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Nathan Gardels

Nathan Gardels

Posted: May 1, 2006 04:22 PM

Bush Disarms Comedy Central's Colbert


Bush Outironicizes Colbert

For those of us in the smart political set who are right about Bush being wrong in Iraq and elsewhere, it was hard to swallow. At the White House Correspondent's Association dinner Saturday night in Washington the President embarrassingly outironicized Stephen Colbert. If, as Kierkegaard long ago understood, the capacity for ironic self-reflection is a sign of deep intelligence, what did it mean?

I surprised myself by saying to Mort Zuckerman that "a man who is that funny can't be all bad." And his timing was better than Jerry Seinfeld's.

Bush's standup comedy routine with impersonator Steve Bridges at side-by-side podiums (someone sitting outside the Washington Hilton all night even told me TWO presidential limos arrived) has now been widely reported, with jokes like "the press humiliates me by not editing what I say" and parodying his "nukular" instead of "nuclear" pronunciation, joking about his pitiful 36% approval rating and saying Laura was "muy caliente."

Bush may not be able to beat the Iraqi insurgents or Osama bin Laden, but he surely put Steve Colbert's performance afterward to shame. Has he disarmed Comedy Central by being funnier than they are? I certainly thought so.

The other notable drama of the evening was seeing all those former secretaries of state and stentorian talking heads tripping over each other to have a thirty second chat with George Clooney. Despite the first big public emergence of Valerie Plame, the CIA agent most probably outed by Karl Rove, who was also there, all eyes of the serious journalist set were on Clooney. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chariman Peter Pace, resplendant in his medals and tails, went almost unnoticed. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux, beautiful and poised even when she silently suffers Lou Dobb's tirades on camera, had to admit that the Darfur genocide would now get a bigger airing on her channel since Clooney was on the case.

Even Lally Weymouth, the socialite scion of the Washington Post/Newsweek empire, stood patiently in line with lesser mortals for a chance to chat with George. He was badgered to bless two disabled kids in wheelchairs, as if he were the Pope, before his beefy security guard whisked him out the back door with his father.

A president more hilarious than his comedic critics and a starstruck White House press corps. Washington would be a very entertaining place if the consequences weren't so serious.