One of the tender mercies of Stephen Colbert's ascension to the "Late Show" set at CBS is his shedding of the faux-conservative "high-status idiot" character. To conservatives, this "Colbert" has never seemed authentic or sustained cleverness -- how many times can you say you don't read or even like books? It mostly marks the deep ruts of liberal arrogance in their own mental superiority. Colbert has perpetually had trouble staying inside this character, always winking at and mocking it more than inhabiting it.
To liberals, abandoning this thin charade is far too much sincerity for an ironic age. They love their idiot conservative, and aren't dealing well with its departure. Hendrik Hertzberg at The New Yorker, a former Carter speechwriter and Newsweek reporter, is putting on a black armband in mourning. He sincerely believes "The Character" is a "miraculous and unparalleled intellectual and political achievement." Break out the smelling salts: