Monday, September 27, 2010

Colbert on Capitol Hill

In case you missed it...

It was brilliant.

Not everyone was amused, of course. As Politico noted, Stephen Colbert's appearance last Friday before a House Judiciary subcommittee looking into the plight of migrant farm workers was criticized from both the left and the right.

But, predictably, mostly from the right -- including the pro-Republican propagandists at Fox News, where right-wing Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a subcommittee member who surely was not amused when Colbert made a joke about how "corn packer" is "a derogatory term for a gay Iowan," called him a liar (without any evidence to back up the accusation).

Politico was also negative, with Jonathan Allen sarcastically dismissing Colbert's remarks as "a punch-lined discourse on his chief qualification as an expert on the issue: A 10-hour stint working the fields" and gleefully suggesting, citing but a single "Democratic strategist," that Colbert's testimony would hurt Democrats and was otherwise pointless.

Oh, these Beltway types do take themselves so seriously, don't they? You could see that in the room, where no one, least of all the full-of-it politicians on the subcommittee, seemed to know what to make of Colbert -- as if they'd never seen his show and really had no idea who he was.

Now, sure, his remarks were hilarious -- all the more so, perhaps, because there was no laughter and no one knew what to make of them. Well, surely some did, but you could tell that many in the room couldn't handle the truth, not when it masquerades as truthiness. As Digby put it: "It appears that Stephen Colbert offended the delicate sensibilities of the Beltway Quilting Bee and Ladies Pearl Clutching Society." (Even Steny Hoyer, the #2 Democrat in the House, was critical: "I think his testimony was not appropriate," he said yesterday on Fox News. "I think it was an embarrassment for Mr. Colbert more than the House." Nonsense.)

And while his remarks where full of great lines, his responses in the Q&A that followed showed him to be a genuinely thoughtful and compassionate man who actually cares about the plight of migrant farm workers -- far more than many (if not all) on that subcommittee, and certainly more than exploitationist conservatives do.

Consider, for example, his answer to the question of why he's "interested in this issue":

I like talking about people who don't have any power, and it seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come in and do our work, but don't have any rights as a result. And yet, we still ask them to come here, and at the same time, ask them to leave. And that's an interesting contradiction to me, and um... You know, "whatsoever you did for the least of my brothers," and these seemed like the least of my brothers, right now. A lot of people are "least brothers" right now, with the economy so hard, and I don't want to take anyone's hardship away from them or diminish it or anything like that. But migrant workers suffer, and have no rights.

That's Stephen Colbert speaking, not "Stephen Colbert," and it was a moment of exceptional clarity. He speaks the truth whether he's in character or out, just in different ways, but this was especially remarkable.

A site called Blue Wave News has the transcript of Colbert's opening remarks and his answer to that question.

Here, below, are clips of those remarks and his answer:

Labels: , ,

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home