Hardball: Chuck Todd Asks If Colbert's Congressional Appearance Is "Good For The System"

I know not to spend a lot of time wondering if Chuck Todd is more than an inside-the-beltway tool. But it's a shame he had to go full-blown concern troll to keep the gate locked for proprietary fetish Washingtonians. Stephen Colbert engaged in a
up

h/t Heather for the video.

I know not to spend a lot of time wondering if Chuck Todd is more than an inside-the-Beltway tool. But it's a shame he had to go full-blown concern troll to keep the gate locked for proprietary fetish Washingtonians. Stephen Colbert engaged in a fascinating guerrilla theatre moment to gain attention for migrant farm workers -- a group of people who the White House Press Corps rarely speaks to, betcha.

Todd's wiggling discomfort with Colbert's literal and figurative gate-crashing is readily apparent, but my eyes rolled hardest at this exchange with Lawrence O'Donnell:

TODD: What if Al Franken was in character in the U.S. Senate? What if he decided to be Stuart Smalley in the Senate?

O`DONNELL: Never going to happen.

TODD: I understand that he -- well you say, I know, never going to happen. I guess what I`m asking, Lawrence, is, you know, I understand this whole -- we`ve sort of merging reality and celebrity into one now. This is what the 21st century media culture is, whether it`s "Dancing with the Stars" or "The Colbert Report" or whatever it is. I just -- I`m asking you, is this good for the system, bad for the system, or is it simply the system?

O`DONNELL: Oh, I think the system can take it.

The system? THE SYSTEM? Which system would that be, Chuck? The system that prevents important Congressional hearings on C-Span3 from getting any attention? The system that allows the most marginalized humans in our fifty states to remain completely voiceless? Or the system that protects the safe-seat congressional staff from having to do anything but rubber stamp lobbyist-written make-the-rich-richer legislation?

Perhaps what bothers Chuck Todd the most is Colbert's challenge to HIS system: the Blackberry class Washington journalista cocktail party circuit, which Colbert shames. Stephen Colbert's actions today show that journalism and celebrity can be used in an attempt to actually make a difference. Meanwhile, Chuck Todd clutches his pearls and feigns worry over mockery of Congress (really) while covering "news" that happens only in areas with five phone bars and festooned carpeting. He and the rest of the Washington Life Magazine Power 100 ought to be ashamed.

Update: Salon's Alex Pareene makes a really good point: "Maybe instead of repeating Colbert's punchlines, and then complaining about them, Chuck Todd could explain what the AgJOBS bill is. "Immigration is a serious issue," we're told, but then we're not told anything about the issue of immigration."

Full transcript below the fold:

TODD: All right. We are back with Lawrence O`Donnell and Jonathan Allen.

Lawrence, you worked on Capitol Hill, as a staffer for one of the most famous senators, maybe ever, in the 20th century, Daniel Patrick Moynihan. I ask you -- was today a good day or a bad day for the institution of the United States Congress?

O`DONNELL: I've been asking myself that all day, Chuck. You know, at the Senate Finance Committee where I scheduled the witnesses, I will say that I never, ever would have had a witness like this. And one of the reasons is -- we never needed to get attention for our hearings. It was the most important committee using the most important subjects. However, when the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law wants --

TODD: By the way, you've got to correct. Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding.

O`DONNELL: Yes.

TODD: I know, well done.

O`DONNELL: When they want to get the cameras there, there is only one way. And so, he did bring attention to an issue and he broke character to certain point and made a serious point about this. He brought attention to an issue that otherwise would have gotten none, but it seems, in most the coverage, the attention is all about him.

TODD: You know, I guess I`ve got ask Jonathan -- Borat has done this. I mean, is that what we saw today, the Borating of Congress? I mean, did Congress get the joke?

ALLEN: You know, I`m not sure that Congress did get the joke. We've heard a lot of this talk from Democrats who are trying to cover-up afterwards. You know, he brought attention to the issue, but I think that Lawrence made the point there. He brought more attention to himself that the issue. I think, you know, to some extent, he made not only a mockery of Congress, which can be done in small ways, appropriately.

