Tuesday, May 09, 2006
On Claudette, no, make that Stephen, Colbert
So Stephen Colbert gave a speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner, and used it as an opportunity to lambaste the President... and a lot of people have had a lot to say about it.
I won't try to summarize; Armando and Treviño have done a far better job than I could. Let me just say that, yes, I listened to Colbert do his bit... and some parts of it were reasonably funny. (Not nearly as funny as what Bush did, though. Bush also had the advantage of not taking himself seriously... which Colbert tried to look like he was doing, but failed, in my humble opinion. And, perhaps most importantly, Colbert was trying to rip the President to shreds while being funny at the same time. Bush was simply trying to be funny, which worked a lot better.)
More to the point, Colbert's humor fell flat, for me, because of something simple. He was trying for biting satire of the President, from the perspective of a supporter of the President -- "as we know, reality has a strong left-wing bias!" (In a logical argument, that would be a straw-man; but this is satire, where such things are quite acceptable.)
And Colbert simply doesn't get the President's point of view, nor that of the President's supporters. He could mouth the slogans -- "I believe in America!" -- but he doesn't understand what those slogans mean to the people who actually say them. And so he reaches for a high bar, and fails... because, in the end, he does not understand the President nearly as well as the President understands his critics.
By the way, if you watch the video of Colbert's bit, keep a careful eye on Bush; the camera covers him from time to time. You don't see him frowning, or grimacing; he sits there smiling, acknowledging the whole thing, and letting it just keep coming at him. Perhaps this shouldn't be surprising, given that this man has been compared unfavorably to Hitler, every day, for several years now. Nonetheless, it amazes me; I sure couldn't do it. But he somehow has the strength to take it, and the grace to do so with dignity. Now that's a class act.
UPDATE: Freeman Hunt puts it in perspective:
How can the Egyptian government behave in this way and expect to be taken seriously? (Hat tip to Instapundit.)I couldn't agree more. "Speaking truth to power" (God, how I'm growing to hate that phrase) has no meaning if there's no risk.
Protesters in the US need to look at these protesters in Egypt. This is bravery. This is "patriotic dissent."
Brave Egyptian protesters, seeking nothing but free speech and freedom of assembly -- rights Americans have long since taken for granted -- risk public beatings, right out in the open. I salute them for their bravery, and their willingness to step forward and be counted when it matters most.