Colbert Lampoons Bush at White House Correspondents Dinner-- President Does Not Seem Amused
By Editor & Publisher Staff
Published: April 29, 2006 11:40 PM ET
WASHINGTON A blistering comedy “tribute” to President Bush by Comedy Central’s faux talk show host Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondent Dinner Saturday night left George and Laura Bush unsmiling at its close.
Earlier, the president had delivered his talk to the 2700 attendees, including many celebrities and top officials, with the help of a Bush impersonator.
Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged the Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, “and reality has a well-known liberal bias.”
He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. “This administration is soaring, not sinking,” he said. “If anything, they are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.”
Colbert told Bush he could end the problem of protests by retired generals by refusing to let them retire. He compared Bush to Rocky Balboa in the “Rocky” movies, always getting punched in the face—“and Apollo Creed is everything else in the world.”
Turning to the war, he declared, "I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."
He noted former Ambassador Joseph Wilson in the crowd, just three tables away from Karl Rove, and that he had brought " Valerie Plame." Then, worried that he had named her, he corrected himself, as Bush aides might do, "Uh, I mean... he brought Joseph Wilson's wife." He might have "dodged the bullet," he said, as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wasn't there.
Colbert also made biting cracks about missing WMDs, “photo ops” on aircraft carriers and at hurricane disasters, melting glaciers and Vice President Cheney shooting people in the face. He advised the crowd, "if anybody needs anything at their tables, speak slowly and clearly on into your table numbers and somebody from the N.S.A. will be right over with a cocktail. "
Observing that Bush sticks to his principles, he said, "When the president decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday - no matter what happened Tuesday."
Also lampooning the press, Colbert complained that he was “surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country, except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides of the story — the president’s side and the vice president’s side." He also reflected on the alleged good old days, when the media was still swallowing the WMD story.
Addressing the reporters, he said, "You should spend more time with your families, write that novel you've always wanted to write. You know, the one about the fearless reporter who stands up to the administration. You know-- fiction."
He claimed that the Secret Service name for Bush's new press secretary is "Snow Job." Colbert closed his routine with a video fantasy where he gets to be White House Press Secretary, complete with a special “Gannon” button on his podium. By the end, he had to run from Helen Thomas and her questions about why the U.S. really invaded Iraq and killed all those people.
As Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling, and handshakes, and left immediately.
E&P's Joe Strupp, in the crowd, observed that quite a few sitting near him looked a little uncomfortable at times, perhaps feeling the material was a little too biting--or too much speaking "truthiness" to power.
Asked by E&P after it was over if he thought he'd been too harsh, Colbert said, "Not at all." Was he trying to make a point politically or just get laughs? "Just for laughs," he said. He said he did not pull any material for being too strong, just for time reasons. (He later said the president told him "good job" when he walked off.)
Helen Thomas told Strupp her segment with Colbert was "just for fun."
In its report on the affair, USA Today asserted that some in the crowd cracked up over Colbert but others were "bewildered." Wolf Blitzer of CNN said he thought Colbert was funny and "a little on the edge."
Earlier, the president had addrssed the crowd with a Bush impersonator alongside, with the faux-Bush speaking precisely and the real Bush deliberately mispronouncing words, such as the inevitable "nuclear." At the close, Bush called the imposter "a fine talent. In fact, he did all my debates with Senator Kerry."
Among attendees at the black tie event: Morgan Fairchild, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Justice Antonin Scalia, George Clooney, and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of the Doobie Brothers--in a kilt.
"What the hell?"