Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

A comic for President? What a joke

It's all right. Everything's going to be fine. Stephen Colbert, host of the Comedy Channel's Colbert Report, is entering the race for the Presidency of the United States - but only in South Carolina.

To boost his chances, Colbert will stand as both a Republican and a Democrat, having paid his dues to both parties.

Why not? I say.

How better to appeal to all segments of the population than by representing all their views. Colbert will not just occupy the centre ground, but the extremes as well. Voters will be spoiled for choice.

Some might consider it a scandal that a comedian should be allowed to run for the highest office in the land, even if his campaign doesn't extend beyond the Palmetto State. But I fear it is too late for that.

The wit and wisdom of George W Bush is legendary. But sometimes you can miss it. It just sort of passes you by. So let us reflect on some of the more recent apercus of the 43rd President.

÷ "I got a lot of PhD-types and smart people around me who come into the Oval Office and say, 'Mr. President, here's what's on my mind.' And I listen carefully to their advice. But having gathered the device, I decide, you know. I say, 'This is what we're gonna do.'"

  • "There are jobs Americans aren't doing ... if you've got a chicken factory, a chicken-plucking factory, or whatever you call them, you know what I'm talking about."
  • "I'm going to try to see if I can remember as much as I can to make it sound like I'm smart on the subject."
  • "I've heard him (Tony Blair) bein' called Bush's poodle. Well, he's bigger than that ¿ My relationship with this good man is where I've been focused, and that's where my concentration is. And I don't regret any other aspect of it. And so I - we filled a lot of space together."
  • "I'm honoured to be here with the eternal general of the United States, mi amigo Alberto Gonzales."
  • "There are some similarities, of course (between Iraq and Vietnam). Death is terrible."
  • "The solution to Iraq - an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself - is more than a military mission. Precisely the reason why I sent more troops into Baghdad."
  • "There is distrust in Washington. I am surprised, frankly, at the amount of distrust that exists in this town. And I'm sorry it's the case, and I'll work hard to try to elevate it."
  • And finally: "Wisdom and strength, and my family, is what I'd like for you to pray for."

Amen to that, Mr President.

Set against such eloquence, what mere rhetoric can Stephen Colbert deploy?

Well, he has come up with a modest proposal to deal with illegal immigrants.

"Let the immigrants fight our wars," he says. "Once they're in Iraq, we can bring our troops home and station them on the Mexican border. After all, immigrants are here to do the jobs most Americans aren't willing to do - and right now that's serving in Iraq."

His take on the death penalty is equally arresting. The fact that at least 127 people executed in the United States were subsequently exonerated of the crimes for which they were condemned cuts no ice with Colbert, who observes that "mere factual innocence" should never be allowed to interfere with the due process of law.

Similar logic is applied to the race question. Colbert is, he insists, colour blind.

He simply cannot see different skin tones. But if it helps, he is willing to make Barack Obama - whose lack of colour seems to bother a lot of people, blacks especially - his new "black friend".

Above all, though, Colbert is a devoted man of the people.

"This show is not about me," he confided on his show's opening night. "No, this program is dedicated to you, the heroes. And who are the heroes?

"The people who watch this show, average hard-working Americans. You're not the elites. You're not the country club crowd. I know for a fact my country club would never let you in. You're the folks who say something has to be done. And you're doing something. You're watching TV."

Perhaps Colbert's only problem is that he remains, deep down, devoted to his Commander-in-Chief. He likes to ask guests on his show if they think Bush is a "great" President or "the greatest" President.

His own assessment is obvious, and touching: "This man believes the same thing on Wednesday that he believed on Monday - no matter what happened Tuesday."

George W couldn't have put it better himself.

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