Another very funny ad from Stephen Colbert’s SuperPac, “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow,” this one aired during the South Carolina Republican debate. The ad urges a vote for Herman Cain as the only American who is not a Washington insider. Even though Cain long dropped out of the race, he is still on the official ballot.
A moment of levity in the context of a depressing debate where the candidates seem to fall all over themselves to celebrate killing and selfishness. Sadly, that seems to play all to well among the born-again Jesus crowd.
Colbert expertly masters the infamous Cain smile in the last seconds of the ad:
The political landscape continues its surreal metamorphosis in our post-Citizens United environment. The SuperPac founded by Colbert and now under the control of Jon Stewart has released its first attack ad in South Carolina targeting Mitt Romney. Pinning Romney to his own words on “corporations as people” – in his work at Bain Capital, he must have been a serial killer.
As the Daily Beast notes, political satire has a long and storied history:
Greek playwright Aristophanes’ satirical comedies were filled with jabs at influential citizen leaders of Athens during the Peloponnesian War. While in exile, Dante Alighieri wrote his “Divine Comedy,” in which he placed prominent political figures directly in hell. Even Shakespeare is thought to have ridiculed Elizabethan politics in some of his plays, notably “Richard II.” More recently, Mark Twain and Will Rogers stood out as eminent political satirists of their respective times. (“Suppose you were an idiot and suppose you were a member of Congress,” Twain famously wrote. “But I repeat myself.”)
And Colbert continues the tradition, reshaped for a media-saturated culture:
Stephen Colbert continues to play up the absurdities of our post-Citizen’s United political environment by putting his own SuperPac, “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow” in the hands of his close business partner Jon Stewart and announcing an exploratory committee for a run in the South Carolina Republican primary.
I am proud to announce that I am forming an exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for my possible candidacy for president of the United States of America of South Carolina . . .
. . . This is a difficult decision. I’ve talked it over with my money. I’ve talked it over with my spiritual adviser.
It’s a total stunt but entirely warranted in the absurd environment that allows unfettered spending by the supposedly “uncoordinated” activities of SuperPacs. In reality, Colbert isn’t going far as the filing deadline has already passed and there’s no write-in provision in the South Carolina primary.
What to do when the Republican primary race is a mess, the polling data utterly confused and your show is taped a few hours before the Iowa caucus results come in? If you’re Stephen Colbert, you just go with the extraordinary, if agonizingly slow, good judgment of Megyn Shelly, the psychic snail. Of course, Megyn, faced with pictures of the candidates on cucumber podiums under the glare of flashlghts, chose . . . . no one.
Here’s Colbert doing what he does best in a clip from Comedy Central:
Another Candidate has an “Oops” moment in the Republican nomination battle; this time it is Herman Cain trying to answer a question on Libya in an interview with the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. You can see the full five minute version or the quick version below.
It’s interesting to read the Washington Post article in contrast to the video: which has the greater impact? When the Post writes the following:
Cain fidgeted in his chair, searched the ceiling again and adjusted his suit jacket before allowing, “I gotta go back, see, got all this stuff twirling around in my head.
it’s fairly devastating. But when you see the video of his body language, his interaction with the questioners, it’s even more so. What I find most interesting here – besides a candidate who does not seem to understand how to handle himself in a media-rich environment (did you not notice that video lens staring at you with the intensity of Satre’s No Exit?) – is that the Post separates out the video from the article, placing it on a different page. It’s as if we’re talking about something other than what we as a newspaper do. This is different from us – we live by text, we analyze text, and if you want to see what we’re discussing, go here (even if it is just another page on the Post). And true, if one physically picks up a copy of the newspaper, you do so to read it; but online, one is seamlessly moving from text to video to conversations and back again, all of it blending together in one broad (if diverse) stream of information. Separating the two only makes sense in the analog world.
So one could be critical and say the Post still doesn’t get it – like all newspapers, it’s fumbling for the right way of delivering content online. Of course, there’s an economic issue at play – sending you to another page increases the Web site statistics and provides real estate for another banner ad. But one could be more charitable here and point out that as of yet, there is no perfect way of delivering diverse content through a single stream. Television’s strength is video, newspapers do text, and radio does best at audio. But as our environment reshapes the flow of information, it would seem that new ways of integrating everything into a single place becomes critical. In some respects we haven’t progressed much beyond the Middle Ages which produced manuscripts that awkwardly in terms of format, but beautifully in terms of results, incorporated images and notations (and even some graffiti) into the primary text. And yes, they were in a quandary over how to deliver visual information and opted for an entirely separate platform – the incredible stained glass windows of the Gothic cathedrals.
One might note here that the formats of both the Daily Show and the Colbert Report are dealing with the transition from analog to digital. They’re TV shows and live by video, but they incorporate text and still images to make their points. So they are comedy shows, but they’re not; they are news shows, but they’re not (and of course they’ve been both praised and criticized for this) and; they’re talk shows, but no, they are something altogether different. They’re not always successful but they get the point that the formats inherited from the past are not adequate for the present. Everything is called into question, a point nicely captured in Colbert’s stage set with its fake fireplace and Latin inscription: “Videri Quam Esse,” (to seem to be rather than to be). As a direct reference to Colbert’s character it’s a play on the Latin phrase “esse quam videri,” (to be, rather than to seem to be) but it could just as easily refer to the format – a television show that only seems to be television but is something other.
But I digress. Here is the short version of Herman Cain digging himself into a very deep hole: