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Tu-Uyen Tran, Published June 03 2009

Dorgan defends North Dakota in face-to-face chat with Colbert

A few minutes into an interview between Byron Dorgan, Democratic senator from North Dakota and bombastic faux-conservative Stephen Colbert about banking modernization, there was this exchange:

“To be fair, you are the senator from North Dakota; do you guys have ATMs yet?”

“Let me tell you what we don’t have. We don’t have banks that are too big to fail, and we don’t have failing banks.”

The audience, obviously not dyed-in-the-wool conservatives, clapped wildly.

Monday, Dorgan was on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report,” a parody of Fox’s “O’Reilly Factor,” to tout his book “Reckless!: How Debt, Deregulation, and Dark Money Nearly Bankrupted America (And How We Can Fix It!).”

The last time he was on in 2006, Colbert also got some laughs at North Dakota’s expense, calling the state “South Dakota’s North Korea.” Dorgan was touting his other book, “Take This Job and Ship It.”

So far, other members of the state’s congressional delegation haven’t gotten the Colbert treatment.

Colbert’s main shtick is to act as right-wing and as simplistic as possible, giving guests a chance to try to talk some sense into him.

In this case, Colbert questioned Dorgan’s call for stronger banking regulations to prevent a recurrence of the ongoing credit crisis, blamed, in part, on loose regulations that allow banks to lend to homebuyers who can’t afford loans.

“How can you square your call for deregulation with the fact that all regulation is bad?” Colbert asked, parodying the libertarian tendencies of fiscal conservatives.

Dorgan asked if Colbert were “Alan Greenspan’s nephew,” referencing the former Federal Reserve chairman’s libertarian tendencies. “We’ve already learned an $11 trillion lesson. Are you the last one to know it?”

The senator managed to score some more points for North Dakota by inviting Colbert and his audience to the state, if Colbert would pay for the tickets.

The host declined politely, citing economic tough times, but his audience applauded wildly.

Online: The interview can be seen at the Colbert Report Web site, www.ColbertNation.com, at around the 15-minute mark.

The Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.