October 15, 2004

Aw, what the hell, I wasn't really gonna finish that novel this weekend anyway

Ken Layne* says some stuff about Jon Stewart's appearance on Crossfire that I think is correct**. I also think CNN should thank Stewart for reminding America that there is still a show on TV called Crossfire. I stopped caring about it when they built a set and started letting crowds in. And all the crap with the timers and bells and all that. Why not just set up an audience meter and some gongs and have Chuck Barris come out in a stupid hat?

Anyway. Stewart told the two jerks to their faces, and not in a kidding sort of way, that shows like theirs are ruining America. Which could be true. They certainly stink on ice. But doesn't The Daily Show get higher ratings than Crossfire anyway? Maybe not, I don't know. [Update: Yep. It's not even close.] It's just kind of weird to watch the host of The Daily Show calling out the guys from Oh Yeah, I Remember That Show. What next, Conan O'Brien bitchslapping Byron Allen?

Stewart's been bugging me... I've been getting more and more annoyed with him trying to have it both ways, being an increasingly self-righteous advocate and yet deflecting criticism with "It's just a comedy show!" Which is pretty much perfectly encapsulated in his 15-odd minutes on Crossfire. I remember when he was a lot more convincing about being a moderate, not that long ago. And I think his interview with Kerry is certainly fair game for criticism. But then again, calling Tucker Carlson a dick? Right to his face? That is a Golden TV Moment.

*Who has not actually suffered a head injury, and I apologize to everybody who misunderstood my meager little joke and sent him cards and flowers. However, I cannot and will not reimburse you.

**Click here for the Bittorrent of the video if you haven't seen it. Which you haven't, because it was on Crossfire. It'll only take about 2 minutes to download, because every single nerd in the world is uploading it right now. Oh, and here's the transcript, although you really need to watch the thing to get the full holyshitness of it.

P.S. Thanks to Dana Stevens at Slate for the link. She has a good take on it. Personally, I'm no less a fan of Stewart's after this than I have been for the last few months watching TDS. (That's what the Tivo fast-forward button is for, after all. It's like a scrollbar for your TV.) And unlike some of his critics, I don't think he necessarily needs to choose between pundit and comedian. He can do both. Just maybe not in the same breath. It was maddening when he lectured those guys and they wanted to talk to him about it, and he kept going, "Wait, I'm just a comedian!" Clown nose off, clown nose on, clown nose off, clown nose on... It's just as much of a defense mechanism as his tie-straightening and that schmendrick voice he goes into (Art Fern?), and it's every bit as annoying. I still like the guy, and I agree with his point on this one, but I wish he'd quit falling back on that trick.

P.P.S. From the comments: "And if your argument goes the way I think it is going, then just because Stewart hosts a comedy show he then isn't able to have sincere and hard-hitting positions?"

Wow. No. Of course he's able to have sincere positions. I just wish he would defend them. "We're a comedy show!" is, in that context, a copout. He's trying to have it both ways, and I'm not sure he even realizes he's doing it.

P.P.P.S. And also from the comments: "Watching the interview a few times, and reading the transcript, I don't think the 'clown nose' argument really stands. Crossfire was trying to talk to Jon Stewart, comedian host of The Daily Show. But the guy answering was Jon, concerned American voter."

And his response was that he was Jon Stewart, comedian host of The Daily Show. Wash, rinse, repeat.

And also: "How hard-hitting he is when playing the role of a comedy host has no relevence when he's decrying the dishonesty of the political media. I think he summed it up best: 'I'm not going to be your monkey.'"

But see, that was in response to the bowtie dork saying he wasn't funny. Say he's not funny, he tells you he's a concerned citizen. Try to engage him on the point, he tells you he's a comedian. I think I've adequately explained my opinion on that tactic, so I won't belabor it any further. I don't want anybody to start getting the idea that I think Crossfire is a good show.

Postscript: The Next Generation. Dana Stevens writes: "'Clown nose on, clown nose off...' good line! Wish I'd thought of it. And your reading of the tie-straightening 'schmendrick voice' as a defense mechanism is on the money too. Personally, I think JS is struggling w/ what to do with his newfound power, feeling guilty about suddenly being so big a part of the media/entertainment machine. It will be interesting to follow how his persona changes over the next few years. But like you, I remain a fan."

Postscripts: The Day After Yesterday. Hey, as long as you guys are here and you're fired up, you might also enjoy not liking this.

Otra Posdata. Check out Will Leitch's take on it at the Black Table. And the video of last night's TDS opening monologue. Oh, and here's what Sean Collins has to say, and check out my awesome new comments policy. And Choco-Broccoli Casserole and Jon Stewart Visits Emeril Live: "You Are Hurting Food" were kind of good if I do say so myself.

En toch Een ander Postscriptum. A liberal blogger who thought Jon Stewart was out of line. Seriously. Hell, even I liked the part where he called that guy a dick. Despite the following 150 comments to the contrary.

Speaking of which, just out of curiosity and procrastination, I cut and pasted the whole comments section into MS Word and ran a word count. Over 18,000 and rising. (My original post, including this, is a little over a thousand.) With the 1973 Texas Air National Guard defaults of 12 pt. Times New Roman, it's going on 44 pages. And it's a page-turner, let me tell you.

Postscripts, Day 6: The Crisis Continues. Almost!

The End. Okay, I think one week is plenty of time, so I've closed the comments on this particular Dickgate post. When people start pasting in whole newspaper articles to make whatever point they're making, instead of just linking to things like a normal person, and then when I ask them not to do that, of course it's because I'm scared of the truth... Oy! Well, if you're still enthused about it, go bug this guy.

And please feel free to send me a picture of yourself holding up a sign calling me a fascist.

The End, Part II. 10 Reasons I'm Not Voting for You, Mr. George W. Bush.

Posted by Jim Treacher at October 15, 2004 11:50 PM

I actually thought Stewart was correct if unartful (sp?) in his complaints.

Begala tends to take to the defense of every Dem guest regardless how he may feel about it personally. It's nuts. Every now and then it wouldn't hurt for him to say "Hold on there Tucker, let me take this one. Hey (insert lefty name here) WTF are you thinking bringing that weak sh** here? Seriously, quit insulting my audience with crazy talk!! Back to you Tucker."

I think Tucker avoids ad hominems better than Begala or Carville but could do better. Novak almost never takes the low road. But the hosts of these shows (H&C, for example) never fully admonish their guests when they're so clearly off base and it ought to hurt their respective causes.

But perhaps I'm dreaming or given the hour I should be.

Posted by: Birkel at October 16, 2004 12:47 AM

Stewart seems to have contracted a case of Maher's Syndrome, which causes a comedian to delude himself into believing the audience is more interested in his lame political views than in his jokes.

Posted by: Bud Norton at October 16, 2004 07:25 AM

Funny, I am more interested in his political views. And the only thing I find "lame" about all this is the mainstream media. It's about time that someone had the courage to say so. Too bad it has to be a comedian to take up the charge.

Posted by: Veritas at October 16, 2004 10:32 AM

Carlson called it like it is. John Stewart is Kerrys butt boy. Your just jealous of that action. When that New York Jew called him a big dick you thought he said he had a big dick and started wacking it all over the screen. Assmangler.

Posted by: Capt. Americrunch at October 16, 2004 12:24 PM

Turns out Assmangler was the heel who defeated Capt. Americrunch's father (Mister Eatsglass) in a climatic backyard-wrestling match, Apollo-Creed-and-Ivan-Drago stop-the-fight style. He's had a serious vendetta against him ever since, so when Americrunch uses that name in association with you, you know his beef is serious, and not just some blanket comment-trolling kneejerk bullshit.

Posted by: dc at October 16, 2004 02:23 PM

Stewart set himself up to look pretty foolish as the program ended. The transcript doesn't convey the "oops" that went across his face when he completely contradicted his earlier comments about Crossfire and other programs being too hard on people, but here it is:

QUESTION: Renee (ph) from Texas. Why do you think it's hard or difficult or impossible for politicians to answer a straight, simple question?

STEWART: I don't think it's hard. I just think that nobody holds their feet to the fire to do it. So they don't have to. They get to come on shows that don't...

BEGALA: They're too easy on them.

CARLSON: Yes. Ask them how you hold...

STEWART: Not easy on them...


BEGALA: ... saying we were too hard on people and too (INAUDIBLE).


STEWART: I think you're - yes.

CARLSON: All right. Jon Stewart, come back soon.

Posted by: insomni at October 16, 2004 05:13 PM

Funny stuff boy. Real funny. I wont say what dc stands for because I know you libs are sensative.

Posted by: Capt. Americrunch at October 16, 2004 06:28 PM

How is it that I can totally agree with Jon Stewart but still think he's just about as bad as they are?

Posted by: Dean Esmay at October 16, 2004 07:30 PM

The word "sanctimonious" comes to mind. Stewart's trying to have the Brokaw/Jennings/Rather cake and eat it, too.

Posted by: Chef Hellboyardee at October 16, 2004 09:46 PM

He basically dodged the question/admitted he was a hack when they asked him about the Kerry interview, and yet my estimation of him has increased.

I think it's because I cannot get over how he screwed those two. He totally controlled the interview. Steamroling over their lame attempts to turn it into their normal show. "What do you think about the Bill O'Reilly scandal?" "I don't." CLASSIC!

Posted by: dorkafork at October 17, 2004 12:56 AM

What was Kerry doing on Stewart's show? The same thing the Crossfire guests do on that show -- try to influence the flow of debate. If Stewart doesn't realize Kerry was using him to soften his image as a stiff, he's a lot less intelligent than I had imagined he is.

If all Stewart was trying to say was that Crossfire sucks, well, amen my brother. But I have a feeling that if the media tried to explicitly adopt the line with Stewart that "Hey, Jon's just a comedian, why pay attention to him?" he'd get all indignant, cite Bruce and Nast and Swift and other socially relevant jokesters, and go off in a huff.

Posted by: DrSteve at October 17, 2004 05:34 AM

I think his point was that the Daily Show has some relevance, sure, but don't go looking for it to be a stand-in Crossfire.

Sure - he could have been tougher on Kerry. And Leno and Letterman could also be tougher on politicians. But in the end, their real job is to make people laugh. I think the Kerry interview failed because it didn't do that; but I don't think it was a failure because it didn't cover the groudn that the real news shows are supposed to cover.

It's like criticizing this blog because it doesn't provide enough links to "Serious issues of the day." That's not what this blog does. And the fact that sometiems Jim does cover real issues (such as RatherGate, or the cancellation of Angel) doesn't mean I'm gonna start criticizing him when he doesn't do a pseudo-Instapundit.

Posted by: jeremy in NYC at October 17, 2004 12:56 PM

Watching a bunch of people I don't particularly like pointing out each other's shortcomings and calling each other dicks...meh.

Posted by: Sean M. at October 17, 2004 06:51 PM

Jim Treacher, you are so cool. Thanks for existing, it gives me such hope.

Posted by: Sepideh at October 17, 2004 07:22 PM

JonStwart isn't a New York Jew. He'a New Jersey Jew. Get it straight! ;-)

Posted by: carpetbagger at October 18, 2004 11:46 AM

What's great about Stewart's attack is that it's so genuine. He has no ulterior motive - he has to watch all these debate and news shows for work so he has material for his program and he's just sick of these a--monkeys parading left/right crap without any objective measure.

It's the same problem that the AP and Reuters and newspapers have. An article about politics means you just ask one side about an issue, then ask the other side then get rebuttals that say - "Well, this clearly shows the other guy doesn't know what the hell he's talking about". It's useless - there's no mention of who's lying, who's making stuff up, etc. I'm tired of reading something, listening to something, watching something on the subject and then having to visit factcheck.org or spinsanity.com to get the real deal. Couldn't they have 5 less minutes of yelling and 5 more minutes of fact check and analysis?

Posted by: Rand Fishkin at October 18, 2004 11:49 AM

Good Lord. The man builds you a 4 lane highway to his point, and you STILL get lost.

It's really simple: TDS isn't a news show. It's a parody of one.

And when people consider a parody of a thing better than the real thing, there is a fundamental problem.

Posted by: Morat at October 18, 2004 11:52 AM

Uh I think you mean Jew Jersey but point taken. You get one.

Posted by: Capt. Americrunch at October 18, 2004 11:52 AM

Since the event, I've been hard-pressed to find the problem with Stewart's actions. As reported, he savaged his hosts and did so with valid points.

However, this line put it in perspective for me: "Clown nose off, clown nose on."

I think the guy is quite smart and quite funny, and I don't mind that his political leanings are such a part of his show. I can ignore all that and still think he's funny. But he, like the rest of us, can't have it both ways, at least not simultaneously. Mr. Treacher, you've nailed it.

Posted by: Patton at October 18, 2004 11:56 AM

"Good Lord. The man builds you a 4 lane highway to his point, and you STILL get lost. It's really simple: TDS isn't a news show. It's a parody of one."

Is this a parody of an intelligent comment? Stewart wasn't parodying news when he went on Crossfire. Unless "you're ruining America" was a big wacky joke. Are you saying he's pulling an Andy Kaufman on us?

Posted by: Angus Jung at October 18, 2004 12:02 PM

Come on people! What's with this "Clown nose on, clown nose off" business? TDS is a parody show, a satire. And if your argument goes the way I think it is going, then just because Stewart hosts a comedy show he then isn't able to have sincere and hard-hitting positions? If he were a hack, he'd be truly partisan in his show, but last I looked, he skewers everyone. I for one think he was spot on in his analysis, and Slate is right that he is like the fool in King Lear.

It isn't the purpose of TDS to provide good journalism, so Stewart's interview of Kerry is off topic. Shows like Crossfire, and any news show that brings on the typical one from the left and the one from the right, are the true examples of comedy in American politics.

Posted by: diogenes at October 18, 2004 12:14 PM

Here's a question I want everyone attacking John Stewart's actions to consider before asking anyone to join the lynch mob.

Was Kerry's interview the only part of the Daily Show to mention him? Has the Democratic nominee been exempted from criticism?

What I see happening is that a single segment of the Daily Show is being used to attack it's right to criticise the way the media handles it's responsibility...and I find that disquieting.

