DISCLAIMER: I'm probably the last blogger in the world to link to this … I don't usually watch TV unless it's basketball or a DVD.
The Daily Show's Stephen Colbert is about 10 feet from President George W. Bush and absolutely ROASTS him on this full length video from C-SPAN (a great resource). Colbert delivers an impassioned and absolutely brilliant "This I believe about America", all the while skewering the "factinista" and assembled government stars like Scalia, Snow, Nagin.
After watching this all I can say is Wow. Comedy Central seems to be a hotbed of old-school patriotism. They're serious about their beliefs and willing to stand up for them in situations where I'd be scared and shaking.
This is followed by Bush and an impersonator at matching podiums where Bush delivers the following line:
I object to those stories that I'm a lame duck. I'm a sprinting duck, a hustling duck – I'm a leadership of the free world duck.
President George W. Bush, leader of the free world, scourge of terrorists and defender of the weak actually says this. With his own face and voice. What a great country we live in that something like this can happen.
Do yourself a favor and watch Colbert roast Bush at the annual White House Correspondents Association Dinner.
For some reason I can't embed the movie. I thought C-SPAN was publicly owned … nope: "C-SPAN is a private, non-profit company, created in 1979 by the cable television industry as a public service. Our mission is to provide public access to the political process. C-SPAN receives no government funding; operations are funded by fees paid by cable and satellite affiliates who carry C-SPAN programming. " Well, there's your fact for the day.
Bonus treat for the tragically understimulated! Watch Bush Realtime Reaction to Colbert Speech
The New York Times reports that while the critics panned it, the video remains at the top of the download charts. The Times also writes:
Mr. Colbert's speech has also become a cause célèbre among many commentators, writing online and off, who charged that the mainstream press ignored his performance because it was so mocking of the president and of the Washington media.
They then link to the blog of NYT Public Editor Byron Calame, who seems to then pass the buck to the Washington Bureau deputy chief Richard Stevenson who writes:
- The critiques of The Times and other papers over coverage of Stephen Colbert’s performance touch on many issues that we spend a lot of time thinking about. Should journalists host the president and top administration officials for a social evening? How do we capture in a serious way the growing role played by comedy in the national political dialog? To what extent should our news judgments be influenced by a reaction to a public performance, as opposed to our own view of its importance? How do we report on a skewering of our own profession?
- In this case, we didn’t write about Mr. Colbert’s routine at first because whether you thought it was funny or not, it relied on what seemed to me to be familiar themes: there was no WMD, Bush is detached from reality, the White House press corps was cowardly and asleep at the switch. Yes, we probably could have wedged a mention of it into Elisabeth Bumiller’s White House Letter about the Bush impersonator. But that piece was intentionally about a distinct aspect of the evening. I thought it was the right story to do, and in any case I’m not sure that simply dropping Mr. Colbert’s name into it would have addressed the substance of the complaints about our coverage.
- Having said all that, I wish in retrospect that I had recognized how the Colbert performance, delivered to the president’s face, would resonate in some quarters. And I wish we had done a separate story that anticipated the reaction the routine generated and explained its political significance, rather than waiting to capture it after the fact.
In short, the Times apologizes for not realizing that the real story was not an impersonator paid by Bush to impersonate Bush, but rather a hostile comedian who laid into the President with a ferocity never seen on national television. Understandable mistake. I can see how easy that would be to miss when you were busy kissing… nevermind.