Let us savor

Along with Marvin Gaye’s rendition of the national anthem at the 1983 All-Star game, this is the clip that makes me feel best about being an American.

Wow! Wow, what an honor! The White House Correspondents’ dinner. To actually — to sit here at the same table with my hero, George W. Bush, to be this close to the man. I feel like I’m dreaming. Somebody pinch me. You know what? I’m a pretty sound sleeper; that may not be enough. Somebody shoot me in the face.

What’s remarkable watching it again is that it’s fairly tame by any reasonable standard. Villagers are nothing if not thin-skinned.

I’ll bet they’re yukking it up over Leno tonight tomorrow.

72 replies
  1. 1
    jeffreyw says:

    You know…fiction!

  2. 2
    Turgid Jacobian says:

    Gawd, I wanna have that man’s abortion.

  3. 3
    rob! says:

    My gf and I were at the taping of TDS the Friday before Colbert was due to appear at the dinner.

    When Stewart asked Colbert (during the show-to-show handoff bit they sometimes do) what his plans were, Colbert said, “To mock the President to his face” which got a HUGE round of applause from TDS audience, us included.

    Little did we know how serious Colbert was going to take it. The guy deserves the Presidential medal of freedom, or something.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    El Cid says:

    Given the context, where nobody was publicly questioning Bush Jr., this ranks among the most heroic acts of American satire in our history. I’m not kidding about that or exaggerating. More than perhaps anyone else, in a time when almost every institution charged with being skeptical in the face of power and ideology and greed failed in their responsibilities (think of the New York Times and the propaganda march to war), it took a comedian to stare the Emperor in the face and state, however wittily, that the Emperor had no clothes.

    If that’s all he had done in his life, Colbert would have been a hero to me.

    Frankens’ performance telling Gingrich & the Republican Congress to go fuck itself wasn’t shabby, either.

  6. 6
    dmsilev says:

    But that wasn’t funny. Richard Cohen told us so, and who are we to disagree with such a renowned authority on humor?


  7. 7
    colleeniem says:

    OT, but somehow not, I will miss Bill Moyers, even though I didn’t watch him every week. He just had a very uplifting conversation w/Barry Lopez, and then an exceedingly classy sign-off.
    Thanks for your work, Bill!

  8. 8
    Smiling Mortician says:

    @El Cid:

    Agreed. Colbert’s performance strikes me as better, and braver, every time I watch it.

    But I’ve never seen the Franken smackdown you mention. Is there a link? Just tried to youtube it to no avail.

    And Leno? Really? That’s depressing.

  9. 9
    El Cid says:

    @Smiling Mortician: Last time I checked, C-Span somehow didn’t get it to video yet.

    They just say “Video Flagged.” I don’t know if this means they don’t have the video or some Republican jackass got mad because Al busted Gingrich’s ass but good.

  10. 10
    someguy says:

    Yep, that may have been the single most heroic humorous thing an artist has ever done.

    Because, y’know, people paid so dearly for opposing the Hitler-like Bush, and none of us were saying a peep against Bush in those dark days. Careers destroyed, people sent to Gitmo, the Hollywood blacklist…

    Fuck. Somebody should nominate Cole for a Presidential Freedom Medal too. He was speaking up in 2006 too. It may have been the single most heroic thing a former right wing blogger has ever done.

    Well, you know, except for Andy Sullivan ordering the cucumber soup one day instead of the gazpacho.

  11. 11
    Mark S. says:

    Oh goody:

    KNXV-TV Channel 15 is reporting this afternoon that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will likely run for governor this year. Arpaio is expected to announce his decision on a run for governor on Monday. The ABC 15 report by Josh Bernstein cites several sources saying the Republican sheriff will announce he is running.

    When you’re trying to beat South Carolina for most embarrassing state in the Union, why not play your trump card?

  12. 12
    EarBucket says:

    God, that felt like a dark time for the country. This may sound silly, but that night, in a very real way, Stephen Colbert restored my faith that we were going to be able to put America back together again.

    Mark Twain said it best: “The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.” Colbert stood there and mocked the president of the United States to his face, and all Bush could do was sit there with a sour look on his face. I believe Bush’s presidency effectively ended right there. He became a joke.

  13. 13
    eemom says:

    Quite right. That performance was the one gleaming star of brilliance in that black hole of an 8 years.

  14. 14
    LarsThorwald says:

    Dougj, I think you are incorrect that “it’s fairly tame by any reasonable standard.”

    Not by the Village’s standards.

    To paraphrase Broder, he came in and he trashed the place, and it wasn’t his place.