Posted by: Toto at October 18, 2004 12:16 PM

What Morat said. Hey Angus Jung - it's called reading comprehension. Here, I'll spell it out for you. The Daily Show is a parody of a news show. Not a news parody show. A _parody_ of a _news_show_. That is to say, the people Stewart and crew mock are, well, folks like Begala and Carlson. Get it?

I disagree entirely with Treacher on the clown nose on/off point. Stewart was just trying to make a difference as a concerned citizen by leveraging his star power. The fact that they tried to put him down by criticizing the journalism bona fides of the journalist _character_ he plays on _TV_ shows just how stupid and/or disingenuous those guys really are.

Posted by: fiend at October 18, 2004 12:18 PM

Looks like I've been beat to the punch.

Fortunately, the better man won. *salutes diogenes*

Posted by: Toto at October 18, 2004 12:18 PM

Watching the interview a few times, and reading the transcript, I don't think the 'clown nose' argument really stands. Crossfire was trying to talk to Jon Stewart, comedian host of The Daily Show. But the guy answering was Jon, concerned American voter. How hard-hitting he is when playing the role of a comedy host has no relevence when he's decrying the dishonesty of the political media. I think he summed it up best: "I'm not going to be your monkey."

Posted by: greybunny at October 18, 2004 12:22 PM

Look, the whole point of the thing goes back to Stewart's assertion about civilized debate. Crossfire and Chris Matthews and their ilk have NOTHING to do with debate or hearing out views. Stewart doesn't come on the air, comedy show or not, and savage the people who come on. Yeah, he was soft on Kerry, but hey, he was genuinely interested and was *listening*. And you know what? He listened sincerely and honestly to Ralph Reed and Marc Racicot in the last few weeks, as well. He has a point of view, but unlike his counterparts in the so-called legitimate media, he's not trying to destroy, demean and humiliate his guests. He still understands the concept of listening to the other guy, to maybe learn soemthing from them. And that is utterly dead in the mainstream media, which has lost any ability of self-correction, much less the bastards in political scene.

And that's what Carlson, Begala, and the rest of the shrews who are decimating political discourse in this country can never understand.

Posted by: masmas at October 18, 2004 12:26 PM

Thanks Toto. You raise an excellent point. When covering John Kerry, Stewart often trots out his "boring voice," which effectively speaks to the common perception that Kerry is stiff and distant. While funny, this kind of mocking is pretty pointed. I agree that picking just one moment to prove a point is disquieting to say the least. Stewart's main point on Crossfire was that we need honest arguments, not political ideologues talking like automatons. By the way, anyone see Tucker Carlson on Bill Maher a few weeks ago? Carlson apparently believes that he has a journalistic obligation to the truth (somehow I don't believe he feels that way), and therefore it's ok to endanger people's lives by reporting the "truth." All this in reference to Novak outing CIA operatives, etc.

Posted by: diogenes at October 18, 2004 12:27 PM

This was my first time seeing Mr. Stewart - I've never watched tDS and have seen Crossfire a few times. What Stewart did was both funny and rude & I have no problem with it. His contention that political pundits are generally partisan hacks is right on the money; pick one pundit, almost anyone of them; I can tell you who they support & whose BS they spin. It really is (as Mr. Stewart said) "disingenuous."

Mr. Stewart's rant had a genuine gonzo journalism feel to it and the two hacks had no chance to counter him. They were stuffed at every turn. It was a pleasure to watch someone say to those people what I've been wishing I could say for a very long time.

The problems we (as a society) are forced to confront require more than partisan squabbling and lame bickering. Honest debate is long dead in broadcast news, and that is a shame. Perhaps the audiance is as much to blame, as we are usually given what we ask for. I'm not sure, but I don't like where our political discourse has been going over the course of my lifetime.

As I said above... I hadn't seen Mr. Stewart's show before, but will likely begin to watch now.

Posted by: cowboyneal13 at October 18, 2004 12:28 PM

"And if your argument goes the way I think it is going, then just because Stewart hosts a comedy show he then isn't able to have sincere and hard-hitting positions?"

You seem to be confused about where the argument is going, then, because it's not that he shouldn't express his positions. It's that he should be able to then DEFEND those positions. Instead of hiding behind the clown nose when he's questioned about them, taking it off when he wants to be taken seriously again, putting it back on, repeat. Within seconds of each other, it seemed like on Crossfire.

And I just think that when the challenger for the highest office in the land came out of hiding (what was it, a month?) to do a national interview, and he chose TDS to do it, the host could have thrown one or two real questions in there. (Just one or two; I realize it's only a half-hour show.) But then, Stewart finally declared for Kerry last week, so I guess he just didn't want to make the guy look bad.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at October 18, 2004 12:28 PM

"What Morat said. Hey Angus Jung - it's called reading comprehension. Here, I'll spell it out for you. The Daily Show is a parody of a news show. Not a news parody show. A _parody_ of a _news_show_. That is to say, the people Stewart and crew mock are, well, folks like Begala and Carlson. Get it?"

You do realize we're talking about his appearance on Crossfire, right? They weren't on his show. He was on theirs. That's the topic. Maybe that's where you're getting confused. Just take a breath and think it through for a minute, there's no rush.

Posted by: Angus Jung at October 18, 2004 12:34 PM

I think that Stewart would have acted the same with Bush on there, and if he didn't, then that would be a problem. You're the one confused here. He doesn't have to defend this position as a show of a comedy show. His position is to provide some mirth, and he did that. It's a variety show, not an inside the beltway show. I do see your point, but I do not think that it was valid for Carlson et al. to attack the TDS's coverage of politics, when what they needed to do was to defend theirs. The modus operandi of CROSSFIRE, and others shows like it is what's at issue here.

I agree that I'm not wild about Bush/Kerry going on Dr. Phil, Regis, and even to a degree, the TDS. But we can't blame the shows for being what they are.

When you say that "Stewart finally declared for Kerry last week, so I guess he just didn't want to make the guy look bad," that's assuming that Stewart is a hatchet man like those he criticizes. And maybe he is, but we don't know that. I'm voting for Kerry, but that doesn't mean I have blinders on to what Kerry does. And as I said before, Stewart's shown Kerry in an unflattering light plenty of times.

Posted by: diogenes at October 18, 2004 12:37 PM

"I think that Stewart would have acted the same with Bush on there"

Okay, now THAT'S funny!

Posted by: Angus Jung at October 18, 2004 12:44 PM

Stewart said to the RNC chairman that he would be easy with Bush, and used his interview with Kerry as proof. Maybe he would be hard on him, who knows. But to reject that as even a possibility?

Posted by: diogenes at October 18, 2004 12:46 PM

Yeah, it's terrible, I know. What can I say, I'm a cynic. Sorry, Jon!

Posted by: Angus Jung at October 18, 2004 12:49 PM

Well, it's good to be a cynic.

Posted by: diogenes at October 18, 2004 12:50 PM

I think his interviews have swayed from being light hearted to critical. For example when Wolf Blitzer was on he grilled him. But when O"Reilly was on they had a more confortable informative disscussion. Should he have been more critical of Kerry's postions on issues? maybe... Is it his job? no he works for a comedy program.
Now lets get to the point of Jons arguments:

1) The problem with the meida is this, if you divide the country into two camps and allow forums to be nothing but rethoric and shouting maches then real disscussion on key issues are avoided. This is a severe diservice for the american people who don't have the time to do their own research and policy making while they tend to their careers and family. TRUE

2) Tucker is a Dick TRUE

Posted by: Mike at October 18, 2004 12:54 PM

All these people dissing Jon Stewart are just jealous that they didn't do it first. Jon Stewart IS A COMEDIAN, a profession he even said in the interview which he holds higher than Journalist.

