The brouhaha over Stephen Colbert's routine at the White House Correspondents' dinner the other night, specifically the reactions from the press
, you know, the people other than the President who Colbert was skewering, go a long way toward re-inforcing Colbert's observations about these people.
To briefly back up, Stephen Colbert mocks people in power and those in the press who misserve us by not doing their job and holding the feet of the people in power to the fire. He did that on the Daily Show and he does it on the Colbert Report. It is what made him prominent. To expect him to do something else in his routine Saturday night would be, well, insane. Anyway, that's what he did Saturday night. And the press has been responding since then with two attacks; his routine wasn't funny and it was disrespectful of the President. As for the first, well, that's in the ear of the beholder. If you think Colbert is funny, the routine was funny. If people don't find Colbert funny, he shouldn't have been invited. It was also cutting. Again, that's what he does. Was it disrespectful of the President? I suppose it was if you believe that the President of the United States should get to speak to only hand picked audiences of supporters and live in an environment where bad news is filtered or completely disallowed. It's interesting that Colbert's routine has been compared to the funeral of Coretta Scott King, another instance where Bush found himself sitting stonefaced while people who aren't his usual stable of fluffers told him what they really think of him. The outcry then was similar. How dare people stand up at the funeral of a noted liberal and civil rights activist and say things that, no matter how indirectly, conflicted with the world view of a president who has done all he could over the last five+ years to undo the legacy of Ms. King. It reminded me of the first Kerry-Bush debate; the look on Bush's face as Kerry, right there in front of him, criticized how he'd run the country for four years. It was outrage and shock that anybody would dare talk to or about him in that way.
That's what the press's reaction to Saturday night is all about. The President is outraged and shocked when people talk about him like that in his presence because the press never does. The President is infamous for his temper and churlishness and he had cowed these people. Their professional lives depend on access to the President and his lieutenants and they'll do nothing to jeopardize that access. Usually that means that they'll do nothing meaningful with that access. Colbert is not of their society. It's his job to make fun of the President and his fluffers in the press. He doesn't need these people to continue to do his job.* His willingness to stand in front of the President and hold up a mirror highlights the Washington press's inadequacy. They know it, and that's why they're after Colbert now. It's not that he showed disrespect to the President and it's not his to-the-bone cuts at the press itself that's got them in a tither. It's that he, as Jon Stewart does, does their job better than they do and they are understandably sensitive about this.
Ironically, he probably won't suffer for it. These people, in the government and the press, are such whores for face time that they'll continue to jump at the chance to be on his show.
*It's interesting that a lot of the wingnut bloggers feel compelled to mention that they've either never heard of or they've heard of but never seen Colbert, then they go on to predict the dire consequences his performance will have on his career. How are they qualified to speculate on the career of someone when they've just pronounced their ignorance of that career? Does it really not occur to them, are they that isolated in their parents' basements that they don't realize that there are millions of people who disagree with them, who know of and laugh at Colbert, who found the routine funny and can and will continue to support Colbert's career?