Peter Daou has the most interesting take I've seen so far over at Huffington Post. He looks at the reaction of the media to the performance and--not surprisingly--finds it lacking.
The AP's first stab at it - and pieces from Reuters and the Chicago Tribune - tell us everything we need to know: Colbert's performance is sidestepped and marginalized while Bush is treated as light-hearted, humble, and funny. Expect nothing less from the cowardly American media. The story could just as well have been Bush and Laura's discomfort and the crowd's semi-hostile reaction to Colbert's razor-sharp barbs. In fact, I would guess that from the perspective of newsworthiness and public interest, Bush-the-playful-president is far less compelling than a comedy sketch gone awry, a pissed-off prez, and a shell-shocked audience.
This is the power of the media to choose the news, to decide when and how to shield Bush from negative publicity. Sins of omission can be just as bad as sins of commission. . . .
A final thought: Bush's clownish banter with reporters - which is on constant display during press conferences - stands in such stark contrast to his administration's destructive policies and to the gravity of the bloodbath in Iraq that it is deeply unsettling to watch. This may be impolitic, but wouldn't refraining from frat-style horseplay be appropriate for this man? Or at the least, can't reporters suppress their raucous laughter every time he blurts out another jibe... the way they did when Colbert put them in their place?
We hear the phrase "the worst president" in history over and over again, though rarely coming from traditional media itself, unless you count Rolling Stone as traditional.
On the flip side of this phenomenally failed presidency is a fundamentally flawed media that has propped it up since even before it started. They failed in the 2000 campaign, deciding it was more fun to ridicule Al Gore for his color choices, wooden delivery, and to push the falsity that he was a liar than to actually cover the issues, the differences between the two men in terms of experience, ability, vision for the country and ability to lead. And look what we ended up with.
This is the worst presidency in the history of the country. And it happened in large part because we have the worst, laziest, and most irresponsible media since the bad old days of yellow journalism. Thank you, Stephen Colbert, for exposing that.
Update [2006-4-30 15:2:4 by mcjoan]: Frederick has a complete transcript of Colbert's performance.