And it is. Comedians speak the truth. Not journalists and not bloggers trying to be journalists.

The media IS HURTING AMERICA. The Daily Show IS a comedy show. And have you ever seen Stewart interview other figures, like Richard Clarke, and the RNC guys? It's always soft-balls.

Cuz he is trying to get a laugh.

God bless Jon Stewart, American hero. And p.s., tucker carlson is a dick.

Posted by: Paul at October 18, 2004 01:11 PM

Obviously, Jon Stewart displayed his desire to puff Kerry up in that Daily Show interview. Slate's Dana Stevens described the questions at the time in this way: "Stewart was pitching not just softballs but marshmallows. Puffy interview marshmallows with rainbow sprinkles on them."

But that criticism isn't unfair because Stewart is a comedian--it actually misses the point entirely. It's not that you need to ask the candidate pointed questions. It's that you should get them off their talking points (as Stewart attempted with Kerry) and that in your coverage and discussion, you shouldn't accept a flurry of talking points and sound bites and outright lies and call that debate.

Jon Stewart dismisses his effect and role out of hand. Yes, you should have to defend your record as a comedian, when you're making political jokes with a clear agenda--the agenda being (mainly) to criticize the absurdity of the media and the politicians. But it's not that Stewart can't stand up to scrutiny--he does an incredible job. He skewers the absurdity of what passes for public debate, and does so in a way that is both moving and entertaining.

In Stewart's interviews, he rarely asks tough questions that go past the spin. But he is able to lend an element of humanity and candor to the national conversaion--see, for example, his recent interview with Bill O'Reilly.

What I love about the interview on Crossfire is Stewart's tone. He sounds like a man genuinely at the end of his rope, like he's about halfway to crying. I appreciate that sincerity. And the rant was funny, too--the audience was cracking up at the jokes Stewart made in the midst of his indignation. In response, Tucker Carlson said "your lectures are boring." A clear, intentional lie, and a great example of the spin that Carlson and Begala later tried to defend.

Jon Stewart's theater is both honest and entertaining, which is the best argument to get networks to follow him. So far, they've been trying to be funny. They think that's the key to the Daily Show's success. I think the key is Stewart's honesty and desire to look behind the curtain. It's the networks' and new channels' jobs to deal with what we find there.

Posted by: Bob at October 18, 2004 01:13 PM

getting "mad" at Stewart calling Carlson a dick is like Lynne Cheney's faux angry calling Kerry out-of-line.

Out of line is saying winner of 3 purples hearts didn't get hurt enough to earn his rewards, like Dole said, '3 wounds, and he didn't bleed'.

god help us, you liberal pansies.

Posted by: One More Thing at October 18, 2004 01:13 PM

Bottom Line: Stewart won't lose any fans and his show will carry on much longer than those 2 dick's (no pun intended).

Stewart may have gone soft on Kerry but he treats even the most partisan Bush supporter with respect when on his show. How he can sit there with Karen Hughes and not want to puke is beyond me. Kudos to TDS for showcasing how out of control the lame media is.

Posted by: NIL8Bush at October 18, 2004 01:14 PM

You keep missing the point. Carlson attacked Stewart by criticizing his character's performance interviewing John Kerry. Stewart pointed out that his character's performance had nothing to do with the criticism he, the person, was levelling.

It's not a dodge. If Carlson or Begala asked him to defend his positions or his comments, and he tried the comedy show dodge, that would be one thing. But Carlson tried to use an attack on Stewart's character's performance to deflect Stewart's criticism, so Stewart pointed out the obvious.

At least it's obvious to me. Personally, I think you're trying to hard to find some reason to malign Stewart, just to be different.

Posted by: fiend at October 18, 2004 01:14 PM

Stewart is a comedian first, pundit second. Now, we know pundits don't have to be non-partisan, so should comedians? Because really, thats the conservative beef with Jon Stewart, right? He's a left leaning comedian. That and that he didn't give it to Kerry, right? How about O'Reily's softball interview with George Bush? Wouldn't it be prudent to argue that TDS is a comedy show and that The O'Reily Factor isn't? I didn't see anyone chiding Bill for not following up on questions Bush avoided.

Pundits don't have to be non-partisan, e.g. Tucker, Begala, O'Reilly, Hannity, so neither should Stewart. Also, did anyone see Stewart square off with "hated liberal" Ted Koppel during the DNC? Seriously, that is the reason why Stewart is as popular as he is, and its because he CALLS bullshit where its due. Sometimes when people have problems with that, its because they are incapable of recognizing their own bullshit.

So in the end, Stewart's argument is right-on. These places, cable news shows, are supposed to be taken seriously. TDS is not. The evidence is in the transcripts. For example, take a look at Stewart's last two interviews with Ed Gillespie, softball after softball. Otherwise, how would he get guests? (And to the reader who doesn't think that Stewart knew he was being "used" by Kerry to make the challenger look less stiff, c'mon. Obviously they knew this, so should he pass up an interview with a Presidential challenger? I think not.)

I think the question should be, where can Jon draw that line with the clown nose? The minute he steps off that show? I think so, just look at all his public appearances, the theme is the same. So yes, we can complain that Stewart can't have it both ways in an appearance on a show, like Crossfire, but we can't complain that TDS isn't something its not supposed to be.

Posted by: Adrock at October 18, 2004 01:14 PM

"Clown Nose On", "Clown Nose Off" seems to get the point exactly backwards.

Carlson was trying to undercut Jon Stewart with "Jon Stewart, host of the Daily Show". (Nose off, Nose On).

That's BS of the first order. Jon's job, as host of The Daily Show, is to provide a parody of modern news. Not be a news show.

Carlson kept assuming, the entire damn show, that Jon Stewart was a journalist. He's not. He's a comedian host of a fake news show. It's like confusing the hosts of "Weekend Update" with Wolf Blitzer.

Stewart kept pointing out, over and over, that he's not a journalist, and only plays one on TV.

Which means the difference between him and, oh, Wolf Blitzer, is that everyone (except Tucker Carlson, apparently) knows Jon's not a real journalist.

It's just damn sad that he does a better job than actual journalists, and it's damn sad that Tucker Carlson wants to treat "The Daily Show" as real news.

Posted by: Morat at October 18, 2004 01:16 PM

Hey guys, I was just kidding! What's the big deal? Man, lighten up already.