TODD: Sure.

ALLEN: But this is a rather large way. But also, in a way, kind of the issue because if you -- this is a serious issue, the plague of migrant farm workers, and here he is making jokes and a lot of them fairly lewd jokes. I know you can`t play them because it`s a family show here, but I`m sure they`ll be replayed on Comedy Central or Pay-Per-View at some point.

TODD: Over and over again.

O`DONNELL: But, you know, he also -- he also reminded them of the biblical passage, "Whatever you did for the least of my brothers," and then he went on to say, it seems like the least of my brothers right now, a lot of people have the least of brothers right now because of the economy`s so bad and he didn't want to take any hardship away from all the other unemployed, but he`s made the point that the least of our brothers are these migrant workers and made the point that they suffer and have no rights. There`s a -- there is a section of this presentation of his that was very serious.

Chuck, the most fascinate thing for me --

TODD: I don`t -- yes?

O`DONNELL: -- was Chairman Conyers tried to get rid of him when he came in and discovered that the subcommittee chairwoman had invited a comedian to the hearing. That was for me the great part.

TODD: What if Al Franken was in character in the U.S. Senate? What if he decided to be Stuart Smalley in the Senate?

O`DONNELL: Never going to happen.

TODD: I understand that he -- well you say, I know, never going to happen. I guess what I`m asking, Lawrence, is, you know, I understand this whole -- we`ve sort of merging reality and celebrity into one now. This is what the 21st century media culture is, whether it`s "Dancing with the Stars" or "The Colbert Report" or whatever it is. I just -- I`m asking you, is this good for the system, bad for the system, or is it simply the system?

O`DONNELL: Oh, I think the system can take it. And you saw the conflict, John Conyers, the full chairman, with all the --

(CROSSTALK)

TODD: Long time, right. The guy`s been in Congress for decades.

O`DONNELL: -- shows up and basically says, "What is this guy doing here," and literally says to Colbert, basically, "Get out of here, leave, I don`t want to hear your statement." And then the subcommittee chairwoman has to come in and explain, "Well, I invited him." I mean, that to me was one the most absurdest moments I've ever seen just -- and knowing way that chairmanships work, that to me was stunning.

TODD: That he didn't --

ALLEN: Well, she`s already --

TODD: Go ahead, Jon.

(CROSSTALK)

ALLEN: -- Speaker Pelosi. Zoe Lofgren had told Speaker Pelosi what she planned to do, so I think she probably felt like she had the permission to do it over and above Chairman Conyers.

TODD: You know, and, Lawrence, I want to ask is -- I`m going to get you get the last word because you`re going to get the last word -- I want you to promote your show.

O`DONNELL: It's in my contract, Chuck.

TODD: Don`t get -- don`t get me wrong, you`re going to get the last word. But I guess, is it fair to say -- here we had a comedian testifying on Capitol Hill, we had an actual brawl breakout on a U.S. Senate debate, we have Chris Christie yelling at audience members, you know, is this -- is this campaign 2010 in a nutshell?

O`DONNELL: It`s what it`s coming down to. And as you know, Chuck, in that at final month, the tension builds everywhere in both parties.

TODD: Right.

O`DONNELL: Every word, every move is scrutinized. The pressure increases every day on these things. And I think -- that`s what Conyers was responding to. I think that he was walking in there saying, "Hey, wait a minute, we`re in a campaign season. Is this a crazy thing for us to do?"

TODD: OK. That`s the last word. Lawrence O`Donnell, Jonathan Allen of the "Politico" -- thanks so much.

About Bluegal aka Fran

Bluegal aka Fran's picture
Executive Producer of The Professional Left Podcast. On staff at Crooks and Liars since 2007. Master's degree from Harvard. Happy wife of Driftglass. Mother of three geniuses. Obsessive knitter. Blogs at http://bgalrstate.blogspot.com. .

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