(Cross-posted from Poligazette)
There has been some concern, and rightly so I think, that the late night comedians: the Jon Stewarts, Stephen Colberts, and David Lettermans of the world would fail to criticize and satirize the new President once he got into office. Jazz Shaw, writing for Pajamas Media, thinks that although the pace has been slow to pick up, the funnies at the expense of the new President are starting to appear:
Were they frightened? Had they simply spent so long attacking the Republicans that the idea of criticizing a Democratic president was beyond the scope of imagination? Or were they truly liberal, partisan hacks as so many of their critics had suggested? Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton were still being abused on a regular basis and the never-ending tale of Blago was a movable feast for all, but the digs at President Obama failed to appear. Instead, Stewart pilloried Fox News for having the audacity to criticize the White House and Letterman ripped into Michael Steele’s rocky start as RNC chairman. My hopes for bipartisan comedy goodness began to fade.
That may have begun to change this week, however. The first encouraging sign came when Stephen Colbert examined Obama’s new health care initiative and expressed his hopes that it would “cover him for the stroke he was going to have when he filed his tax return.” There may have been some veiled cynicism in that critique, but the real breakthrough came on The Daily Show when Jon Stewart heard about Obama’s plans for Iraq over the next few years. After railing against the war since before it began, this was clearly a bridge too far and Stewart came out swinging.
A few things that Jazz wrote at the end of his article make me think he’s hoping for a little much.
I don’t know what party Stewart belongs to (though my research suggests he’s a left-leaning Independent), but Colbert is a confirmed Democrat, and the end of the campaign made it fairly clear what party Letterman supports (though he’s always – with the exception of that one incident last year – been cordial with John McCain). Jazz suggests that more hits on universal healthcare, like the one done briefly by Colbert the other night, will bring a 180 in the comedy on late night TV.
I think the late-nighters will become more comfortable with criticizing and making fun of the Obama administration as time goes on, but on their own terms and political outlook. Though, they have made some surprising moves. Stewart will take whatever chance he gets to make fun of media excesses, no matter the politics of the publisher in question. And on one Colbert Report episode last year, Colbert appeared to argue in support of the smorgasbord approach to energy that is not generally favored by Democrats, but Republicans.