Posted by: Jim Treacher at October 18, 2004 01:20 PM

my reaction was identical to seeing his "lamentation" on 9/11 - I fully accept his presentation as honest (and that alone is unique for today's media); regarding the question of his "duplicity" - that he didn't defend his position, he is correct and can take the "I'm a comedian" defense whenever the criticism of his position focuses on his role on TDS, which is what Begala and Carlson's questions did; if they had directly refuted his charges, or claimed they aren't harming America, he would have had to answer, but saying "your show is no better" doesn't refute his point, because his is a COMEDY show; and we can rest easy about his position on the show and in the media, at least for now, because he's making noise and his ratings will only improve, and that's what counts

Posted by: havatampa at October 18, 2004 01:24 PM

Jim, 3 post scripts and you are still misunderstanding and therefore misrepresenting what happened in that interview. The "I'm a clown" defense wasn't used by Stewart to nose-on/nose-off concerning supporting his arguments in the Crossfire interview. It was a valid defense to the repeated badgering by Carlson as to why Stewart wasn't "A More Professional Journalist" on TDS. That is a perfectly valid defense and a ridiculous riff for Carlson. Stewart was a citizen on Crossfire, who, in spite of what you said and given the interruptions he faced, did in fact offer some support of his criticisms. But when Carlson wants to go back and attack him for what he was doing journalistically right or wrong on TDS, it's entirely appropriate for Stewart to say, over and over "That's a comedy show. This isn't. Dick."

I'm inclined to think your ferocity on this indicates some unhealthy jealousness?

Posted by: Nash at October 18, 2004 01:25 PM

Yeah, ferocity! Why are you jealous of Jon Stewart, Treach? Why do you keep explaining your point? Quit saying you're a fan of his, we know you want to bump him off his high chair.

Posted by: Angus Jung at October 18, 2004 01:34 PM

A bunch of people taking themselves way too seriously and debating about a bunch of people I don't particularly like pointing out each other's shortcomings and calling each other dicks...meh.

Posted by: Sean M. at October 18, 2004 01:35 PM

Now I can see why Treacher disabled his comments back in the day.

Posted by: Sean M. at October 18, 2004 01:38 PM

"Say he's not funny, he tells you he's a concerned citizen. Try to engage him on the point, he tells you he's a comedian."

Exactly. Which is why off the show, he should be the concerned citizen in my opinion. And only use the comedian defense when people are criticizing his own show for not being what it isn't supposed to be in the first place.

Posted by: Adrock at October 18, 2004 01:44 PM

Why is it unfair for a professional to say "now I'm working; now I'm not"? Nobody criticizes Matt LeBlanc for not being Joey in real life; why should Jon Stewart be held to a higher standard? Do we expect a McDonald's drive-thru clerk sitting at home with his girlfriend to ask "want fries with that?" when she asks him to grab her a glass of water?

On his show, he's Jon the comedian. When he's invited onto a talk show to, um, talk, he's Jon the Jon. If Jon the Jon has personal views, why should anyone (a) say that he should've stuck to the script of his professional persona, or (b) fault him for making what he feels to be a legitimate criticism?

Agree with him or disagree with him... that's your right as a free-thinking person. But give him that same right to think freely and to express his opinion when asked.

For the record, I happen to agree with him. And on his least important point, I'm in particular agreement: _Crossfire_ sucks. It's just a bunch of people yelling at each other but not saying anything of any substance... you know, all that sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Posted by: JR at October 18, 2004 02:01 PM

You guys are a bunch of lefty butt pumpers but if you dont like Treacher your okay with me.

Posted by: Capt. Americrunch at October 18, 2004 02:16 PM

I've gotta disagree with the "clown nose off / clown nose on" argument.

Stewart's comment that he is a comedian highlights the entire point he made on Crossfire. Kerry was a guest on TDS, which is a show that satirizes mainstream news. Stewart was a guest on Crossfire, a show that purports to be a serious debate show.

The question was "why didn't you ask Kerry tough questions?" The answer was, because I host a comedy show. The retort from Carlson was along the lines of, if I'd had Kerry, I would have held his feet to the fire. What you're missing is that Stewart's deadpan response was actually two-fold: (a) he pointed out that it is not the role of comedy shows to hold politicians feet to the fire, and (b) Crossfire claims to be a debate show, rather than a forum for the repetition of party talking points.

I don't understand our starkly different takes on this. In another context, Stewart could not validly use his role as a comedian to escape criticism, but as a guest on Crossfire, he had every right to make statements as a citizen and then answer questions about his role as a professional in his role as a professional.

This highlights the fundamental fact about Stewart's smackdown: Crossfire was not prepared for Jon Stewart to appear on *Crossfire*. Not only that, but the forum itself it unsuited to any statement that does not fall along the expected talking points, as provided by the two political parties.

Game, set, match, Stewart. His victory is a victory for all of us because he's right. By sticking to an exogenous script, the media is failing us badly. (For the most part, blogs included).

Posted by: You Forgot Poland at October 18, 2004 02:18 PM

There are few people in the media who actually aspire to veritas, and Stewart is a pleasure to have on a news show. He was right when he said "Stop" and "Hack" and "Hurting America"!! I am far from being a Lefty, but I truly appreciate honest questioning of snake-oil-selling carpetbaggers who are given the key to government in our democracy. It is refreshing to have someone who actually is asking about the ingredients in the pink water.

Posted by: WLL at October 18, 2004 02:20 PM

Capt A, I'm neither a lefty nor a butt pumper [sic]. I'm much more moderate and prefer to be a bottom.

Posted by: not_i_said_the_fly at October 18, 2004 02:25 PM

Others here have refuted the "clown nose on, clown nose off" very well, but I have to add to it just to get the postscript so many of us want to see, which is, that in this instance, Stewart was entirely right on. His defense of the questions on his comedy show, including, "we come on after puppets making crank calls," importantly reminds everyone that TDS never purports to engage in a real debate on the issues. Crossfire does. The only way that Begala and Carlson tried to engage him on the issues was to attack his interview of Kerry, sort of a, "but you do it too," argument. "It's a comedy show," is the only proper response.
I will say that Stewart is at times insincere (modest?) in saying that his show isn't powerful or influential just because it's comedy. He obviously knows that in addition to comedy, it helps expose spin in ways that other media outlets ought to, but don't. But on Crossfire - he was just perfect.

Posted by: Carol at October 18, 2004 02:32 PM

Yeah that that second part sounds about right.

Posted by: Capt. Americrunch at October 18, 2004 02:32 PM

I agree with your comments. Although I'm a fan of Stewart's, I am really tired of his "we're a fake news program" line. It's a way to squirm out of taking responsibility for what he does on his program (which, by the way, is political commentary). I found him just a little disingenuous, with that "begging" tone. While I agree Crossfire is awful, I think Stewart could try to be a little less condescending.

Posted by: eugenie at October 18, 2004 02:35 PM

I watched Crossfire (God help me) today to see if they talked about the Stewart show from Friday. Today it was Carville and Novak. Both of them attacked Stewart, and Novak went so far as to say that Jon Stewart is unfunny and UNINFORMED. Hello?! Maybe the problem is that Novak is TOO informed about some things. It was really quite painful to see. Carville's criticisms were lighter (he thinks Stewart is funny), but he didn't see the point. Carville said he's proud to be a hack.

Posted by: diogenes at October 18, 2004 02:46 PM

Eugenie, it IS a comedy show. It's not disenginious. It's the absolute truth.

He doesn't have to take responsibility. He's not a journalist. He doesn't have correspondents, experts, or even a news staff.

He is not a journalist.

You're falling into the same idiocy Carlson couldn't get out of. Jon Stewart isn't a journalist. The Daily Show isn't a news show. He's a mockery of a journalist, and his show is a mockery of a news show.

And you've just proven the sad state of modern media, because you prefer the mockery to the real thing.

