Of course, most mainstream media reports focused on the preceding bit performed by the President as he stood next to a really dead-on doppleganger of himself (impersonator Steve Bridges) who offered an alternate version of what the President was "really" thinking as Bush addressed the crowd. Amusing, yes, but it was mostly toothless humor, poking fun at how the President don't always talk too good and other relatively "safe" subjects. Clearly, this sort of low-intensity, good-natured ribbing is what the MSM is much more comfortable with.
Not Colbert, though. I don't know how he managed to sneak under the radar, but boy did he. Perhaps someone at the White House actually thought his Bill O'Reilly-like right-wing shouting-head character from his TV show was for real. But however he did it, he took full advantage of the opening and got in a bunch of real stinging barbs. Never breaking character, Colbert took to the podium in full-on Bush Cultist mode and never let up. It was satire in it's purest form, not so much "ha ha" funny, but rather scathing and witty truth delivered in the guise of humor and perfectly designed to make powerful people very uncomfortable. Colbert drew a lot of knowing smirks from the crowd but generally not the uproarious laughter of, say, the more "acceptable" Steve Bridges' Bush imitation. No, Colbert's shots hit far too close to home both for the politicians and the press who were present, and watching the nervous laughter of most of those gathered was perhaps the most rewarding spectacle of all. Here are some of Colbert's gems:
"I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."
"I believe that everyone has the right to their own religion, be you Hindu, Jewish or Muslim. I believe there are infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior."
"Now, I know there are some polls out there saying this man (Bush) has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality." And reality has a well-known liberal bias."
"I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound -- with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world."
"As excited as I am to be here with the president, I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media that is destroying America, with the exception of Fox News. Fox News gives you both sides of every story: the president's side, and the vice president's side. But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on NSA wiretapping or secret prisons in eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason: they're super-depressing. And if that's your goal, well, misery accomplished. Over the last five years you people were so good -- over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew."
About Rev. Jessie Jackson: "You can ask him anything, but he's going to say what he wants, at the pace that he wants. It's like boxing a glacier. Enjoy that metaphor, by the way, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is."
Chiding the press corps: "Then you write, "Oh, they're just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic." First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!"
As I mentioned, even though this dinner is well known to have general air of a Friar's Club roast, it was obvious from the muted reactions of the crowd to Colbert's performance that no one was expecting this level of uncomfortable truth to be spoken, especially in the actual vicinity of the President himself, a man who is well known to like to stay safely shielded behind yes-men and adoring pre-screened crowds of supporters. But in the end, the people who should have been most embarrassed by this unexpected metaphorical de-pantsing was not the Bush Administration, who's follies are well known to anyone paying attention (a number now up to about 68% of us according to the most recent information). No, the ones who should really be embarrassed are the press corps--they should be embarrassed that a comedian pretending to be Bill O'Reilly actually did a much better job of taking this government to task for it's obvious blunders and stupidities than they themselves have been able to do.
UPDATE: A new website has appeared that has the whole video. The site is apparently a Thank You to Steven Colbert.