Over the last few days, we’ve seen more than enough of Stephen Colbert’s recent testimony before Congress, and read or heard volumes of commentary on his daring comedic prank. It’s Monday, so we need to lower the curtain on this farce.
But first, allow me to preface my own commentary with a few biases.
- I think Stephen Colbert is a talented, albeit outrageous, humorist.
- I appreciate good political satire. Those who know my family history know that political satire been berry berry good to me (as Chico Escuela, SNL’s Garrett Morris’ Dominican baseball player, would say).
- I was a lobbyist in Washington for 15 years and continue to have both a healthy respect and healthy cynicism for the political process.
So about Colbert’s appearance: I was appalled and here’s why.
There are far too many people in the United States who believe what they believe based solely on what they see on television. These are often the same people who want to vote their senators and representatives out the day after they’ve voted them in. The last sound bite they hear is what they believe; it’s upon which they base their political beliefs and voting behavior.
Many people already think Washington is a big joke. Stephen Colbert gave them every reason to keep laughing, and to go on believing our public servants are little more than monkeys flinging dung at one another. For what? Innocent playfulness? Ratings? To use his faux-conservative persona to further confuse television viewers on an issue that already has made dung-flinging an Olympic sport?
I have staffed many Congressional witnesses over the course of my career. I have written their testimonies, both the prepared statements and the oral remarks which, by the way, are supposed to match, except in length. I have prepared witnesses by helping them anticipate questions and criticism. I have gotten them involved in coalitions and congressional meetings, not only to help them advance their business agendas, but also to give them a better understanding of our nation’s governing process.
I watched these executives set their cynicism aside and approach their roles with dignity and respect. After having participated in the political process, they said they gained an appreciation for the hard work and integrity most of our elected officials take to their difficult jobs. I wish all Americans could have this vantage point.
Stephen Colbert is a funny guy who has only made matters worse for a system in serious need of confidence and trust, by making figurative armpit noises from the congressional witness chair.
Maybe when he comes back October 30 for his “March to Keep Fear Alive,” he’ll make apologetic visits to some Hill offices, sans the video of his colonoscopy.