Milbank To Colbert Fans: "Get A LIfe!"
To his credit, high profile writers don't usually publicly entertain comments from their readers, but the way he was dismissive of those who wonder why the larger press world fails to appreciate Stephen Colbert's performance at the Correspondents' Dinner really cements the fact that the aforementioned monologue is a Rorschach test that reveals who are the truly the comfortable and the afflicted:
Milwaukee, Wis.: Dana, your comments about the WH Correspondents Dinner on Olbermann Monday night were disappointing. You are a very talented journalist and funny. You are not, however, nearly as funny as Mr. Colbert. Colbert executed political satire, flawlessly at the WH Correspondents dinner. The press in attendance didn't like Mr. Colbert revealing the truth about their complicity with the White House. The situation in the entire Middle East can get a lot worse and the price of a barrel of oil can go a lot higher.
Dana Milbank: Excellent question. You are right on top of the big issues of the day, Milwaukee.
For those of you dealing with less significant issues than Colbertgate, here's what happened. The comedian was not as funny as usual when he spoke to the White House Correspondents Association Dinner Saturday. He had the bad fortune of following Bush, who had a body double with him on the stage who spoke the president's inner thoughts.
Monday night, Keith Olbermann of MSNBC's Countdown, asked me:
Keith: "I like Stephen Colbert a lot and believe me, I'm all for smacking down presidents. I have done to one from each party in my tenure here. But was this the right tone at the right venue? Was there a line crossed here in some way?"
Me: "I don't think he crossed the line. I just think he wasn't terribly funny and had the misfortune of following Bush who actually did put on one of the better performances of his presidency."
Evidently, the full transcript did not arrive at the offices of Editor and Publisher, where Greg Mitchell decided that I had in fact said Colbert "was not funny." He neglected to mention that this misquote was uttered in the context of my defense of Colbert.
As you can see, this is all terribly consequential. Although I do think it says something about why the left is having trouble regaining power. There are so many fat targets out there, from gas prices to Iraq to health care. So what are the left wing activists doing? Attacking reporters for their views on whether a comedian was funny at a dinner.
Unsolicited advice for those who can't tear themselves from the Colbert criticism: Get a life.
Apparently Milbank expects a cookie because he bravely defended a comedian's right to obliquely criticize WorstPresidentEver.
As Milbank's online colleague Dan Froomkin said on Thursday, the press reacted so negatively to Colbert because they were just as big a butt of the joke as WorstPresidentEver was that day. That wasn't a roast because roasts are done by people who don't have hostility towards the subject. The most telling bit of Colbert's monologue is the line where he claims to be the best candidate for the post of Press Secretary because " I have nothing but contempt for these people." (and we all should have nothing but contempt.) That wasn't a roast, that was an insult, and the the insulted are acting predictably.
Perhaps they are also being embarrassed because they have all been called out on their fawning over the administration and their maddening credulousness of almost every official White House line. Eric Boerlert's new book Lapdogs chronicles this new world order of media meretriciousness in frustrating yet familiar detail. Of course, when Milbank is asked by a reader to answer for the tail-wagging, he again wants a cookie:
Baton Rouge, La.: Attacking reporters for their views on whether a comedian was funny at a dinner.
We're attacking the Washington press corps because we don't think you've been doing your jobs. The Washington press corps was complicit in the run up to the war in Iraq and has never held Bush accountable for anything. It took Colbert to do the job for you.
Dana Milbank: Oh, dear. Baton Rouge really needs to get a life. Can somebody get Baton Rouge a life? Rochester? Milwaukee? Anybody?
Here's the lede of a front-page story I wrote in October, 2002. You might have missed it because you were busy complaining that somebody didn't think a Jay Leno routine was funny.
"President Bush, speaking to the nation this month about the need to challenge Saddam Hussein, warned that Iraq has a growing fleet of unmanned aircraft that could be used 'for missions targeting the United States.'
"Last month, asked if there were new and conclusive evidence of Hussein's nuclear weapons capabilities, Bush cited a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency saying the Iraqis were 'six months away from developing a weapon.' And last week, the president said objections by a labor union to having customs officials wear radiation detectors has the potential to delay the policy 'for a long period of time.'
"All three assertions were powerful arguments for the actions Bush sought. And all three statements were dubious, if not wrong. Further information revealed that the aircraft lack the range to reach the United States; there was no such report by the IAEA; and the customs dispute over the detectors was resolved long ago."
For those who forgot, he was referring to this article, "For Bush, facts are malleable." Sure, it seemed like a major journalism fete back then since an article that actually compare Bush's statement with the known facts at the time was the exception that prove the rule that the wider media was complicit with the right-wing lie machine. But reading it now, it's just an example of what would happen if journalists would do their damn jobs. And even at that he had to soften the charges that Bush was being "imprecise" by contrasting it with lies told by previous administrations and adding other qualifiers like saying Bush's statements are "dubious, if not wrong" when in fact they ARE wrong and Bush knows that they are wrong.
As I have said before, Colbert doesn't need the approval of these morons.