A MATTER OF TASTE. The minor fracas over Stephen Colbert�s very funny, very tough routine at Saturday�s White House Correspondent Dinner is predictable but still noteworthy. One anonymous attendee observed to Editor and Publisher that, unlike past years� routines that targeted the White House and the press corps equally, �[t]his was anti-Bush�Usually they go back and forth between us and him.� There�s no way to gauge the tone in which that quote was given, but if it was meant as a lament it would be reflective of that peculiar combination of masochism and addled deference to the President that, up until very, very recently, so often characterized Beltway press culture. The audience's response to Colbert�s speech was certainly chilly. At soirees like this, it�s apparently still only appropriate for the President himself to make uproarious jokes about the non-existence of the weapons of mass destruction used as pretext for a war that�s killed thousands of people. I was reminded of the last time a controversy erupted as a result of an over-the-line routine delivered at a White House Correspondent Dinner -- in 1996, when Don Imus cracked a bunch of off-color infidelity jokes in front of Bill Clinton. It�s a nice reminder of the change in stakes over the past decade -- to really hit Clinton where it hurt involved mentioning his problems with monogamy, whereas with Bush it involves mentioning secret torture prisons and all those thousands of dead people.
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