Monday, April 10, 2006

Hooley High: Colbert Props Oregon's 5th District

[in a nod to Colbert, who supports linguistic creativity and will take credit for it even if someone else probably came up with it first, I proudly unveil the use of the word "prop" as a verb, meaning to give proper respect--as in, "LeBron James always makes sure he props people like Kareem and Dr J when others compliment his influence on the NBA."]

Markos Moulitsas Zuniga thinks the world of Stephen Colbert after meeting him on his show last week; in that post he also helpfully directs you to the Pacific Northwest Portal for his schedule of events in the great PNW this weekend--don't forget the get-together with Rob Brading at Kennedy School Monday night, by the way. Markos handled Stephen pretty easily, as someone who fully gets the joke and just rolls along with it.

Other than pimping their appearance again, what does that have to do with Oregon? Nothing--except before interviewing Markos, Colbert unveiled another in his 433 part series, Better Know a District. Thursday's district: the Fightin' 5th of Oregon, currently held by Democrat Darlene Hooley, seen here doing her best to smile under the onslaught of "when did you stop beating your wife" questions Colbert is famous for. His intro was classic, in which he noted Oregon as one of the states with medical marijuana laws to help treat things like glaucoma...and that interestingly everyone in Oregon has in fact been diagnosed with glaucoma. He also doesn't miss the chance to refer to two of the district's bigger exports, calling the 5th a great place to "lay a log or cut some cheese."

As I mentioned above, one of the things to watch for in a Colbert interview is just how well the interviewee "gets it;" that it's all a put-on. A very well done, slightly unnerving put-on. And when Hooley took the initiative to call her turf the "Fightin' 5th" the way Colbert does for every district, I thought, "thank goodness she's prepared and won't look stupid in one of her few chances on national TV."

After that, it started going downhill. Colbert pulled out another pet name for Oregon: "California's Canada," and she reminded him she represents Oregon. (She doesn't touch having it called "Washington's Mexico.") Then picking up from the intro, Colbert started to hammer her on the medical pot angle--or actually I should say he threw up the serve and she took a big swing, since Hooley all but indicated that she disagreed with the law but had to respect the voters despite her distate.

This led to a question I can only assume Colbert assumed would be a momentary throwaway for a quick laugh on his end: "Are you high right now?" What's the right answer for a Congressman, do you suppose (assuming they're not high and/or not willing to admit it)? My advice would be a polite but firm "uh, NO." What does Hooley do? Start giggling uncontrollably. Like the pro he is, Colbert takes it and runs: "Can't stop giggling, eh? Do you have the munchies?" She does manage to deny that, but Colbert moves on, allowing that "it's hard to concentrate on one thing when you're high." Inexplicably, Hooley says "Yeah, I know it is!"

But the worst part has to be when Hooley starts to argue with Colbert over whether things like broccoli and zucchini are vegetables or fruit. She makes him get a dictionary, for heaven's sake...and when he makes up the entry (by reading what's actually there and then finishing with, "a fruit,"), she asks if she can see it. Match over, TKO. If you don't have a suitable zinger at hand ("Yeah, and if a frog had wings he'd bump his ass a-hopping" would have been pithy, funny and strange enough to force Colbert to change the subject), the proper answer is "I'll have my staff look into it" or "I'll take your word for it, Stephen." You let him draw you into an argument about broccoli, Darlene. Wasn't there a warning bell in your head pealing like the British were coming?

Turns out the National Journal is asking the same question, hat tip to Kazablog. Like Kaza, I don't have access to the subscriber portion, but I assume it's not flattering. Look, Colbert has done at least a dozen of these so far, and they are all the same: try to flip out the candidate with ridiculous "gotcha" questions. Any office on The Hill that is not ready for the call from Colbert's producers, is an office that could use a little help in the savvy department. Is she going to suffer more than jokes at the salad bar of the House cafeteria? Probably not, since she's running against someone not named Jim Zupanic, who put a pretty credible race against her last time. But those of us some of us in her district, who aren't all that thrilled about her estate-tax-repealing, credit-card-company-humping ways, are shaking our heads and wondering how we got stuck with this for the Fightin' 5th.