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Steve Colbert Out, Rich Little In, The Rise, Fall, and Rise Of The Free Press

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Steve Colbert must be feeling terrible rejection.

After the most brilliant performance in the history of the White House Correspondents Dinner, he was not only rejected as the emcee for this year, he triggered a global search for the blandest successor.

Rich Little is a good guy, the best of the early 1970's. Perhaps he will do his spectacular Nixon imitation. If you are bored on a Catskills vacation, check him out. If you want biting and relevant comedy, take a pass.

Which brings me to the Iraq war.

Dante's inferno will be full of candidates for accepting blame and responsibility for the death of more than 3000 Americans and countless Iraqi civilians. At the top of the list will be: the Free Press That Wasn't.

All the news that's fit to print: if you want to drive the country to war and carnage through fear and lies, take the front page of the New York Times to lunch, and they will print it.

Cozy up to Tom Friedman, eminence grise of their their editorial page, and he will spend years banging the drums for war, saying more times than we have fingers and toes that the next six months are crucial. Then when things go South, we can see him now on our televisions, eminence grising with comments such as: "As I was warning all along".

Whether we call this comedy, tragedy or farce Mr. Friedman was the ideal candidate to replace Steve Colbert at the Courtiers dinner.

Not to pick on the Times, they are still the best, which is the scariest thing of all. We can leave it to the Freudians and Jungians to explain the Editorial Pages of the Washington Post, which for years resembled Putin's Pravda in its one sided and Lieberman-like support for this war.

Or Bob Woodward's Great Debate with himself, writing one book about the early Bush years that make him look like Winston Churchill and Eisenhower at Normandy, and then another book that makes Bush look like Captain Queeg after he ate too many beans.

America dodged an enormous bullet in the last election, which ended the one party state in Washington, the one party state that fed the courtier press the lies that were reported as truth, which led our young men and women to tragedy in Arabia.

How dare Steve Colbert make fun of this!

How much better to have dated imitations of Richard Nixon and the comedic safety of the Catskill nightclub!

So why am I optimistic about the future? A story will set the stage.

When I worked for the Congressional Leaders in the days of Tip O'Neill, I wanted to plant a story with one of the major television networks.

I called a famous personality in television news, a name you all would know. Not thinking very strategically, I only gave my name, not my job. She would not take my call, return my call, and had her assistant tell me she was "oh so busy".

Two months later that assistant called me, and said the Great One and her husband, another Bigfoot in the Media, were inviting me to dine with them the night of the State of the Union address. When we sat down at dinner, she said to me: "Your name sounds familiar. Have we met?" I told her, well, I was the trailor park trash you would not talk to when I called, being oh so busy, but when you realized I worked for the Congressional Leadership, I get the surf and turf dinner on the network expense account to give you the inside poop.

From then, until now, every hour, every day, this is official Washington. Democrats are
only marginally better, witness the deluge of "Democratic consultants" on the cable news, who spend their days telling Democrats in Congress to not strongly oppose the Iraq war, then parade to the cables to dispense their wisdom purportedly on behalf of us.

There is one fellow who not long ago put his multimillion dollar mansion on the market. Here is his track record for Democratic Presidential candidates he worked for:

His losses: 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988,
1992, 1996, 2000, 2004.

His victories: zero.

Nice guy, but would someone tell me why he goes from cable to cable show telling viewers how Democrats can win elections? This guy is the Typhoid Mary of Democratic Presidential candidates. Perhaps those who insist having him on air, could put a caption under his face:
"Lost Every Presidential Election!"

Here is the good news:

The one party state in Washington is over. The Democratic Congress has begun to offer both a real opposition, the early stages of a real alternative, the growing demands for oversight and investigations, and a competing locus for news and information. They aren't perfect but even the courtier class of journalists must widen their circle of discussion and debate, while the Democratic Congress widens the circle of power, and the power of dissent.

Second, with the decline of daily newspapers, the lower ratings for lesser quality cable, and the relative discrediting of the mainstream media there is a growing proliferation of new media, offering even bolder alternatives.

Television has been invaded by Steve Colbert, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Jack Cafferty and Keith Olbermann and this trend will continue, widen and expand.

To those who say: "You're starry eyed about Democrats, Budowsky!" or "Bill Maher is a horses ass!" Hey, I disagree with you, but I love you anyway, and you make my point, which is this:

You can offer these views, and hundreds of thousands, possibly a million, people will read them. Try calling Tom Friedman and see if he quotes them. If you're good, you can have more readers than Tom!

Coming attractions: there will be far more Keith Olbermann Murrowists and far fewer bow tied courtiers to the power structures of the right.

Last year Bill O'Reilly dispensed his wisdom smearing our World War Two heroes with false charges they committed war crimes against Nazis. This year he pays homage to Colbert, and is twisted like a pretzel while Olbermann takes him to the woodshed.

Throughout the internet, the majority that has been excluded from the commentariat, the consultariat and the constipated classes of Pravda media of the right, and mediacracy media of the "mainstream" are gathering numbers, forces and steam for the challenge.

Excluded voices are being heard, issues are being raised, movements are being organized, change is in the air. The new Murrowism will emerge, maybe on this site, maybe on others. The new majority will find its voice, and find its vehicles.

In capitalist theory its called creative destruction and with every decline in circulation for daily newspapers, either those papers will change, or new alternatives are born to replace them.

In democratic theory it is called freedom, the freedom of ideas, the freedom of debate, the freedom to organize, the freedom of the press.

We are in the early stages of renewal and revival of the democratic spirit of America and the entrepreneurial spirit of the freedom of the press. The one party State is over, the thousand flowers are beginning to bloom, the waves of change have only begun.

Somewhere in America tonite, Steve Colbert will be sitting in a tavern, downing a pitcher of beer while he drowns his sorrows being sad and depressed that he has been rejected by the Washington Correspondents dinner.

Dont bet on it.

My guess is, somewhere in America tonight, Steve Colbert is rubbing his hands, and licking his chops, planning his special show that will bring giant ratings when he makes fun of the correspondents who dare not offend the derrieres in the seats of insider power.

Rich Little is yesterday.

Steve Colbert is tomorrow.

And now, if you're good enough, you can be the next Edward R. Murrow, or Thomas Paine, or Ernest Hemingway, or Robert Frost, or Susan B. Anthony. In the new world, if you find your voice, you can find your audience, because America is a great country, and in the end, often after great struggle, the majority will always find its voice.
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Brent Budowsky is a regular columnist on He served as Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, responsible for commerce and intelligence matters, including one of the core drafters of the CIA Identities Law. Served (more...)

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