Colbert's routine took the skin and most of the flesh off the president. A sample line:
"When the president decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday - no matter what happened Tuesday."
As Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling. The president shook his hand and tapped his elbow, and left immediately.
Those seated near Bush told E&P's Joe Strupp, who was elsewhere in the room, that Bush had quickly turned from an amused guest to an obviously offended target as Colbert’s comments brought up his low approval ratings and problems in Iraq.
Several veterans of past dinners, who requested anonymity, said the presentation was more directed at attacking the president than in the past. Several said previous hosts, like Jay Leno, equally slammed both the White House and the press corps.
"This was anti-Bush," said one attendee. "Usually they go back and forth between us and him." Another noted that Bush quickly turned unhappy, and left the dais shortly after while most seated near him, including Colbert and Snow, glad-handed the crowd. "You could see he stopped smiling about halfway through Colbert," he reported.
After the gathering, Snow, while nursing a Heineken outside the Chicago Tribune reception, declined to comment on Colbert. "I’m not doing entertainment reviews," he said. "I thought the president was great, though."
Strupp, in the crowd during the Colbert routine, had observed that quite a few sitting near him looked a little uncomfortable at times, perhaps feeling the material was a little too biting -- or too much speaking "truthiness" to power.
God forbid that anyone in the U.S. should speak too much truth to the president, eh?