Washington Extra — Too much “truthiness” to handle?

September 24, 2010

I was considering writing earnestly about Congressional efforts to pressure China over the yuan but, in the end, I had to face facts. Love him or loathe him, Stephen Colbert’s appearance on Capitol Hill this morning quite simply stole the show. The Comedy Central star somehow managed to testify about the heated issue of illegal immigrants in satirical character, as an over-the-top conservative commentator.USA/COLBERT

Colbert, of course, does not mind provoking extreme reactions from his audience or offending a few people in the name of satire – remember his controversial attack on President George W. Bush at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in 2006 (and look it up on YouTube if you don’t).

So was his testimony today hilariously irreverent or a shallow publicity stunt? Was it brilliantly observed satire with a real political point, or a mockery of and an insult to the dignity of Congress? Come to that, will his faux “March to Keep Fear Alive” protest against fellow comedian Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity” on October 30 be a dangerous distraction for Democrats or a chance for them to reclaim the debate? Take your pick.  

For the record, here are a selection of quotes, both funny and serious, from Colbert’s testimony:

“This is America — I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American. And then sliced by a Guatemalan and served by a Venezuelan in a spa where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian. Because my great-grandfather did not travel across 4,000 miles of the Atlantic Ocean to see this country overrun by immigrants. He did it because he killed a man back in Ireland. That’s the rumor, I don’t know if that’s true. I’d like to have that stricken from the record.”

“America’s farms are presently far too dependent on immigrant labor to pick our fruits and vegetables. Now, the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables. And if you look at the recent obesity statistics, many Americans have already started.”

“Maybe we could offer more visas to the immigrants who, let’s face it, will be doing these jobs anyway. And getting legal status might give these immigrants more recourse if they’re abused. And it just stands to reason to me that if your co-worker can’t be exploited then you’re less likely to be exploited yourself. And that itself might improve pay and working conditions on these farms. And eventually Americans may consider taking these jobs again. Or maybe that’s crazy. Maybe the easier answer is just to have scientists develop vegetables that pick themselves.”

“I like talking about people who don’t have any power, and it seems like one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work but don’t have any rights as a result. But yet we still invite them to come here and at the same time ask them to leave … Migrant workers suffer and have no rights.”

 “Maybe this (agriculture) jobs bill would help. I don’t know. Like most members of Congress, I haven’t read it.”

 And, finally, one that seemed to get some knowing laughter from much of the audience: “I trust that, following my testimony, both sides will work together in the best interests of the American people, as you always do.”

Here are our top (serious) stories from today: 

House panel cranks up pressure on China currency

A congressional panel turned up the pressure on China over the yuan, approving a bill that would let the United States slap duties on goods from countries with undervalued currencies. In a move likely to increase tension with China, the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee sent the legislation to the full House for a vote next week. It may never become law, however, as it faces uncertain prospects in the Senate.

 For more of this story by Doug Palmer, click here.

 FACTBOX-Key provisions of U.S. House currency bill, click here.

 Pelosi hedges on timing of Bush-era tax vote

House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House would vote this year on extending middle-class tax breaks, but she would not commit to vote before the November 2 congressional elections. “The American middle class will have a tax cut,” Pelosi said at her weekly news conference. “It will be done in this Congress.”

For more of this story by Kim Dixon and Donna Smith, click here.

Obama slams Iran’s Ahmadinejad for “hateful” 9/11 remark

President Barack Obama condemned as hateful, offensive and inexcusable a suggestion by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of a U.S. government role in the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

For more of this story by Alister Bull and Lou Charbonneau, click here.

Obama: Host of options if Iran sanctions fails

President Barack Obama said there are a “host of options” available to the United States and its allies if sanctions against Iran fail to thwart its nuclear ambitions.

For more of this story by Matt Spetalnick and Caren Bohan, click here.

Business spending surges but home sales flat

New orders for a wide range of long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods rose in August and business spending plans rebounded strongly, the latest sign a sharp summer slowdown in the economy was abating. 

For more of this story by Lucia Mutikani, click here.

Deflation not a big concern, Fed’s Lacker says

Just because prices are not rising very rapidly does not mean the U.S. economy will veer into deflation, Richmond Federal Reserve Bank President Jeffrey Lacker said.

For more of this story by Pedro Nicolaci da Costa, click here.

Congress poised to extend GSE home loan limits

Congress is poised to extend next week increased loan limits on mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are set to expire at year end.

For more of this story by Corbett Daly, click here.

Regulators say banks on board with pay rules

U.S. regulators said they doubted financial companies would try to skirt new rules designed to crack down on risky pay practices, but lawmakers weren’t so sure.

 For more of this story by Dave Clark, click here

Judge uneasy over Citigroup-SEC details

The federal judge reviewing a proposed Citigroup Inc settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission expressed concern that the accord does not do enough to ensure that the bank’s disclosures to investors will be adequate.

 For more of this story by Rachelle Younglai and Jonathan Stempel, click here.

One comment

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We are fans of both Jon Stewart and Steven Corbert who both really good comedians. Stewart lets his serious side show through more is all. We have even considered making a trip to the rallies on October 30th even though we live on the West Coast.

I don’t think it did any harm for a Congressional Committee to get fed some truths in satire. It beats the usual super dull testimony by a long shot. Corbert is good at appearing to support both sides of an issue, depending of the view of the listener.

ware really

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