Faux presidential candidate Stephen Colbert is getting
as much attention as the serious contenders and even outscoring many of them in the
Brooke takes a look at Colbert's White House bid.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: This is On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone. And here's a guy on YouTube. [CLIP]: MAN: Well, all right. I was just watching The Colbert Report tonight, and I found that Stephen Colbert is running for president in South Carolina. And I gotta tell you, I am tickled pink. I hope this guy throws a monkey wrench into the whole thing. [LAUGHS] [END OF CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Well, all right. In 20 seconds, that random guy summed up the entire discussion consuming pundits across all media. Plenty are tickled pink, plenty aren't, but all are obsessed with the monkey wrench.
"Stephen Colbert said yesterday that his campaign for president was no joke," intoned The New York Post, and that could be a problem. "No doubt, lesser politicians will try to drag this utterly selfless, kindhearted candidate through the mud," wrote The Dallas Morning News. "Others will seize his archconservative, pro-war, pro-global warming agenda as their own," it went on. But accept no substitutes -- this guy's the real thing. Here he is on Meet the Press. STEPHEN COLBERT: I don't know. I think a lot of people are asking whether - they say, is this, is this real? - you know, and to which I would say to everybody, this is not a dream. Okay? You're not going to wake up from this. Okay? I'm, I’m far realer than Sam Brownback. Let me put it that way. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Some have observed that Brownback jumped out of the race when Colbert jumped in -— unfair to draw a causal relationship there. Colbert presents an equal risk to any candidate that indulges in clichés or cant or moral posturing -- meaning all of them. Here's MSNBC's Dan Abrams. DAN ABRAMS: Tonight a new poll of Democrats shows that Stephen Colbert, the comedian, the late-night TV host, is actually shaking up the race for president. Yes, the fake candidate is creating ripples by beating real ones. BROOKE GLADSTONE: The respected Rasmussen polling service conducted a survey and found that in a three-way match up with Hillary Clinton and Rudolph Giuliani, Colbert won 13 percent of the vote. And among young voters, he has more support than any Republican running.
Comedy, we know, is a matter of timing, and Colbert has the best there is for the 2008 election. The character he crafted, as pointed and specific as it is, offers something for everyone. He's a blank canvas, a Rorschach test of collective revulsion.
For those sick of the GOP's hounding of gays and immigrants, for those tired of the cravenness and hypocrisy of Democrats, for those repulsed by ersatz appeals to the working man, for those dismayed by the toothless campaign finance laws Colbert might be violating, for those weary of the political circus, the media circus, the national security circus, to all of us, he presents a bag of popcorn and a balloon.
As he made eminently clear when he sat down with Tim Russert, he really doesn't have to say anything any more. We're more than happy to fill in the blanks. STEPHEN COLBERT: I'm doing it, Tim, because I think our country is facing unprecedented challenges in the future. And I think that the junctures that we face are both critical and unforeseen, and the real challenge is how we will respond to these junctures, be they unprecedented or unforeseen, or, God help us, critical. TIM RUSSERT: You've thought this through. STEPHEN COLBERT: That's a generous estimation. Thank you. BROOKE GLADSTONE: So, the people speak on YouTube. They sing on YouTube, too. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER] MAN: [SINGING] He is Stephen Colbert. It's a monumental honor to be you. BROOKE GLADSTONE: That's all I have to say about Colbert -- except one thing. He's an admitted purveyor of fake news. Now it seems that the Federal Emergency Management Agency's deputy administrator, Harvey Johnson, has also taken a crack at it.
On Tuesday, he called a fake press conference and answered questions from fake reporters -- actually members of his own staff -- related to his agency's response to the California fires. Later, he issued an apology.
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