Posted by: Morat at October 18, 2004 02:49 PM

I wonder if Novak is turned off by the way Stewart keeps calling him a douchebag? (Not that he's wrong, of course!) He might be thusly disinclined to think up pleasant things to say in return.

Posted by: Angus Jung at October 18, 2004 03:00 PM

Okay, guys. Trash me if you must, but let's try to be civil to the other commenters. That goes triple for you, Crunch.


Posted by: Jim Treacher at October 18, 2004 03:09 PM

Did Carlson screw up in framing his criticism the way he did? Of course -- he's a dimwit. Neither man had the verbal or mental facility to keep up with a comedian of Stewart's caliber (these guys grow an extra lobe just for shutting down hecklers). Begala had the smarts to try to stay out of it. Is Crossfire a toxic and corrosive stew of intellectual mediocrity and partisan mendacity? Check and check. Will Stewart have my undying respect for even saying the word "Cambodia" to Kerry? Ohhhh, yes, whether he cared about the answer or not.

My criticism of Stewart's Kerry-image-management exercise was in direct response to Stewart's "No, no, no, you're not too rough on them. You're part of their strategies." Well, OK, maybe B&C have different responsibilities as debate show hosts, but Kerry used Stewart, too! Was his point that "newspeople" getting used by politicians was bad for America, or that anyone in the media getting used by politicians was bad for America?

I guess my criticism of Stewart boils down to this -- does he want to be taken seriously when he appears on shows like Crossfire? I imagine he doesn't demur or refuse serious-show invitations with a "hey, I'm just a comedian." That's why I think Carlson's approach should have been to give Stewart's opinions the appropriate weight -- vanishing towards zero -- and to see if Stewart got indignant about it. I doubt we'll ever see it, but I don't think Stewart would cotton to dismissiveness.

Posted by: DrSteve at October 18, 2004 03:17 PM

Crossfire is not a news program. It is an entertainment program (a point Begala tried to make when he almost managed to get a word in). Begala/Carville and Carlson/Novak play roles on that show exactly the way Stewart plays a role on his show. Carlson was totally justified in responding to Stewart's self-righteous attacks on Crossfire not being hard enough news by asking the same about The Daily Show. Where does Stewart get off attacking an entertainment show -- which is all Crossfire has ever presented itself as -- for not being hard enough news?

Posted by: Ted at October 18, 2004 03:20 PM

Actually they presented "Crossfire" as a debate show. They also have pretenses of journalism. "The Daily Show" is nothing like "Crossfire." Chastising Jon Stewart for not turning his comedy show into a political debate show because he thinks the debate shows are not doing their jobs is incredibly slow-witted.

Why can't people understand his role? He didn't hide behind being a comedian. He said you can't hold my comedy show to the same journalistic standards as a debate show with journalists and pundits on CNN. I would think Stewart's famous interview with the Spice Girls would make his role abundantly clear.

If I don't like how my burger was cooked, I don't go into the kitchen and cook it myself.

Posted by: DNapalm at October 18, 2004 03:41 PM

replying to the post scripts about clown nose on/off, citizen v. comedian: JS did not try to defend his own views by saying he was a comedian. he was defending the fact that his show does not try to hold guests' feet to the fire they way he feels the "real" news should. So what if he wants to kiss up to people he likes on his show - it's not a news show. They purport no journalistic integrity whatsoever. But that doesn't mean that he can't challenge those who claim to have it to prove so. That's not having it both ways - that is doing your job and expecting others to do theirs.

Posted by: Shannon Thomas at October 18, 2004 04:05 PM

When did Carlson give Stewart an opportunity to try and answer any questions? He rarely ever gives opposition guests the chance. I've watched the show for many years and have noticed that a question will be asked . . . then a followup -- BEFORE THE FIRST HAS QUESTION BEEN ANSWERED! It's like a one-person tag-team

Stewart was having none of it. He refused to let TC draw him into the "Oh-you're-just-as-credible-as-me" trap.

This line, I think, says it all:
STEWART: You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls.

As Stewart said: If you want to compare your show to a comedy show, you're more than welcome to.

Posted by: Og at October 18, 2004 04:23 PM

I think there's a point that's being missed here: on Crossfire, Jon Stewart was a concerned citizen, taking advantage of his fame and popularity to call out two pundits on the behavior that irks a lot of us. On his own show, he is a comedian. That's the point he was trying to make with the "monkey" comment.

Posted by: Lauren Wheeler at October 18, 2004 04:41 PM

On TDS, John Stewart and friends satirize politics and the media, pointing out flaws and commenting on the absurdity of the process. This satire is both comedy and a kind of journalism, because it documents current events AND communicates a message. But unlike CNN, TDS doesn't purport to be "Debating the issues that impact your life". (Look at that photo - talk about theatre). Stewart is aware of all this, and there's nothing hypocritical about it, imho.

In this appearance (and in his O'Reilly appearance), Stewart isn't afraid to go on the offensive and share his view openly, criticizing what he doesn't like. Outside of TDS he can do that, because he's speaking for himself. Stewart knows that TDS has a role to play, and isn't afraid to belittle that role, because it's still a silly comedy show with no responsibility. He attacks the Crossfire guys for doing a crappy job of what it claims to do: debating issues that impact our lives.

Crossfire truly does a crappy job at that. But TDS does a great job at what it claims to do: mpoking fun at the process.

Posted by: sixfoot6 at October 18, 2004 04:47 PM

Sorry, by "look at that photo" I meant the header of the Crossfire site found at: http://www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/crossfire/.

Posted by: Ryan at October 18, 2004 04:49 PM

Did I miss something important here? The Daily Show becomes popular, so all of a sudden Jon Stewart has a responsiblity to remain moderate and ask politicians hard-hitting questions? Where do you people get off? Hard hitting political questions aren't funny. Not funny at all, unless you ask Bush when he isn't prepared. And I watch the daily show to laugh. I watch the interviews so I can hear Jon Stewart improvise jokes about trivial stuff, not so he and Kerry can talk about taxes until my ears bleed.

Even if you reduce Crossfire and The Daily Show to the same level of mass-media "entertainment" (although that makes no sense if you have any concept of journalism and what the CNN network is supposed to be), even if you put them on the same level, then the only responsibility any show has is not to claim to be something it isn't. Stewart's show claims to be fake news, intended solely for laughs. Crossfire claims to be a forum of debate and open discourse, but is usually two belligerent pundits interrupting each other.

When attacked, instead of defending the merits of their program, Carlson tried to attack Stewart personally ("what's it like to have dinner at your house?") and Begala just shut up like a battered child. Why didn't they have more to say to the claim that they hurt America with inane partisan jabbery?

Funny how Jon Stewart's arguement that he's aired on Comedy Central, which makes perfect sense to me, seems to carry no weight to many people, the same people that assume Carlson and Begala are doing their jobs because they're on CNN.

Why is everyone so surprised (concerned, even) that an intelligent man making fun of politics is more popular than two morons debating it?

Posted by: Duncan Carson at October 18, 2004 04:49 PM

The Daily Show not a parody of a news show, it is actually a parody of a comedy show. If it was an actual parody of a news show (which is supposed to TRY TO BE funny), it would have been cancelled years ago.

