Westmoreland on Colbert

by Jon Mandle on June 16, 2006

This is almost too much – it really is painful. If you haven’t seen Rep. Lynn Westmoreland on Stephen Colbert’s show, watch it … if you dare! (I must say, I am curious what the tape looks like unedited.)

I admit that I doubted Colbert could sustain his character or make the show interesting for long – who would want to appear on it? I stand corrected.



Duncan Brown 06.16.06 at 3:06 pm

Colbert is still hitting his stride. He’s got the pompous pseudopundit act down cold. (Also, if you haven’t yet, go to CAPAN for his amazing talk to the White House Press Association (which ppunctures both press and politicians prescisely–and ends with his “demo tape” for the job of WH press secretary)

Has Bill O’Reilly appeared on the Report yet? Or is he a coward?


Duncan Brown 06.16.06 at 3:08 pm

Correction: It should be “C-SPAN,” not CAPAN.


Pug 06.16.06 at 3:26 pm

– who would want to appear on it?

Some people will do anything to be on TV, even when they really shouldn’t. The Jerry Springer Show is prrof of that.


blatherskite 06.16.06 at 4:14 pm

Congressman Westmoreland looks like a dolt who was not created in the editing room. It’s hard to imagine he’s much smarter than he came off there.

I’m sure Dems have their own group of dim bulbs in Congress. But I’ve often wondered if the Republican emphasis on simplistic messages (“low taxes, strong defense, family values”) makes it more likely that the true idiots aren’t weeded out by having to conceptualize a bit beyond that before they win their first campaign.

There are plenty of smart republicans but they seem to tolerate ignorance and stupidity in their elected officials more than Dems do.

Of course this is a self-serving observation, since I’m a Dem.

I’m not sure who made this (possibly apocryphal) remark, but it’s always attributed to Democrats: when a Dem’s opponent demanded he take a drug test, the Dem supposedly said “I will take a drug test if my opponent takes an IQ test.”


Adam Kotsko 06.16.06 at 4:29 pm

I don’t think he was really “in character” — he didn’t seem to be pretending to be a Republican. He was just being an aggressive interviewer.


harry b 06.16.06 at 4:38 pm

blatherskite — completely anecdotal, but friends who have testified before Senate Committees on semi-technical matters have expressed considerable dismay at the intellectual capacities of their questioners (with a few exceptions, some republican, some democrat; the context of such discussions is my own expression of amazement about the consdierable abilities of British polticians I’ve dealt with). The process by which you get to be selected as a candidate hardly rewards semi-careful thought; and the culture of the supine interview that prevails in the press means that there is no incentive to sharpen their wits (I’m an old-fashioned socialist type who believes that even in adulthood people who have shown no great intellect up to that point can develop considerable ability given the right conditions).

I think its nice that people with average and below-average intelligence get a chance to become Senators and Congresspeople — its just a shame that people with average or below-average levels of wealth and venality don’t.


Kelly 06.16.06 at 4:47 pm

Adam – he was in character. Colbert-out-of-character is a much different person. (There was a 60 Minutes interview about 6 weeks ago that nicely highlights how different he is from Character Colbert.)

I admit that I doubted Colbert could sustain his character or make the show interesting for long – who would want to appear on it? I stand corrected.
Both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have repeatedly wondered why anyone would go on The Daily Show or The Colbert Report – yet there’s apparently a list of people begging to be on that’s months long. Guess that whole 75% of the audience being the coveted 18-35 market is worth something. ;)

The theory behind Better Know A District is pretty simple: if they get enough people on it, the other congress[wo]men will basically feel forced to appear, so they can’t be mocked for refusing to go on. Seems to be working so far. :)


John Quiggin 06.16.06 at 10:49 pm

The Ten Commandments question reminds me of Bertrand Russell who said (internets corrections welcome) that they ought to come with a restriction like a Cambridge exam “Only six to be attempted”.


abb1 06.17.06 at 3:18 am

…who would want to appear on it?

Don’t you think this may be a calculated decision: looking like an idiot and being ridiculed publicly could actually increase his popularity? What about ‘George W Bush’ public persona?


No Preference 06.17.06 at 6:45 am

friends who have testified before Senate Committees on semi-technical matters have expressed considerable dismay at the intellectual capacities of their questioners

Someone whose opinion I highly respect escorted some foreign dignitaries to a meeting & luncheon with a couple of senators. He said that during that day the people with the best grip on reality seemed to be the guards and receptionists. Less tuned in were the top-level aides, while the senators were quite out out it.


Belle Waring 06.17.06 at 7:54 am

I well remember getting told off by my grandad over dinner at the union club because the sermon of the day at his church in east hampton had been on how kids coming up these days didn’t know the ten commandments, and I in fact failed to name them all. let me think…IIRC I left out taking the lord’s name in vain. this was back in the ’80s when it was not yet the case that every single episcopalian minister in tghe northeast was a gay or lesbian agnostic. now, I think homosexuals are the bees knees, and I’m an atheist, but one has to admit it is an unusual stance for a major christian sect to take.
I almost couldn’t watch the Colbert thing, it was so painful. if the goverment which governs least, governs best, we may be blessed indeed in Rep. Westmoreland.


