May 2, 2006 by lonbud
The Sounds of Silence
They say a picture speaks a thousand words. Don’t they? And there’s a picture of Stephen Colbert being watched by George W. Bush as the former gave his remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner in the nation’s capital this past Saturday, but more on that, later.
The New York Times found a way to give front page splash to one of the most frank and honest public appraisals of Mr. Bush’s presidency since 9/11 — at least one which the President or any of his allies and advisers has had to sit through in public — by reporting it three days after the fact as a story about the wildfire of “conversation” kindled in “the blogosphere” by posts of the C-Span feed that began appearing on the internet Sunday.
By now it’s widely known that Mr. Colbert, perhaps the second-most-popular talent in the Comedy Network stable of “entertainers,” lambasted — or in more current parlance bitch slapped — the leader of the Free World and his entire coterie of Mainstream Media eunuchs right in their own dining hall, using bravura command of deadpan irony, history, liturature, culture, and current events to show what a contemptible crowd of empty hats and shrinking violets we have working the levers of our democracy today.
As the night’s MC, President of the White House Correspondents’ Association, Mark Smith said in his introductory remarks, “tonight, no one is safe.”
And Mr. Colbert made the rounds, from the Vice President (on his honor at being invited to speak: “I feel like I’m dreaming, somebody pinch me. No, I’m a pretty heavy sleeper, somebody shoot me in the face.”) to the First Lady (“I’m sorry ma’am, I’ve never been a fan of books…they’re all fact, no heart), to polls (“a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking ‘in reality'”) and the question of “liberal bias” in the media (“reality has a well-known liberal bias”).
He skewered Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld by introducing two Pentagon Generals in attendance as supporters of the embattled architect of the nation’s adventure in Iraq, asking, “you guys aren’t retired yet, right?” And he proceeded to finish off the entire command and control infrastructure by saying if they’re strong enough to go on the Sunday talk shows to bad-mouth the Sec-Def, they’re strong enough to remain in the military to “stand on a bank of computers and order men into battle.”
The Reverend Jesse Jackson came in for some ribbing as a man who “says what he wants, at the pace that he wants,” no matter what the question. But Mr. Colbert used that comment to set up one of his best lines of the night, on Global Warming. Interviewing the Reverend, he said, “is like boxing a glacier. Enjoy that metophor, by the way, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is.”
He took a hilarious pot-shot at Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, tossing off a series of Sicilian hand gestures toward the rogue jurist that would likely get him sliced into ribbons if offered in Little Italy instead of Foggy Bottom.
Despite the delicious easy pickings presented by the political establishment, Mr. Colbert reserved some of his most incisive, biting commentary for the media, on whose self-importance the night’s lavish self-congratulation was founded.
He laid out for them the chain of custody:
“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. Just put it through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you’ve 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.”
The speech bears repeated listenings and watchings, for there is much to be said about the snapshot of our society portrayed therein, and it’s delivered with a verite simply not found in general circulation today.
What struck me about it on my first approach was the lack of laughter at what was supposed to be a comic monologue. Aside from a few slapstick moments like the comment about Mr. Cheney and the exchange with Mr. Scalia, much of Mr. Colbert’s remarks were met with nervous laughter at best and for large swaths of the over 20 minute delivery, little but the breathing of lots of people in formal attire in a large banquet hall.
Near the conclusion of his piece, Mr. Colbert took issue with those who would say the Bush administration today is simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic: “This administration isn’t sinking, it’s soaring. If anything, they’re rearranging the deck chairs on The Hindenburg.”
Now take a look at the picture.