    I have long remembered this moment. There were, during that period and since, a lot of brave men and women in this nation, serving in the military or as first responders, or what have you. So don’t think I don’t diminish them when I say that — for a civilian — this was, without question in my mind, one of the bravest acts I have seen in the last decade.

    To stand 10 feet away from the President and say those things…those things that just cut right to the core of that man’s every failure…and not flinch?


    It was heresy, I tell you. Light-giving, truth-telling, sunlight-splashing heresy that made every Villager in that room squirm because in that 10 or so minutes, Colbert told more truth than any of them had in 5 years.

    And he did it to the President’s face.

    “Tame”? Are you kidding?

  15. 15
    geg6 says:

    Gawd, I love that man. He should get a Medal of Freedom for that, IMHO. That was one of the most brilliant and courageous performances of all time by anyone, ever. During the entire Bush administration , I felt like I was living my worst nightmare andthat performance made me felt like I might actually live through it for the first time. I will always be grateful to him for that. Always.

    The whining reception that the Village gave him was just the icing on the cake. Nothing but a bunch of putzes, the whole fucking bunch of them. They deserve no better than that worthless, unfunny, and deadly boring idiot Leno.

    Thanks for posting this, Doug. I can’t view it enough times. Especially on a night like tonight when I’m sitting here in the dark, bereft of electricity and in dire need of entertainment after hearing a huge series of crashes and now so many sirens that I’m beginning to wonder if little New Brighton, PA has been visited by some massive terrorist attack.

    Oh yeah…GO PENS!

  16. 16
    hamletta says:

    I used to do improv comedy, and Colbert is like a god to me.

    Colbert : improv comedians :: Hendrix : guitarists

  17. 17
    Violet says:

    Stephen Colbert is a national treasure. He deserves a Medal of Freedom for that appearance. An amazing take-down of the President and the spineless sycophants that fancy themselves journalists.

    Figures they’ll have Leno. They’ll never take a chance with something like that again. Don’t want to risk getting their fee-fees hurt.

  18. 18
    The Main Gauche of Mild Reason says:


    What’s remarkable watching it again is that it’s fairly tame by any reasonable standard.

    What satire is not is tame. It’s a common misconception, because satire is subtle and indirect, but I think for most people satire cuts deeper than a direct insult. Insults establish an antagonistic relationship that can be face-saving to people with egos. Satire slips under the radar and has a way of performing controlled demolition on your opponent’s dignity. Everyone can think of an insult to respond in kind to an insult. Few people are proficient enough with satire to retaliate in kind, and that’s why it’s so effective.

    Satire is the linguistic form of asymmetric warfare.

  19. 19

    Speaking of George W Bush, this little blurb from Laura says it all.

    “George loves to tell the story of how all his Midland friends would come to the Oval Office and say, ‘I can’t believe I’m here.’ And then they looked at him. Couldn’t believe he was there either.”

    How many times did I say the same thing for 8 long bloody years,.

  20. 20
    DougJ says:


    I just didn’t think it was that over-the-top insulting. The fact they all got their panties in a twist over it says more about them than anything else.

  21. 21
    JK says:


    You forgot to mention Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and Ray Charles’ rendition of America the Beautiful.

    Did you notice that Politico’s front page was more shallow and superficial than normal with lengthy articles devoted to this stupid fucking dinner and the organization of cheap babylonian whores responsible for it? The cherry on top of the sundae was John Harris’ putrid article on Jay Leno. Never have so many words been wasted on someone more unworthy or undeserving.

    Stephen Colbert told the truth and these nailbiting, bedwetting, narcisistic wankers couldn’t handle the truth.

    Jay Leno, on the other hand, is the comedy equivalent of Lawrence Welk and the wankers will be wetting themselves as soon he steps up to the podium.

  22. 22
    Mike Kay says:


    Megan McCain has just issued a statement on oil spill.


  23. 23
    Mark S. says:

    @Mike Kay:

    We need some of those Drudge sirens.

  24. 24
  25. 25
    jackie says:

    And they wonder why people call him and stewart their most trusted source of news.

  26. 26
    JSD says:

    @El Cid:

    Given the context, where nobody was publicly questioning Bush Jr., this ranks among the most heroic acts of American satire in our history.

    I totally agree. There was nothing like this, excepting maybe some stuff on the Daily Show and South Park, and certainly nothing Bush and company were exposed to.

    It took serious balls and courage to do this in this setting. When historians look back, this will be one of the only protests noted of the period.

