Stephen Colbert’s astonishing rant at the White House Correspondent’s Association dinner hit so near the bone —BushCo’s bone, and the bone of the lapdog journalists present— that it drew few laughs, despite its superlative excellence both as text and as performance. (Only the final “press conference” bit dragged; it was funny in concept, but not in execution.) Apparently both Bushes and Tony Snow openly snubbed Colbert after the speech.
But, as Atrios and Daily Kos both note, there was one great exception. In the course of Colbert’s mock “recognitions” of distinguished guests, he greeted Justice Antonin Scalia: “Justice Scalia is here. Welcome, sir. May I be the first to say, you look fantastic. How are you?” punctuating his sentences with a series of obscene Sicilian gestures, starting with the one that drew so much unwanted attention to Scalia when he used it in church.
But when the camera pans to Scalia, it shows him laughing hysterically: not just a polite ha-ha to show that he got the joke and is being a good sport about it, but deep, out-of-control, impossible-to-fake belly-laughs. He is obviously enjoying — really enjoying — a joke at his own expense
No, that doesn’t make up for Bush v. Gore. But it does make Scalia, in this one respect, a better human being than most of us. (I can promise you that I wouldn’t have been laughing, or at least not laughing sincerely, in his shoes.) As eager as I am to bash Scalia when he earns it, as he often does, I would be remiss in not noting his possession of one of the rarest, and one of the most engaging, of the virtues.