(photo by source)
Comedian Stephen Colbert (at table on right) prepares to "testify" before Congress...
Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), not on many folks' "Top 10 Brightest Bulbs in Congress" lists, upped her game yesterday - and challenged others in Congress to do likewise - when she invited television comedian Stephen Colbert to testify on immigration issues yesterday.
Playing to a packed hearing room and a gaggle of cameras, Colbert yucked it up in the dry, deadpan character he plays on his Comedy Central show, "The Colbert Report." Republican committee members tried to quash his appearance, saying the comedian had no expertise (outside of comedy) and his testimony was essentially "worthless" and "a waste of time." The Democrats on the panel followed Lofgren's lead and pushed for Colbert's performance. (Some reports have put the costs associated with the comic's "hearing" at approximately $100,000.)
According to an Associated Press report, "House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers praised Colbert for drawing a roomful of onlookers and photographers. Then he asked the comedian to leave the room — and to leave the job of testifying to the expert witnesses, including Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez. 'You run your show, we run the committee,' said Conyers, D-Mich. There was some grumbling from some lawmakers about Colbert testifying in character — an unusual approach although not unprecedented. After all, lawmakers once heard testimony from the 'Sesame Street' puppet Elmo. Congressional committees frequently invite entertainment or sports personalities to testify on specific issues in an attempt to draw media attention. Colbert has no background or expertise in either farm labor issues or immigration policy. Colbert said he was there at the invitation of subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif. And Conyers later gave him the go-ahead, apparently hoping Colbert's performance would counter the testimony of a political science professor who said illegal immigrants were competing with black and Hispanic citizens for jobs. Colbert's humor drew guffaws from the audience and several Democrats on the subcommittee. But most of the Republicans sat stone-faced."
I spoke with a member of the media who was present in the room during the comedian's "set." His view was that while Colbert didn't really bring anything meaningful to the debate over illegal immigration, "[Colbert] was hysterical. I laughed my ass off...(unlike most of the hearing room). That being said, I really don't know what was gained by Dems inviting a comedian to a Congressional hearing."
My guess: a little comic relief...
Late add: Commentary's John Podhoretz nails it - "This may have been the single biggest pointless blunder in American political history, and I am not kidding. With an election only five weeks from now in which Democrats are poised for major losses, this morning’s depiction of Congress as ludicrous dupes of a TV personality — which will be replayed for weeks — will make the analogistic point that the majority is unfit to be running things. How exactly will they argue otherwise? Did Colbert himself understand the damage he was going to do to the political and ideological forces he clearly supports by mocking the political process they control in this way?," Podhoretz adds. "Is he, secretly, more O’Reilly than O’Reilly? Whatever is the case, the disaster was predictable and could have been avoided. I know, because I predicted it. What I didn’t predict is that the House leadership and the Democratic leadership generally are in such a state of degeneration that they didn’t know, or didn’t try, to intervene before this political Jonestown. UPDATE: Oh my Lord. Speaker of the House Margaret Dumont Nancy Pelosi has defended Colbert’s appearance: 'He’s an American. He has a point of view.'”
Even later add...Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the House Majority leader, summed up Colbert's appearance this way: ""I think it was an embarrassment for Mr. Colbert more than the House," the Maryland politician said on "Fox News Sunday.""What he had to say was not the way it should have been said," Hoyer added, calling the performance, "not appropriate."