Saturday night Steven Colbert was the closing speaker at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. Many clips have been shown about the president's comedic foray along side impersonator Steve Bridges. While some clips are funny, Colbert proceeded to stand up at the podium and take everyone to task under the guise of his right-wing newsman from The Colbert Report. While the speech starts out with the same straight-faced wit that so many love on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, it becomes obvious that the audience of officials, the president and first lady, and press corp members are the target and they become more and more uncomfortable. He pointed out Valerie Plame to the audience, and the "realizing" he had leaked her attendance, restated it was simply Joseph Wilson's wife. Colbert is witty, funny but cunningly honest about the White House Press Corp's responsibility, the White House's evasive and dishonest tactics and the media's failure as a watchdog for the people. Even long-time journalist and Helen Thomas makes a cameo in Colbert's pseudo-Press Secretary audition tapes, making it undeniably credible and hilarious. While the audience is left nearly silent at the conclusion, it's impact is deafening.
The lack of reaction from the audience and members of the press corp specifically demonstrates the media's negligence in questioning and participating during an arguably poor period in American history. The Washington Post article "All Kidding Aside" by Dan Froomkin cites this blog posting by Video Dog in Salon and best articulates what Colbert's speech revealed of the press - at an event that is ostensibly a good-humor, informal formal event to make superficial reparations between the White House and the press corp members that cover them.
"The proof of his accuracy lies in how badly the . . . Washington press corps reacted. After all, this wasn't the usual baby-soft slapstick they usually get at the correspondents' dinner . . . [F]or the most part the press sat on their hands -- while just moments before, they were laughing uproariously at President Bush's incredibly lame skit with a Bush impressionist. That was Colbert's real feat: Showing us the real Washington media world, where everyone worries so much about offending someone, anyone , that the least bit of frank talk turns them into obedient little church mice."
As a journalist, I think that while his speech was shocking it was something we should all be asking of the media, of our elected representatives and especially DEMANDING of Bush's public communications staff. Who besides Colbert would have the courage to stand up in front of hundreds of peers, the PRESIDENT AND FIRST LADY, members of the Supreme Court, the who's who of the press and eviscerate everyone in the room with the worst kind of weapon - the truth. What balls, I can't imagine even standing up in front of a group such as that let alone to deliver a speech with such poise.
Watch and enjoy. Warning: not for the faint of heart...or bladder.
Note: it doesn't seem like the text link is working, at least for me. Try a copy and paste if you have problems. http://movies.crooksandliars.com/WH-Dinner-Colber.mov