Stephen Colbert hosted House minority leader Nancy Pelosi on “The Colbert Report” Wednesday evening. Does that mean that Stephen Colbert the person might be a Democrat? That would be the opposite of “Stephen Colbert” the character, who on television is a committed conservative talk-show host.
We’ll get to that in a second. First, let’s recap Wednesday night's events.
The point of the Pelosi appearance was for her and Mr. Colbert (in character) to have a faux faceoff. Colbert has a "super political action committee" called Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow. Ms. Pelosi is pushing the DISCLOSE Act, a bill intended to regulate certain activities of these campaign funding organizations. She’s even filmed an ad that purports to attack Colbert, saying she’s heard “he doesn’t even like kittens.”
Is the ad funny? Let’s just say Pelosi is not nearly as good a comedian as Colbert is a politician.
“You have attacked me,” said Colbert to Pelosi Wednesday with all the false umbrage his fictional self could muster. “You have attacked me and the person of my super PAC by saying that super PACs and I are hurting democracy. What do you mean?”
Pelosi went on to explain that she believes the unlimited donations pouring into super PACs create a situation in which democracy might be purchased, and that all she and the DISCLOSE Act want to do is create more transparency so citizens know where that money is coming from.
(The “DISCLOSE” in DISCLOSE Act stands for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections, by the way. In case you hadn’t figured it out for yourself.)
The minority leader concluded by saying that in the end Democrats need to win the election so they can overturn the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, which makes super PACs possible, “by amending the Constitution and giving the voice and the vote and the power to the people.”
The studio audience then gave her a round of applause.
So does this mean Colbert the person is a Democrat? We ask this in particular because Stephen Colbert the character served up nothing but softballs in the way of questions for Pelosi. In the end, he agreed to endorse the DISCLOSE Act in return for her urging House Democrats to participate in his “Better Know a District” series.
Colbert did not point out that donors to super PACs already must disclose their identities – albeit too late to really do transparency any good. Pelosi’s legislation would tighten that disclosure and speed it up, making big donors report their cash offerings within a day.
Colbert did not ask how she plans to get DISCLOSE passed, given that it was introduced in Congress almost two years ago, has received no Republican support, and is stuck in committee.
Nor did Colbert ask about the viability of the amend-the-Constitution-to-overturn-Citizens-United process. We’re safe in saying that that procedure is so lengthy and difficult that it will happen at about the same time Republicans succeed in passing a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, which is to say, not for many years to come.
Colbert does have Republican politicians on his show, so the mere fact that he’s giving Pelosi air time means little, partisanship-wise. But others – not us, we don’t want our Twitter feed to explode – have suggested that Colbert’s super PAC exposé is going too far and that he made a mockery of the political system when he testified before Congress in character on immigration reform.
In January, NBC political analyst Chuck Todd said the media should be “careful” about how it treats Colbert.
“What is his real agenda here?” said Mr. Todd at a forum at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., just prior to the South Carolina primary. “Is it to educate the public about the dangers of money and politics, and what’s going on? Or is it simply to marginalize the Republican Party? I think if I were a Republican candidate I would be concerned about that.”