Colbert walks a tightrope

Once again, Comedy Central has done what mainstream reporters are apparently too timid to do: speak truth to power. Stephen Colbert delivered an amazing routine at annual White House Correspondents Dinner. Apparently the head of the Press Club had never watched the Colbert Report. Because Colbert’s performance was completely unexpected by everyone in attendance.

They usually hire a mainstream comedian to do some good-natured ribbing of the President and press corp. It’s all mild, chummy and light hearted. This year they hired a Bush impersonator, who got a lot of laughs imitating Bush’s mannerisms.

Then they brought our Colbert. Like a court jester, he mocked the administration and press alike, with ironic humor. And in the process, he delivered a scathing, pointed roast of the Bush administration policies, its hypocracy, and numerous failures. All with the President sitting 8 feet away. Some of the humor fell flat. Some just provoked nervous laughter from the Washington insiders. But it was an incredibly brave performance. “Like watching a tightrope walker without a net” according to one commentator.

In the persona of the right-wing ideologue he plays on the Colbert Report, Colbert professed his love for the president, and his disdain for the “liberal media”. And point by point, he highlighted the administration’s worst mistakes of the past 6 years.

“Now I know there’s some polls out there saying this man has a 32-percent approval rating,” Mr. Colbert said a few moments later. “But guys like us, we don’t pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking ‘in reality.’ And reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

He talked about the quagmire in Iraq, the NSA wiretapping scandals, the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina, and the Valerie Plame affair. But more than that, he emphasized George Bush’s worst character flaw – how the President seems to come to a decision based on instinct, and then stubbornly hold to that decision in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

“The greatest thing about this man is he’s steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man’s beliefs never will.” (Transcript courtesy Daily Kos).

Over the past few weeks, the Colbert speech has become one of the most popular video downloads on the internet. The usually quiet CSPAN site, known for mind-numbingly boring coverage of congressional speeches, has had to cope with a sudden spike in traffic.

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