Present at the Creation: The Colbert Candidacy

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We were fortunate to be in the green room with Bill at The Colbert Report just before his appearance on the show Tuesday night. Stephen tipped us off to the brilliant plan announced Thursday evening — that he would be trying to run as a presidential candidate in the South Carolina primary on January 21 — or, as he put it, creating an “exploratory committee to lay the groundwork for my possible candidacy for the president of the United States of South Carolina.”

Stephen Colbert announcing his plans to run for president in the South Carolina Republican primary on Thursday night.
Stephen Colbert announcing his plans on Thursday night's Colbert Report.

He relinquished control of his super PAC, “Citizens for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow,” to The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart: although these political action committees can raise unlimited amounts of campaign money, it’s illegal for them to consult directly with the candidate. But even if Colbert held onto his super PAC, chances are he’d be safe from doing any jail time. According to a new report from the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News, “Criminal prosecution is theoretically possible, but highly unlikely — and even civil sanctions are rare, according to a review of Federal Election Commission actions… The regulations governing independent expenditures are so specific that unless the commissioners have a witness to one of those consultations, the FEC is unlikely to gather enough evidence to open an investigation.”

ABC News and the Palmetto Public Record report that the super PAC already is buying up TV air time in Charleston and Columbia, S.C. Colbert’s far from the first comic — a professional one at least — to run as a presidential candidate. There was the Smothers Brothers’ Pat Paulsen in 1968 and our friend, columnist and satirist Marvin Kitman, who campaigned way back in 1964 and won one GOP delegate in New Hampshire. His manager was the great Victor Navasky, chair of the Columbia Journalism Review and publisher emeritus of The Nation magazine.

Kitman’s campaign slogan: “I would rather be President than write.”

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  • Song Weasel

    ah ha! will share…in many places…welcome back mr. m. :)

  • Claude Lalande

    The funny thing is that many social and fiscal conservatives, tea party militants, would take Colbert’s character at face value and vote for him, thus voting for the left without even realizing.  A lot of those right wing fundamentalists only get propaganda from FauxNews and do not have a political mind of their own.  So, Colbert’s character will appeal to them; the real tea party people are more cartoonish than Colbert’s character.  I hope he gets delegates at the Republican Convention.  

  • Ka_el689

    So glad to have you back, Mr. M.  I want to know where to go and sign up for change!  I am constantly amazed that people will vote against their own best interests – cannot for the life of me figure that one out.

  • joan


  • vermont penwoman

    It’s been pretty arid around here without your incisive commentary. Having you back is like finding an oasis in the desert. Live long and prosper, Mr. Moyers.

  • Jim Box

    Where is the Google+ button on your website?  I refuse to use Facebook.

  • Jim Box

    Why don’t we have more journalists like Bill Moyers?  When Bill left PBS a couple of years ago he left a giant hole in the network that was not filled.  So glad he is back.  He’s good for the country.  Can we please clone him?

  • Penny Derleth

    I am so-o-o-o glad you are coming back!  I kept thinking it was selfish of me to want you back on PBS when you have earned your retirement, but Baby, you’ve made this ol’ person very happy!  Thank you thank you THANK YOU!

  • Billly E

    Thank you Mr. Moyers for coming back.  Billy E

  • Anonymous

    The discussion over the “ownership” of the Colbert SuperPac was very educational, actually. I highly recommend that all readers go to the Colbert web site and view that program.  Both he AND Jon Stewart do some service in educating as well as making me laugh.  They are comedians with a purpose, and with enough following to remain on a very popular cable network and perhaps be watched “by accident” by many who really need that “education.”  Apparently the ONLY rule for SuperPAC organizations is to “not coordinate” with the candidate or his/her organization.  THAT is as ludicrous as the SCOTUS’s determining that corporations are Persons and due Consitutional protections.

    Corporations are “chartered” or “licensed” by governments — WE the People ARE the governments of our cities, counties, towns, states, and NATION.  The logical conclusion is that there are now many corporate charters/licenses that should be withdrawn, and that We the People may do that.   I suggest that we consider that “conundrum” and figure a way to do just that. Why should we continue to support the corporate charter of a corporation that is stealing OUR money by politicking our gov’t representatives for it?  Sometimes it is necessary to go to the root of a problem — and THAT is the root of many of our problems.

