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Colbert wormed his way into Trump's head

運営事務局 JIMOPLE 13 October 4, 2019
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(CNN)Among the other cherished institutions being upended -- if not literally ended -- by the actions and distractions of the Trump administration is the venerable tradition of political satire.

Yes, satire has been all over television, especially in late night, since the day Donald Trump glided down his gilded escalator; but not very much of it has been able to quite match the unfolding "events of the day" -- every day -- in the Trump White House.

What TV writer, for example, could possibly have come up with the suggestion -- ridiculous and malign -- that a potentially effective way to impede immigration across our southern border might be to dig a massive moat and fill it with alligators and snakes?

Oh wait, watch this clip.

That Stephen Colbert, in his previous incarnation as host of "The Colbert Report" 13 years ago, actually came up with the exact preposterous immigration policy which a new book says was allegedly advocated by the President of the United States -- and denied by the President -- is not really all that surprising. In that role, after all, Colbert played a vain, narcissistic conservative true believer who was frequently given to spouting far-fringe ideas that politicians on the right might have been thinking in their gut, but were not willing, until Donald Trump, to speak out loud.

In fact, look at this video.

That clip, from the very first "Colbert Report" in 2005, is most famous for Colbert's invention of the word "truthiness," which was itself so perspicacious and so apt a made-up word to describe the preference of politicians for only approximations of the truth, rather than the real thing, that it was chosen "word of the year" by dictionary publisher Merriam Webster.

But if you stick with that clip, you will find the "blowhard character," as Colbert always referenced his creation, announcing that "going with your gut" -- not "thinking" -- is the way to make big political decisions.

Even before alligator-gate, Colbert had threatened a mock lawsuit against Trump for stealing ideas because of Trump's own declarations about depending on his gut, which tells him "more than anyone's else brain can."

None of this means Trump watched "The Report" (not likely, unless he was the guest). It just speaks to how determinedly, and effectively, Colbert wormed his way down into the id of the hard-right movement. He was so effective that, initially at least, some conservative politicians, missing the satire entirely, believed he was one of them. One-time Republican House majority leader, conservative icon, and quickly eliminated contestant on "Dancing with the Stars," Tom DeLay, famously came away from an interview with Colbert so impressed he used clips from it on the website of his legal defense fund.

There was something about the format of "The Colbert Report" -- which was less a traditional, late-night show than an extended, spectacularly executed, satirical performance -- that created the possibilities for what now seems like eye-popping prescience. And not only about the conservative side of politics:

Colbert's character was lampooning the absurd over-emphasis on "electability" way back during the Democratic primary races of 2008.

He also made a host of memorable, and still completely salient, observations, which spoke to our political condition, then and now. Among the most telling (and sobering) was this one: "The best way to prove that American is indivisible is to rip it in two."

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