Good Morning Richard Cohen

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Originally published: Friday, May 05, 2006

Lt. Steven Hauk: Sir, in my heart, I know I'm funny.
-- Good Morning Vietnam

"First, let me state my credentials," writes the Washington Post's Richard Cohen. "I am a funny guy." Such arrogance does not really invite further indulgence, but somehow I made it through the rest of his column. It only gets worse. Stephen Colbert, veteran of the legendary Second City and star of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," whose list of credits includes, "The Daily Show," "Strangers with Candy," "Exit 57," and Robert Smigel's "The Ambiguously Gay Duo"... not funny. And Cohen knows funny.

Not only wasn't the accomplished, comic actor, writer, and producer funny, he was "rude," and "a bully." Writes Cohen:

Rudeness means taking advantage of the other person's sense of decorum or tradition or civility that keeps that other person from striking back or, worse, rising in a huff and leaving. The other night, that person was George W. Bush.

Riiiiight... A President who has exempted himself from over 750 laws, including a ban on torture; who has authorized wiretapping of private citizens without warrants; who lied this nation into a war that has now cost the lives of over 2400 service people and countless thousands of Iraqis; who entertained at this same event two years ago with his own comedic bit about looking under chairs, tables, and behind drapes for the non-existent WMD that were the pretext for that war... that President was held captive by rules of etiquette. Apparently we've been going about this thing all wrong. It's not Congress or due process of law we should be appealing to to rein this White House in. It's Miss Manners.

Lt. Steven Hauk: Sir, the man has got an irreverent tendency.
He did a very off-color parody of former VP Nixon.
General: I thought it was hilarious.
Lt. Steven Hauk: Respectfully, sir, the former VP
is a good man and a decent man.
General: Bullshit! I know Nixon personally.
He lugs a trainload of shit behind him that could
fertilize the Sinai. Why, I wouldn't buy an apple
from the son of a bitch and I consider him a
good, close, personal friend.

Cohen would have us know that there was nothing courageous about Stephen Colbert's performance.

His defenders -- and they are all over the blogosphere -- will tell you he spoke truth to power. This is a tired phrase, as we all know, but when it was fresh and meaningful it suggested repercussions, consequences -- maybe even death in some countries. When you spoke truth to power you took the distinct chance that power would smite you, toss you into a dungeon or -- if you're at work -- take away your office.

What then, I wonder, is Cohen's excuse for reciting White House spin without question or scrutiny for the past five years? Cohen may consider himself the superior wit, but I for one think his drooling sycophant shtick is getting old.

Colbert took a swipe at Bush's Iraq policy, at domestic eavesdropping, and he took a shot at the news corps for purportedly being nothing more than stenographers recording what the Bush White House said. He referred to the recent staff changes at the White House, chiding the media for supposedly repeating the cliche "rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" when he would have put it differently: "This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg." A mixed metaphor, and lame as can be.

I have a BA in English. That's my credential. Mr. Cohen, that's not a mixed metaphor.

Lt. Steven Hauk: "Good morning, Vietnam."
What the heck is that supposed to mean?
Private Abersold: I don't know, Lieutenant,
I guess it means good morning, Vietnam.

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