Colbert on Trump’s Family Separation Policy
A classic demonstration of the old maxim, "the medium is the message."
So I found this Daily Beast story, under the photo above, while scanning the news this morning:
Stephen Colbert admittedly spends an inordinate amount of time going after President Trump. But he rarely gets as worked up as he did on Tuesday after the president’s blatant lie that his predecessor Barack Obama was the one who separated immigrant families at the border.
“President Obama separated the children,” Trump told reporters unprompted earlier in the day. “Those cages that were shown, I think they were very inappropriate. They were built by President Obama’s administration. Not by Trump.” He added, “I’m the one that stopped it. President Obama had child separation. I was the one that changed it.”
“No, you didn’t!” Colbert shot back. “Obama didn’t have a family separation policy.” The host reminded Trump that the policy was announced by his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who called it “zero tolerance, as in your feelings toward Mexicans.”
“It was the brainchild of Stephen Miller and John Kelly,” Colbert said, “who told Kirstjen Nielsen to implement it, and now she’ll be scraping that hot black tar off her soul for the rest of eternity.”
“It didn’t stop people from coming, it was a monstrous act of cruelty and ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge,” he continued, “but for some reason you are now pushing to reinstate broader family separation policies and today you publicly defended it in the same meeting where you claimed it was all Obama’s fault.”Daily Beast, “Colbert Unloads on Trump for Saying Obama Separated Families”
While that’s all true my first though was: That’s not funny. While Colbert is a left-leaning political commentator and has been for some time, he’s first and foremost an entertainer and a comedian. While his audience fully expects him to attack Trump, it’s supposed to be funny.
So, I went to watch the actual performance:
Now, frankly, it’s still not funny. It may just be that even a comic with Colbert’s enormous talents just can’t make this topic funny or even offer a light-hearted take on it.
Still, neither the photo nor the written description
To some extent, this just illustrates the old maxim “the medium is the message.” Things just convey differently in different forms of delivery. Although, oddly, this part meshes will with the video:
In response to Trump’s argument that without family separation migrants would try to cross the border just to go to Disneyland, Colbert imagined a parent saying, “My kids love not being terrorized by a narco-syndicate, but my favorite part has got to be the Tea Cups.”
Finally, the host admitted that Obama was “no angel,” pointing to “ample evidence of Barack taking kids from their parents.” As adorable images of Obama entertaining kids in the Oval Office appeared on screen, Colbert accused him of subjecting them to “harsh interrogations” and “confiscating all of their hugs.”
“I miss you,” he whispered into the camera.
Colbert’s deliberately is funnier and warmer than the recounting. But it’s obvious from the write-up that Colbert intended to be warm and funny.