Lilly 06.17.06 at 6:37 pm

Who would go on it? Well people like Hugh Grant who went on Leno (or was it Letterman?) right after his high-profile arrest for prostitution. To go on and be humilated – taken down a few – is the real reason they go. It seems to be the new public lynching, and the public keeps eating it up. The more humbled a celeb can make themselves on tv, the faster the public will get over whatever it is the celeb has done, thus wiping the slate clean… to do it all over again.

As for politicians, it’s a PR move – one that will position them in the polls for an upcoming election. Again, the formula is exactly the same. Humilation = humbling. Humbling = regular guy. Regular Guy = voter’s dream come true. Only none of it’s true, and the public pretends it doesn’t know that. They want to be spoonfed this pap. That’s why the list to go on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are a mile long. You can’t buy that kind of great press anymore. You have to EARN it. It’s groving for the masses, in a nutshell.


Lilly 06.17.06 at 6:37 pm

Err… Grovelling, not groving.


nick s 06.19.06 at 11:17 pm

James Bryce’s words on what it takes to win an American election are still borne out by history. Westmoreland won his Peachtree City district 75-25 in 2004. Were his opponent to use that clip in a campaign commercial, do you think it would really make a difference?


Brian J 06.20.06 at 12:56 pm

I don’t think it would make a huge difference if an opponent used it in a campaign commercial. It might increase voter turnout among people who don’t usually vote because they are disgusted with the political process. This could benefit the Dems slightly, but you’re talking about Georgia here. In the south, hypocrites are a dime a dozen, and they will stick by each other to the bitter end.


Steve Cantrell 06.20.06 at 7:32 pm

…you’re talking about Georgia here. In the south, hypocrites are a dime a dozen, and they will stick by each other to the bitter end.

Not very helpful. I live in PA now but spent my first 35 yrs in Georgia. One of the things I noticed soon after my exodus from the south is that rednecks live everywhere–they have different accents in different places. One thing about having a southern accent though, I’ve never found it to my disadvantage to be underestimated (or misunderestimated). I think George Bush has found the same to be true, and those sorts of comments play right into the greedy little hands of those who say, “See! Those liberals think you’re stupid, but I don’t. Vote for me. I’ll never make you feel stupid.”

The Colbert/Westmoreland interview was a thing of beauty. I think it can stand for itself and is much more effective when unaccompanied by regional invective. After all, we do live in a democracy (for the time being), and those southern hypocrites, they do love to vote.


Brian J 06.21.06 at 10:05 am

Steve – Maybe not helpful, but true. I too spent the first 30 years of my life in the deep south – although in Alabama, not Georgia – and my family still lives there. The post before mine stated that Westmoreland won his district 75-25 in 2004; meaning a majority of his district supported a candidate whose only introduced legislation has concerned placement of the ten commandments in public buildings when he doesn’t know them himself. That makes him a hypocrite – along with the rest of the republican “values voters” that make up a majority of his district who probably can’t list the ten commandments themselves.

Rednecks do live everywhere, but being a redneck doesn’t make you a hypocrite. Not practicing what you preach makes you a hypocrite, just like having no knowledge of issues you support makes you look like an idiot.


Steve Cantrell 06.21.06 at 9:05 pm

Brian–No real disagreements there. Maybe, however, not all true things ought to be spoken if nothing good or useful results from the speaking. I’m not talking political correctness here, just pragmatic, results-oriented communication. And it probably doesn’t matter in this forum anyway–just us choir-members and all.

Hypocrites, like rednecks, are not uncommon. My concern is how to reach the folks who aren’t paying enough attention to the world and so tend to listen to the most strident voice that resonates with their knee-jerk prejudices. Republicans–and democrats–these days are not trying to change hearts and minds–they are trying to play to people’s fears and ill-informed opinions in order to cobble together enough votes to grab or hold onto power.

There’s nothing wrong with being a “values voter.” I know I vote my values–everyone does. This is a mistake that democrats make: they are afraid of framing the issues as questions of value. Do we value the environment? Do we value pluralism and toleration? Do we value the strict separation of church and state for the sake of both church and state? Do we value checks and balances among the branches of government? Do we value fiscal responsibility? Do we value truth and honesty in public discourse? Do we value privacy and protections for free expression?

Okay…WHY? Why are these things important and why are the values being pushed on the right so damaging?

Liberal/Progressive values are bedrock American values. Let’s frame them as such. Instead of ridiculing–and alienating–people who are searching for a philosophical foundation (and that really is what they are doing), let’s give them a clearly stated alternative to the politics of distraction as currently practiced.

Democrats in visible positions are so spineless when it comes to displaying an earnest conviction about clearly defined principles. This is why the dems are in political limbo, only showing gains when republicans royally screw-up.

I don’t know about you, but as angry as I get at the hubris and lunacy of the right, I get downright livid when I hear the democratic leadership performing the verbal equivalent of a cirque de soleil contortionist act, trying to show just how not republican they are and yet I come away from the show still not knowing what the hell alternative is being offered. Not being Republican is a start and it may be enough for me, but for our right-wing values-voters it just ain’t gonna cut it.

So, what do we do? What can we offer? What do we believe? And how do we let people know in a way that they can hear?

The only reason the right is so successful at defining the left on their terms is that we on the left are terrified of defining ourselves.

What a rant, I know. Anyway Brian, I believe we are in basic agreement here. Do you have any ideas about how to reach out to some of the folks who may be disgusted with the status quo but don’t see progressive politics as a real alternative for them?

Comments on this entry are closed.