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Surprise: Colbert Testimony Becomes Side Show Dems Will Regret

The audacity of jokes.

11:25 AM, Sep 24, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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Here is video of comedian Stephen Colbert testifying before the House Judiciary subcommittee at the request of Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren, on the subject of illegal migrant workers. The pretense for his being an expert witness was Colbert's one day laboring with migrant workers in New York.

Surprise: Colbert Testimony Becomes Side Show Dems Will Regret

There will be plenty of replays on the nightly newscasts, illustrating that Democratic control of Congress guarantees that important issues are dealt with in only the most sensitive, serious, and mature terms.

Nope, just kidding. What the video actually shows is a cringe-inducing Andy-Kaufmanesque display of audacity, which will illustrate that when silly Members of Congress desirous of the attention of popular comedians invite said comedians to embarrass them and the process over which they preside, they will happily oblige them.

Colbert embarrassed them so much, in fact, that he was asked by Rep. John Conyers to leave the committee room after (Correction: before) his in-character, insensitive, and occasionally kind of racist testimony ended. Conyers later backed off the request, and Republican Rep. Lamar Smith delighted in prolonging the pain of Democrats who invited Colbert by asking him several questions on the matter (and getting an endorsement for the Pledge to America).

One wonders exactly what Democrats thought would come of this. A Roll Call story Thursday showed at least a few members of Congress were concerned that the event would become a side show (implying, rather frighteningly, that some thought it wouldn't).

Now, they've managed to portray themselves, not just as fat and happy incumbents willing to irresponsibly throw our money at problems, but as fat and happy incumbents who hire a court jester with our money to entertain them while they irresponsibly throw our money at problems. That ought to be great for the party's message this fall.

Among the arguments this Colbert appearance makes harder:

Christine O'Donnell is somehow unqualified or too unserious to sit in a Congress that allowed that to happen?

Republicans' "Pledge to America" is really an unserious document, and Democrats are the serious job-creating team we need in place to lead us?

Republicans are the "Party of No" and we're the the party of...empty performance art? The choice is clear. Wanna come see Jon Stewart on the Mall?

And, as Jim Geraghty notes, this allows every single Republican challenger to ask the incumbent Democrat he's running against, "Can you justify this embarrassing use of our tax dollars, and the literal mockery that the Democratic Congress has become?"

Nancy Pelosi was to take questions at her press conference shortly after the Colbert hearing. I'm betting her message of the day was not supposed by tied up in defending that debacle.

The problem is not that a comedian made jokes in front of a Congressional committee. Colbert's hilarious. The problem is that his appearance laid bare what voters suspect about Congress— that it's just one really expensive joke.

Flashback: Republicans invited Elmo to testify in 2002 on music education in public schools. That particular stunt went off without embarrassing anyone.

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