  • leftofcenter

    While it’s still a free country (just barely), maybe I’m the only one who’s ever asked this question. Why do so many nationally known progressives feel the need to go on Colbert’s show and the Daily Show?

    Is it because their agent/producer/publisher told them you must go on?
    Is it because it’s THE SHOW to do?
    Is it because if you do you’ll kill on this show?
    Is it because if you don’t, literally no one will know about your new show/book/whatever?

    I have a lot of respect for people like Moyers, Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges and others. But also, people like Tony Blair, Donald Rumsfeld and other war criminals (call them what they are) routinely go on these shows, and nobody seems to care. If international law means anything to you, why then would Bill Moyers want anything to do with the corporate MSM making money off torture (call it what it is)? Obviously, Viacom (Comedy Central’s parent firm) doesn’t care. Colbert and Stewart obviously don’t care. 

    Sorry Mr. Moyers, but this really bothers me. In addition, when I’ve commented on other’s sites about this (Ellsberg’s as one example), nobody ever answered my questions. 

    IMO, you can’t have it both ways. 

  • Kenegbert3rd

    A friend once said to me that he considered Colbert more a performance artist along the lines of Anna Devere Smith than a comedian; I am still puzzling over that one.   It can be easier to take moral lessons from somebody with ‘artist’ on their business card, yes, unless you’re talking about Lenny Bruce;  it might just be that old distrust of humor as medium for serious opinion.  In reply to ‘leftofcenter': regrettably I often think that it’s still a free country (just barely) because those in influence don’t care enough about what we think
    to bother forcibly correcting us!

  • Guest

    Bill, I would like to see you address the issue of “Taxation Without Representation”.  I believe the root cause of the frustration that many of us are feeling and exhibiting can be traced to taxation without representation in Washington D.C.  It’s just taking time for us to come to this realization.  Sure, we have the ability to vote, but, our ability to vote has long been overridden by lobbyists.  After more than two centuries, we find ourselves right back to where we were, i.e. taxation without representation.

  • Richard

    We missed you. You are a national treasure. Welcome back! UNC .which is my PBS station here in Beech Mountain, NC, doesn’t seem to be airing your show. Could something be done to change this?

  • Sherry Natkow

    Thank you Bill Moyers for returning to us.  I’ve watched Sunday’s show and again on Monday night.   You’ll help us regular folk feel more empowered to keep on fighting for income equality.  SN

  • Anonymous

    Well, there’s at least one candidate in the race that isn’t a joke: Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party.

    Rocky has placed the corrupting influence of money on American politics directly in the forefront of his agenda. Originally he was hesitant to join the race, thinking he might detract from Democratic votes, but he finally realized that he, and millions of Americans were tired of voting for the lesser of two evils, and wanted real change.

    I encourage you to take a couple of minutes and be persuaded, as I was, to vote for Justice in this election. If you like the rational voice Bill Moyers brings to the national discussion, you would love the leadership Rocky would bring to the Whitehouse. Check out now.

  • Anonymous

    Try disqus…I assume privacy is your concern, you can register without an email…

  • Jbyrne

    I echo others who are glad you are back and I agree that the Obama administration has not been faithful to the principles of the Democratic party, or, for that matter, to democracy.

  • Tobyl1

    In your show today you discussed the great & sky-rocketing gulf between the top 1 percent in wealth  & everyone else.Why don’t you read “After the Crash”by Mason Gaffney who shows how it is the land speculator who is really the main problem in our economy,& by land I mean all nautural resources.
    To create a just equitable & stable society we need to stop taxing the productive sector labor & capital & fully tax land & natural resource values.Land goes up in value as the community grows & works & invents, that rent was created by & belongs to the community. Go to http://www.mason gaffney .org or for more on this.

  • Bob Fivis

    Once again, Bill Moyers, you are doing an incredible public service by highlighting what is really going on in our world. We need to see and understand more about the root issues that are undermining the public good. Maybe with enough sunlight, the seeds for change will be sown.

    I’d love to hear your opinion about the role that political districting and gerrymandering play in the divided and divisive (and often frozen) political process. It seems to me that as long as districts are heavily weighted to the left or the right, there is little room for moderates, willing to compromise and serve a broader group,  to be elected to public office.