Posted by: Josh at October 18, 2004 05:19 PM

The difference is Crossfire is on the Cable News Network, TDS is on Comedy Central.

Though on rare occasions like after Sept. 11th and the quote on Iraq that is linked to (he wasn't trying to be moderate - that just was what he thought), he steps outside his role during the show. And he certainly does during interviews.

If you click on my name, I've posted the part of the transcript of today's Crossfire where they talk about Stewart which was mentined above.

Posted by: steve rhodes at October 18, 2004 05:46 PM

Also, if Bush were brave enough to go on TDS, Stewart would probably nail him in a way no one has been able to this year. And he'd be funny.

One of the most critical interviews of Bush in 2000 was by David Letterman. He pressed Bush on the death penalty which was really rare. And about a decade ago he completely devastated Rush Limbaugh.

Posted by: steve rhodes at October 18, 2004 05:50 PM

I agree to disagree with all of you.

Posted by: Kevin Parrott at October 18, 2004 07:37 PM

Jon Stewart criticized Crossfire for being disingenious, and Carlson responded by criticizing The Daily Show for not being "hard hitting" enough.

Some here have implied that Stewart is being "two faced." This is not the case. When Jon Stewart appears on The Daily Show, he clearly plays the role of Jon Stewart, fake anchorman. When he appeared on Crossfire friday, he appeared as Himself, Jon Stewart, human being. In fact, Stewart made clear from *the very beginning of the segment* that he didn't come on the show to "be [Tucker Carlson's] monkey" (as he put it later).

Carlson couldn't respond to Stewart the Man's insightful observations on Crossfire's shortcomings (and the shortcomings of cable news punditry in general) - so the most he could do was make a sloppy attack on The Daily Show's "lack of journalistic integrity" (???)

If Carlson really wanted to help his cause, he could have made an intelligent argument as to why the Crossfire format is helpful for home viewers, and how it promotes "Civil Discourse" in the US. Since making such an argument is clearly impossible, he had to resort shrill attacks on the integrity of The Daily Show and Fake Anchorman Jon Stewart (of all things).

How is this "putting the nose on / taking it off?" Quite simply, it's not. If Carlson had made some good points about Crossfire's postive role in the National Discourse, *then* you might have a case. But he didn't, and so he lost.

Simply Amazing.

Posted by: cyranoVR at October 18, 2004 08:42 PM

Carville summed up Jon Stewart perfectly today -- "I think he's funny, but he's a pompous ass." The Daily Show correspondent bits are still great, but Stewart's become such a hack that his bits are almost unwatchable now. Cheap partisan shots are the laziest and least funny comedy. When your "comedy" bits get zero laughs but instead applause from a partisan audience cued to cheer familiar shots, you can be pretty sure you're crossed the line into hackdom.

Posted by: rte at October 18, 2004 08:44 PM

OK, I like Jon Stewart and loathe Crossfire. That said, Stewart managed a twofer. First, he made Crossfire even more obnoxious than usual. Second, as he droned on, never smiling, never shutting up, hitting the same talking points over and over - just as Crossfire guests always do - the sad fact hit: Jon Stewart can be the same sort of humorless, self-righteous, and preachy little dickhead that The Daily Show writing staff usually eats for breakfast. And did I see this right? Stewart tells Begala and Carlson to raise their level of discourse, while simultaneously calling them hacks, and calling Carlson a dick? Hmm.

I've always liked Stewart because while playing dumb, he aims high, and trusts the audience is smart enough to get it. But here, and on a recent Fresh Air interview, he did just the opposite, and made his points - unoriginal as they are when not couched in comedy - in boring and unfunny lectures. Since the publication of his book, he just seems to be acting like one who's read too many of his own press clippings. And that's too bad.

Posted by: Frank Early at October 18, 2004 09:02 PM

Parts of this whole thing are starting to eerily remind me of the Elia Kazan/Andy Griffith movie "A Face in the Crowd".

Posted by: Chef Hellboyardee at October 18, 2004 09:09 PM

I find TDS less funny with each passing week, but I did like enjoy the banter on Crossfire. I just wish Jon had not let these guys talk right over the top of him. He should have expounded on his points a bit more.

But for anyone to think that Crossfire could possibly be any sort of a serious show in the first place with its four major partisan hack-hosts... That really was Jon's biggest mistake.

Posted by: dsmtoday at October 18, 2004 09:26 PM

I record the Daily Show every night because Jon is honest and funny. I never watch Crossfire because Tucker is a lying dick and boring. No one who is as intelligent as Tucker appears to be could honestly believe the bullshit that he espouses on TV and in Reader's Digest. I watched him a few times when he was first on PBS, and although I initially thought he was very intelligent, I quickly picked up on his illogic that he uses to mislead the less educated. So, I immediately crossed him off of my list of commentators that I will seriously listen to.
Luckily for CNN, I am not a consumer that any of their advertisers would want to reach. I am only an attorney who graduated at the top of her class, grading onto Law Review and booking several classes, married with 3 children, earning 6 figures from a thriving real estate practice in Florida -- who, by the way, Mr. O'Reilly, has never ever done illegal drugs. So, CNN's sponsors can just fuck off because I am only going to buy products from companies that advertise on Comedy Central!!!

Posted by: Zana Holley at October 18, 2004 09:50 PM

Yes, I think Tucker was trying to talk to a comedian, and Jon Stewart was appearing as himself, concerned citizen, outraged TV news-watcher, but I think the real reason Tucker was so confounded is that he's fallen victim to the "journalist as star" idea. Stewart has been the wonder boy of late, interviewed everywhere, praised for his show, his wit, his (show's) new book -- and so Tucker tried to attack his guest's interviewing b/c he himself can't see the difference between alleged journalist (ahem, Tucker) and comedian interviewer. In his head, they were both just big shots, more or less, and so, Stewart attacks him, he attacks Stewart (and, as Lisa de Moraes pointed out, he had his criticism of TDS's Kerry interview all ready in a graphic).

As for Stewart's softball Kerry interview, his questions gelled with the 'fake news, satire of the news' aim of TDS. He gave Kerry an easy way to object to what Stewart and staff no doubt considered a wasteful media obsession with the Vietnam/Swift Boat issue. But Kerry was nervous and tame and didn't run with the opportunity an appearance on the show offered him. Entertainment Weekly asked Stewart about that easy interview weeks ago, and he acknowledged that it was a cakewalk, but also that Kerry was nervous and so Stewart did what little he could to keep things going.

But Tucker and Paul were naive if they expected Stewart to just be funny. As much criticism as JS may receive, as many accusations of pomposity that may now come his way, I think he would have been skewered and lost far more respect had he appeared on a show he publicly detests and played the monkey. That would have hurt his credibility -- whether on the personal, comedian or Daily Show scale -- far more. Whether talking politics and TV with Charlie Rose or arguing the failings of the media with Ted Koppel, Stewart doesn't play the news anchor in interviews. Why should Crossfire be any different?

Posted by: sam at October 18, 2004 09:50 PM

"Why is everyone so surprised (concerned, even) that an intelligent man making fun of politics is more popular than two morons debating it?"

Can we all have a moment of silence for all the strawmen that have been tackled, mangled and burned by the Stewartati in this thread? Thank you.

I'm with Treach. Stewart is a bore and I don't much like him anymore. In regards to this CNN moment however, he kicked ass. I don't think anyone's taking Crossfire's side in this.