  27. 27
    madmommy says:

    @Mike Kay:

    And this girl has a big dollar book deal. I weep for her editor.

  28. 28
    Gordon Schumway says:

    I bumped into Colbert in an airport about a year ago. I told him that I really enjoyed his appearance at the National Press Club Dinner. He was very gracious.

    It did feel good to let him know how awesome this was.

  29. 29
    Robin G says:

    @El Cid:

    Given the context, where nobody was publicly questioning Bush Jr., this ranks among the most heroic acts of American satire in our history. I’m not kidding about that or exaggerating.

    I felt that way, too. It was a turning point, it really was.

    Honestly, one of the best fuckin’ things I’ve ever seen. Colbert has giant brass balls. (Even more so, given that you could see just how scared he actually was.)

  30. 30
    wag says:

    What’s remarkable watching it again is that it’s fairly tame by any reasonable standard.

    I beg to differ. Tame? Not a chance. Subtle? only in the same way a stiletto slipped into the heart without touching the ribs is subtle. Devastating? Duh!!!!

  31. 31
    petorado says:

    When I saw that clip for the first time, I thought two things: thank god there are still people brave enough to publicly stand up to Bush, and that for as low as we had sunk as a nation, we hadn’t gone so far down the tubes that W would have ordered a hit on Colbert after that tongue-lashing.

  32. 32
    Martin says:

    They really should have just ended the tradition after that. There’s no better example of which I can think of walking the line between comedy and tragedy – with one delivery, Colbert delivered powerfully on both, it just depended on what seat you were sitting in.

    Nobody will have the stones to do it again, and anyone that might will never be invited. Might as well rename it the White House Correspondents Fellatio for how carefully future hosts will be selected.

  33. 33
    dopealope says:

    If Colbert never did another thing, he would still be my hero. That speech should go down in history as one of the bravest examples of “truth to power”. And it was frickin’ funny, too …

  34. 34
    Brian J says:

    I doubt anyone remembers this, but back when he seemed to the lone voice in the mainstream media questioning the Bush administration over, well, anything, Paul Krugman went on sitting even as the entire room stood up for Bush as he entered during the White House Correspondent’s Dinner. There was a fairly minor scandal amongst some conservatives at the time, because it’s always been a tradition, as “The West Wing” taught us, for those in a room to stand when the president enters. To this day, I am not sure how I feel about this. Sure, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not important, and when you consider the fact that elected legislators are still casually questioning whether the president is a legitimate citizen, it’s not particularly shocking. But still, it’s always nice to expect the president to be treated with respect, even when he’s not from your side.

    So let me ask the group, what would you do in that situation?

  35. 35
    geg6 says:

    @Robin G:

    I totally agree that you can tell how scared he was and that makes it all the more heroic. My cousin Gary, who served two BRUTAL tours in Vietnam, always says that bravery is when you are so frightened that you are almost incoherent and your entire body is literally quivering but you choose to step into the breach anyway, giving it your all. Colbert is the very definition of that in that video.

  36. 36
    Martin says:

    @Brian J: I’d stand up and yell “You lie!”

    Hmm. Maybe that’s not the answer we were looking for.

  37. 37
    JK says:


    Rename it the White House Correspondents Fellatio

    or the White House Correspondents Wankerfest. This dinner, the Gridiron Dinner, and the Radio TV Correspondents Dinner are pure, unadulterated bullshit. Any journalist who attends these dinners is a douchebag. Someone once said that the role of a journalist is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. These asswipes that belong to the White House Correspondents Association don’t deserve to be called journalists. They’re a bunch of fucking bootlickers and courtiers.

  38. 38
    Comrade Luke says:

    @Brian J: Seems like he could have just stood up and not clapped.

  39. 39
    geg6 says:

    @Brian J:

    In general, I would agree that the president should be given respect due his office. However, once he has disrespected his office, the Constitution, and the American people (as I submit W most certainly did from the moment he sued to stop the vote counting in FL and continued to do pretty much every day for 8 long years), you forfeit any expectation of respect from me. Krugman was kinder and classier than I would have been. I’d have spit on him. Repeatedly, with malice. I would have done the same to Nixon once Watergate came to light. I detested Reagan, but would not have felt the need to show my disdain in the same way.

  40. 40
    Comrade Luke says:


    They really should have just ended the tradition after that.

    Could you imagine the media backlash against the president that did that?

    Makes you wonder who runs the town. Actually, no it doesn’t.

