Editorial: Upton doesn’t give Colbert much raw material to spoof

Published 9:12 am Monday, November 22, 2010

When our congressman, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, was in our office before the election, we asked if The Colbert Report ever tried to profile the Sixth District.

Upton claimed not to know and, if invited, said he would decline.

But now that the veteran St. Joseph Republican is seeking the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee, comedian Stephen Colbert did a bit Wednesday night.

To Upton’s credit, there was very little in the way of outlandish rhetoric for the nimble satirist to exploit for laughs.

In fact, Colbert dismissed Upton as a “poser” to mine the red meat remarks of Joe Barton of Texas and John Shimkus of Illinois.

House control changing hands “means more than just the Democrats giving the Republicans the keys and explaining which remote works the TV and which shuts down the government,” Colbert said. “It means all the House committees get new Republican chairmen. I cannot wait. It will be like Christmas morning, except every present is an old white guy.”

As part of his “Chair Apparent” segment, Colbert predicted the chairmanship will “come down to a slugfest between two great conservatives. Barton looks strong to me. He’s the House’s leading expert on energy, by which I mean the guy who gets the most cash ($1.4 million) from the oil industry. That kind of expertise led Barton to stand up to British Petroleum on his own two knees.”

Colbert played Barton’s “shakedown” of a private corporation soundbite from June, when BP crude was gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Listen to (Barton’s March 10) analysis of this so-called renewable source,” Colbert said. “Wind is God’s way of balancing heat. Wind is the way you shift heat from areas where it’s hotter to areas where it’s cooler. That’s what wind is. Wouldn’t it be ironic if, in the interest of global warming, we mandated massive switches to energy which is a finite resource which slows the winds down and causes temperatures to go up. Folks, he’s right, wind turbines will make the wind slow down. It’s just like you when you put your hand out the car window, the car stops. That’s called science, and science is something Barton understands well because he baffled Nobel Prize-winning Energy Secretary Steven Chu” by asking April 22, 2009, “How did all the oil and gas get to Alaska and under the Arctic Ocean.”

Chu’s response revolved around plates “drifting around throughout the geological ages.”

“So it drifted up there?” Barton said.

Colbert pounced. “As if the continents were rafts of rock floating on a molten core, which also explains all volcanic activity and earthquakes. Isn’t the simpler explanation that during the missing 18 years of Jesus’ life that aren’t in the Bible, he went up to Alaska and gave it a delicious fudgy center? Clearly, Joe Barton would be the perfect man for the job were it not for John Shimkus. We don’t need to worry about global warming because God promised Noah He wouldn’t flood the world again, and if a guy stuck on a boat with thousands of animals didn’t complain about methane emissions, why should we?”

Colbert concludes, “Mankind cannot destroy the earth. The Book of Revelations lays out exactly what will happen when the earth ends, and it never mentions environmental disaster, it just says the trees and grass will burn, a third of the creatures in the sea will die, the waters will turn bitter and smoke will rise from the abyss like smoke from a gigantic furnace darkening the sun. Nothing about cap and trade in there.

“That’s why Rep. Shimkus is getting the Colbert bump. You’re going to be in charge. And when you do get your chairmanship, please invite me to all of your hearings because I’d love to testify again.”

In other words, Upton escaped unscathed.