Bush and Stephen Colbert are co-hosting. I think we need to see what happens." Anxious to return to reruns on the Food Network, she groaned.
So we suffered through the correspondents' self-congratulating that was as unpolished as it was undeserved, and finally the real show got underway.
This is the same venue that, a couple years ago, that Bush produced a "Where's Waldo"-esque "Where Are The WMD's" video segment that was as disturbing as it was inappropriate.
And I give credit, whoever came up with the concept for Bush this year - well, it was a pretty funny mind-fuck. You had the real President on one side delivering a speech, and you had a creepy impersonator on the other side delivering a more Id - off-meds - voices in his head - what happens when Bush goes off-script version of the speech. It was rehearsed. And it was, for the most part humorous (if not, at times, somewhat inappropriate and disturbing - but far less so than the "Where Are The WMD" gag.)
When the awkward C-SPAN camera would pan the audience, you could tell by the expressions of the crowd that Bush's bit was working, as most attendees seemed to express both twisted brows (suggesting the oddness of what they were seeing) and open mouths, laughing.
Weird. Odd. Funny. Probably something that could have made the highlight reel for the event over the years when they do that sort of historical montage segment, if not for one thing... Stephen Colbert was next.
Colbert overshadowed everything else last night. He didn't hold back, attacking Bush, his cronies on the Supreme Court, generals, the press themselves... it was a glorious and uncomfortable thing to watch, but it was a moment of television brilliance. We were truly watching something important, and, it occurred to me as Colbert was giving Scalia the obscene Italian Chin Salute that he himself gave reporters a few weeks back, something truly punk. Watching George and Laura Bush, it became apparent rather quickly that they were in no way enjoying the roast at the hands of Colbert.
Or, you can check out some of this You Tube clip.
Colbert told Bush he could end the problem of protests by retired generals by refusing to let them retire. He compared Bush to Rocky Balboa in the “Rocky” movies, always getting punched in the face—“and Apollo Creed is everything else in the world.”
Turning to the war, he declared, "I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."
He noted former Ambassador Joseph Wilson in the crowd, just three tables away from Karl Rove, and that he had brought " Valerie Plame." Then, worried that he had named her, he corrected himself, as Bush aides might do, "Uh, I mean... he brought Joseph Wilson's wife." He might have "dodged the bullet," he said, as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wasn't there.
Colbert also made biting cracks about missing WMDs, “photo ops” on aircraft carriers and at hurricane disasters, melting glaciers and Vice President Cheney shooting people in the face. He advised the crowd, "if anybody needs anything at their tables, speak slowly and clearly on into your table numbers and somebody from the N.S.A. will be right over with a cocktail. "
Observing that Bush sticks to his principles, he said, "When the president decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday - no matter what happened Tuesday."
Also lampooning the press, Colbert complained that he was “surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country, except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides of the story — the president’s side and the vice president’s side." He also reflected on the alleged good old days, when the media was still swallowing the WMD story.
Addressing the reporters, he said, "Let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The president makes decisions, he’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know--fiction."
He claimed that the Secret Service name for Bush's new press secretary is "Snow Job."
Colbert closed his routine with a video fantasy where he gets to be White House Press Secretary, complete with a special “Gannon” button on his podium. By the end, he had to run from Helen Thomas and her questions about why the U.S. really invaded Iraq and killed all those people.
As Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling, and handshakes, and left immediately.
It was obvious King George was not enjoying the routine, and it sounded (it could be how the audio was micced, so I'm not sure) that the press themselves were somewhat uncomfortable with such a challenge (perhaps this is what people mean about "Beltway Bubble". Maybe many there last night where hearing these complaints for the first time that we, outside the beltway, have been making for years). However, watching it at home, with Rachel next to me shielding her eyes behind a pillow, my feelings were a mix of shock & awe, of "Fuck Yeah" mixed with a profound sense of fear and envy.
Here is the video clip (mentioned above) where Colbert imagines himself as the new White House Press Secretary. (Takes a minute to load - be patient).
And as if to prove Colbert's point about the right being disassociated from reality, here is how the NeoCons & Republicans are trying to spin what happened. But make no mistake, Colbert didn't bomb - he is directly responsible for an important moment of television greatness. Besides, isn't Malkin the idiot who argues that the Japanese-American Internment Camps during WWII were such a good idea we should be doing that with Arab-Americans today?
Fine, fine, don't take it from me. Take it from BoingBoing.
And as if to prove Colbert's point about the media yielding to the will of the White House, check out CNN's headline for the story: "Bush Pokes Fun At Himself At Dinner." The headline totally fails to reflect the significance of what happened.
If, like me, you want to send Colbert a thank you, you can do so via Comedy Central here.
Or perhaps you just might just want to visit the Thank You Stephen Colbert blog.