On Wednesday, upon hearing news that TV stunt comedian Stephen Colbert was to testify before a House panel on immigration, I wrote a blog post called “Scenes from a Political Meltdown” in which I predicted it would not happen, because someone would intervene to prevent the Democratic majority in Congress from making a suicidal error in turning over discussion of an important issue to a master mocker.
Well, I was wrong. It happened this morning. Colbert, playing his blowhard-conservative-pseudo-O’Reilly character, was screamingly funny (you can watch him here). Among other things, he attempted to introduce the results of his colonoscopy into the Congressional Record. The members of Congress were screamingly funny too, only unintentionally. There were expressions of surprise, motions to get Colbert off the stage, pained stabs at making jokes alongside a professional, and so on.
At least when Sasha Baron Cohen’s Borat and Bruno took politicians by surprise, the politicians had no idea who Baron Cohen was. Everybody in that room, including Committee chair Zoe Lofgren, knew exactly who Colbert was.
This may have been the single biggest pointless blunder in American political history, and I am not kidding. With an election only five weeks from now in which Democrats are poised for major losses, this morning’s depiction of Congress as ludicrous dupes of a TV personality — which will be replayed for weeks — will make the analogistic point that the majority is unfit to be running things. How exactly will they argue otherwise?
Did Colbert himself understand the damage he was going to do to the political and ideological forces he clearly supports by mocking the political process they control in this way? Is he, secretly, more O’Reilly than O’Reilly? Whatever is the case, the disaster was predictable and could have been avoided. I know, because I predicted it. What I didn’t predict is that the House leadership and the Democratic leadership generally are in such a state of degeneration that they didn’t know, or didn’t try, to intervene before this political Jonestown.
UPDATE: Oh my Lord. Speaker of the House Margaret Dumont Nancy Pelosi has defended Colbert’s appearance: “He’s an American. He has a point of view.”