  41. 41
    Brian J says:


    Part of me wants the standards to last, even if someone like Bush is respected when he shouldn’t be, because if that’s not the case, then we get people screaming “You lie” or questioning the Obama’s patriotism non stop. A loss of civility isn’t the biggest problem in the world, but there needs to be some standards.

  42. 42
    hitchhiker says:

    I happened to be in DC that night — attending (and live-blogging) a symposium that brought researchers and people with spinal cord injuries together.

    I remember coming back to the hotel room, soggy and tired after a long, long day of trying to focus and capture what was on those bloody powerpoint screens scientists insist on using.

    My husband in the wheelchair, exhausted.

    Much frustration throughout the day . . . the fucking president and his fucking ban on stem cell funding and his fucking stupid smirk. His fucking love of exercise, you know, was not really that impressive to people trapped in chairs and hoping that someone would do the work that might let them — if they were really lucky — scratch their own noses once again.

    C-Span on the hotel TV, broadcasting this very speech . . . jeebus, but it felt so wildly good to witness, knowing that it was happening just up the street from where I was, hoping that Bush felt ten thousand times as uncomfortable as he looked.

    Thanks for putting this up.

  43. 43

    Sarah Opines on Facebook

    Violating the law, or simply invading someone’s privacy for political gain, has long been repugnant to Americans’ sense of fair play. As Watergate taught us, we rightfully reject illegally breaking into candidates’ private communications for political intrigue in an attempt to derail an election.

    Okay, who wants to be Palin’s deepthroat?

  44. 44
    scav says:

    I really need to remember more often that Colbert can sometimes reconcile me with the human species.

  45. 45
    JK says:

    @Comrade Luke:

    Could you imagine the media backlash against the president that did that?

    Politico’s Mike Allen would never let that President eat lunch in Washington again.

  46. 46
    Mark S. says:


    Any journalist who attends these dinners is a douchebag. Someone once said that the role of a journalist is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. These asswipes that belong to the White House Correspondents Association don’t deserve to be called journalists. They’re a bunch of fucking bootlickers and courtiers.

    As I said on the last thread to deal with this topic, I don’t think the press has to be completely adversarial to those in power, but they are supposed to be a check on them. That’s why these dinners completely creep me out. It’s like they are rubbing our noses in the fact that they are all a bunch of douchebags on the same team and us rubes can forget about the press really holding the powerful accountable.

    As I said on that other thread, it really reminds me of the scene at the end of Animal Farm where the animals see the pigs and the humans together.

  47. 47
    Llelldorin says:

    There was an episode of Sports Night years ago in which the executive producer, Isaac Jaffe, tries to warn Sally Sasser to stop scheming against Dana:

    Isaac Jaffe: While we do have many shows on this network, and there’s nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, we are all a team here, and we will treat each other with respect.
    Sally Sasser: I think I speak for everyone on the 2 A.M. when I say that we have nothing but respect and admiration for each and every person at Sports Night.
    Dan Rydell: He’s talking about you, ya freak…
    Isaac Jaffe: Thank you, Daniel.

    Whenever I read someone in the press discussing that performance, Dan’s words always echo loudly in my head. Even all these years later they still don’t get that Colbert was mocking them, too.

  48. 48
    RadioOne says:

    Yes. Compared to any other political comedic stand up routine over the past thirty years, it was very tame. Which is why all the teeth-gnashing from the likes of “liberal” Post commentators like Richard Cohen during the episode made it so amusing.

  49. 49
    DougJ says:


    Thanks for this comment. The courage of people like you and your husband is inspiring.

  50. 50
    scav says:

    Safe? that thing on the military was stunning. And journalists aka stenographers. The sheer silences won it. I mean, those silences in that room at that place. stunning.

  51. 51
    handy says:

    @General Egali Tarian Stuck:

    Man, when she strays even just a little off scripted GOP boilerplate it is a truly something to behold where those thoughts end up.

  52. 52
    JGabriel says:

    Somebody shoot me in the face.
    Reality has well-known liberal bias.
    You know … fiction.

    Like many earlier commenters, I beg to differ, Doug. To say these things while the target of his mockery – the fucking President of the United States – was sitting there beside him at the same table…

    It really wasn’t tame, by any measure.


  53. 53
    rootless-e says:

    It was a heroic and wonderful moment.

  54. 54
    SIA says:

    Besides trashing the Boy King to his face, Colbert also trashed the entire DC press corps. Watching the reactions of W. and the audience was very entertaining. I’m not a huge Colbert fan, but I got nervous myself just watching this – the guys has some cahones for sure. You can see GWB’s mean streak coming out, his beady eyes fixed on Colbert, the compressed lips, and that bully shoulder shrug. Oh things are rough right now, but that was truly hell for 8 years.

