Better Know An Audience

We certainly aren't the only ones to have wondered for some time now about the answer to what may become one of the more pressing questions of this generation: Why do congressmen keep appearing on "The Colbert Report"? (Although, for the record, and in the interest of comedy, we really, really hope they don't stop.)

Rep. Lee Terry, of the Fighting 2nd (Nebraska's second district) and of this memorable episode of "Better Know A District" responds on today's Los Angeles Times op-ed page. "Did Colbert make a fool of me? Absolutely," writes Terry. "But, to tell you the truth, the 'Better Know a District' segment was one of the best appearances I've made as a congressman."


Apparently, yes. Writes Terry: "Doing the show was a way to put a face, and a joke, to my name — and a way for my constituents to see me in something other than an opponent's 30-second attack ad." He adds that the rest of the country also "learned a little something about the Fighting 2nd," such as the substantial presence of telecommunications centers in the state, which is also home to the tallest structure between Minneapolis and Denver. While he's been interviewed many times, writes Terry, "I've never had as many people (i.e., potential voters) approach me on the street as I have since my appearance on 'The Colbert Report.'"

Enter the old "all publicity is good publicity" adage, which -- as most people who are familiar with incidents such as Dan Quayle's very public misspelling of the word "potato" (heretofore known as the "potato factor") will agree -- just isn't so true. Are residents of the 2nd not able to exercise associative reasoning skills? While Terry's appearance on "The Colbert Report" might indeed make him more recognizable among potential voters – especially when such publicly embarrassing moments can be spread as virally as they are these days – is that really the same as being electable? I guess we'll find out when the next "Better Know A District" subject is up for re-election.