Two interesting and important political transitions were announced this week: Sylvia Mathews Burwell as the nominee to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Stephen Colbert to replace David Letterman.
Colbert may be the harder and more interesting transition. CBS is, in effect, placing an unknown in one of the most coveted chairs on television. The only Colbert character we have ever known is being killed off in favor of the new show; he has made it clear he is dropping his faux conservative schtick. How will the “real” one play?
This move strikes me as an audacious one for Colbert and the network. Colbert’s appeal has been as a brilliant satirist of politics, mostly of the right-wing variety. His speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2006 was the most brutal verbal assault on a president that I have ever seen. It’s worth watching again to see Colbert’s brand of political criticism. Yes, he is “in character,” but one can’t help but think this routine, like many others, reflects his beliefs.