  55. 55
    Cat Lady says:

    The smirk got wiped off Chimpy’s face but good at 3:20 in. And he just had to sit there and take more. So. Good.

  56. 56
    Redshift says:

    @geg6: as I submit W most certainly did from the moment he sued to stop the vote counting in FL…

    What gets me more than anything about that election is that they went all the way to the Supreme Court to get an Electoral College victory when they knew they had lost the popular vote. It’s one thing if it happens to work out that the EC winner doesn’t have the popular vote; that’s the way our system works. But to fight tooth and nail for it showed an incredible disdain for the will of the people.

  57. 57
    Martin says:

    Nobody mentioned the ‘last 1/3 is usually backwash’ comment. That busts me up every time. Sums up the 28%ers quite nicely, and adds an extra dig at Bush for only having these people approving of him.

  58. 58
    Derek says:

    @Brian J:

    Of course I would stand, for any President I may have encountered in my life. Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I or II, Clinton, Obama, whoever. Just as soon as I actually see a living President, I will do so.

  59. 59
    slag says:

    @someguy: That was pretty lame. Lame and weak. In fact, careers were destroyed for speaking out against GW. No need to pretend otherwise.

  60. 60
    scav says:

    I alway think that the America will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo ops was at all of us.

    And the He believes the same thing Wednesday he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday? Events may change but this man’s beliefs never will. Isn’t this just the facts are in the ballpark statement only years early?

  61. 61
    trollhattan says:

    Mister Colbert, he was adequate but the next year, Mister Rich Little really killed.

    –Dana Perino’s diary

  62. 62
    merl says:

    I just started hating chickengeorge bush all over again.

  63. 63
    Nancy says:

    This is my favorite “comedy” routine of all time. Love it! But I’m not a fan of the correspondents’ dinner. It just shows how chummy all the “insiders” are. A while back I was either reading or watching an interview with Seymour Hersch, and he said that he never socializes with those he reports on. Never. Quite a contrast to tonight’s attendees.

  64. 64
    JK says:


    I was either reading or watching an interview with Seymour Hersh, and he said that he never socializes with those he reports on.

    Hersh has more integrity than all of the thumbsuckers of the White House Correspondents Association put together.

  65. 65
    LanceThruster says:

    Stephen Colbert should have won a Medal of Freedom for that evisceration.

    It was a ray of sunshine in a long national nightmare.

    And it gave work to Rich Little in front of an audience truly deserving of him since they demonstrated that an actual appreciation of razor sharp wit was beyond them.

  66. 66
    fucen tarmal says:

    i feel bad for wanda sykes, nothing says you went too far like having them hire jay leno the next year…i just listened to a bit of her thing, not sure what pissed them off.

  67. 67

    @fucen tarmal: Calling for Limbaugh’s kidneys to fail is what I think did it.

    I didn’t see this at the time, and by the time I looked it up, it was gone as if it never was. Then it resurfaced again, and I was struck by how good it was. It took balls to say what he did where he was. And, Richard Cohen aside, Colbert was funny.

    Would I have stood for W.? Not sure. Probably, but I wouldn’t have clapped. I respect the office of president, but W. didn’t.

  68. 68
    geg6 says:

    @Brian J:

    You are correct, of course, and before I posted, I thought about the whole “you lie” Joe Wilson episode. But I had to be honest and I must admit that I am not well known for being a person who is able to contain my contempt and outrage for people whom I detest. It is a character flaw that, in 51 years of life, I have found I cannot change or moderate despite many attempts. This is why I will never be a politician and why I decided not to pursue my original career ambition to become an attorney and eventually enter into politics.

  69. 69

    @geg6: Yeah. I’m torn about it because there are so few opportunities to actually protest to someone’s face, if you see what I’m saying. And, I think there’s a big difference between shouting ‘you lie’ at the president as he talks and simply not standing. If I had been at the inauguration, I would have turned my back as Rick Warren spoke. I think silent protest can be a powerful thing.

  70. 70

    I am down with the NBAASG and WHCD schtick.
    there is also this, too.

    Moloch bless America.


  71. 71
    Phoebe says:

    I read somewhere Colbert said Scalia came up to him afterward and said it was brilliant. OK here it is.
    My favorite part was when he told the press their job was just to type, and maybe run it through spellcheck. Sigh. What a dreamboat.

  72. 72
    Joe says:

    tame? it’s clearly a “fu” to the President (who is a few feet away) and the press.

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