But he keeps trying to act like he's just a comedian. He's not just a comedian anymore, and it's kinda tragic that he should have to be anything else because the rest of the media is so fucked up that it takes the class clown to ask them to be serious. TDS isn't just a comedy show, it's heavy political expression, and I don't think I'm making a big risk in guessing that it's the people who like that flavor of political expression that are the ones trying to convince the rest of us that it's just a silly joke that should not be questioned or analysed. Being funny doesn't exempt you from criticism.

I wish TDS was still just a funny little comedy show. I don't really blame Stewart for making it something more than that, either. But he needs to do a lot better job balancing his punditry with his punchlines and he needs to stop pretending he isn't pushing his own opinions in what he does. Pointing out how much Crossfire sucks doesn't make him better even if he's dead right on that issue.

Posted by: Sortelli at October 18, 2004 09:54 PM

Do you guys like Mr. Show? Remember in the "Indomitable Spirit" sketch, the part where their old drummer comes onstage to confront their new drummer? I don't know what made me think of that.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at October 18, 2004 09:57 PM

At the risk of being pedantic, we need to remember what the definition of satire is: "Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity."

As satire, The Daily Show feeds on the "absurdity," to use Stewart's word, of the media and its manipulation by politicians and their partisan hacks. The show resonates with so many viewers because it is one of the few places on television where one's sanity and intelligence are affirmed rather than insulted.

There doesn't need to be a distinction between Jon the concerned or disgusted citizen and Jon the satirist. Stewart can be both at once. In both roles he's pointing out the folly, vice, and stupidity of shows like Crossfire. The difference is simply in how much he make you laugh when he does it. I laughed plenty at his barbs at Carlson and Begala. I also cheered, not because he scored some cheap partisan points, but because he spoke the truth about how these shows cheapen political discourse.

The "I'm just comedian" defense simply deflects the charge that The Daily Show should carry out its journalistic obligations. That's a category mistake; it's not journalism, so it doesn't have any such obligations. That Carlson continued to hound Stewart on this point proves once again Carlson's denseness. (To be fair, Begala is just as dense.) That Carlson believes that he can compare what he does with The Daily Show is a shocking revelation his idiocy--the parody of political theater should be more like the thing it parodies. Clueless.

Posted by: ZZ at October 18, 2004 10:21 PM

[quote]But he needs to do a lot better job balancing his punditry with his punchlines and he needs to stop pretending he isn't pushing his own opinions in what he does. Pointing out how much Crossfire sucks doesn't make him better even if he's dead right on that issue.[/quote]

I disagree.

Since when has Jon Stewart ever pretended he wasn't advocating for the issues he believes in?

What's been ignored, and I must confess I don't know how, is that he did more than attack the hosts of Crossfire - he also provided constructive criticism on how the show could get better.

That's what seperates an advocate from a partisan hack.

One believes criticism is neccessary to solve a problem, the other believes criticism is a problem that needs to be solved.

We need more of the former, and much less of the latter...

Posted by: Toto at October 18, 2004 10:49 PM

Are those of you charging Jon Stewart with hypocrisy or worse as f#$%ing stupid as Messrs Carlson and Begala?

Don't you understand the basic premise that a comedy show like TDS has a fundamentally different scope from Crossfire--a show purporting to be about real political debate and/or journalism? It fails miserably at both. Of course when Jon is off the comedy show, he doesn't have to be a clown anymore. Just because he peppered his caustic comments with comedic touches [most likely out of a decent concern for the audience], was not him "having it both ways". Stewart's "Partisan hackery" charge was right on the money.

The so-called left and right choices on Crossfire and it's ilk are like the old dialectical adage: "his thoughts run wide from west to west."

While I have always enjoyed TDS with Jon Stewart before this battle, afterward Mr. Stewart--by providing a sort of Poor Man's Noam Chomsky in 15 minutes--has made a fan for life in me.

Posted by: Bucky Goldstein at October 18, 2004 11:11 PM

"Don't you understand the basic premise that a comedy show like TDS has a fundamentally different scope from Crossfire--a show purporting to be about real political debate and/or journalism?"

Ya don't say.

Posted by: Angus Jung at October 18, 2004 11:23 PM

"Since when has Jon Stewart ever pretended he wasn't advocating for the issues he believes in?"

But he's "just a comedian." He's just "screwing around." You're "taking him far too seriously." The Daily Show is "not a news show." He's "not a journalist." Quotations for emphasis. I want my italics tag!

We understand that he can be a comedian and a pundit at the same time. But he needs to stop using the fact that he uses humor to get his message across as a shield for his message. Yes, we know he's trying to parody the news with what he does. It's wonderful that he can also drop the act and stick it to Crossfire. But really, if the political theatre of Crossfire is hurting America, what the hell is the Daily Show doing?

"... afterward Mr. Stewart--by providing a sort of Poor Man's Noam Chomsky in 15 minutes--has made a fan for life in me."

You should apologize to Mr. Stewart immediately.

Posted by: Sortelli at October 19, 2004 12:15 AM

>>"But really, if the political theatre of Crossfire is hurting America, what the hell is the Daily Show doing?"

Crossfire is on CNN
The Daily Show is on Comedy Central

which one has more weight to it?

Posted by: eric at October 19, 2004 12:41 AM

Hi, I'm the pot, and I'm about to call the kettle black by posting this in the wee small hours of the morning (sue me, I'm kind of an insomniac) but you people need to GET A FUCKING LIFE. Really, when it comes down to it, this is about three media douchebags calling each other...douchebags on the teevee. The sun will still rise in a few hours, so get over it.

I will say this though: I'd be a lot more inclined to side with the posters who take the line that Stewart is "just a comedian" if the media didn't seem so eager to polish his knob for his wacky and irreverent take on the political season as of late. I mean,

"Crossfire is on CNN
The Daily Show is on Comedy Central

which one has more weight to it?"

Yeah, but when was the last time Tucker Carlson or Paul Begala splashed all over the covers of a bunch of big-time national publications over the course of a few weeks? And hey, there are lots of other people who are "just comedians" (some of them even do political humor) and they don't get invited to appear on, oh, I don't know...Crossfire!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Meh.

Posted by: Sean M. at October 19, 2004 01:40 AM

Oh, and Treacher,

What are you trying to say? That Stewart was a shitty drummer and that's why MTV cancelled the Jon Stewart Show?

Posted by: Sean M. at October 19, 2004 01:42 AM

Go to the Comedy Central website. Download the two segments covering the Presidential debates, as they're both well worth your time, and summarize both the way the candidates approached the format, and how they attempted to spin coverge in their favor.

At the same time, they retain their humor.

Yes, he makes serious political points (the question about Cambodia was thought by some of his enemies to be the scandal that would kill Kerry's chances for election), and yes, he pretends his show is meaningess.

But that's not his message.

His complaint is one that extends past Crossfire, and to the way our nation's entire mainstream media conducts itself.

Why is spin accepted as an answer? Why are talking points not addressed as such?

Why is it that every conversation must end with a scandal?

"But really, if the political theatre of Crossfire is hurting America, what the hell is the Daily Show doing?"

Providing a catharsis.

Posted by: Toto at October 19, 2004 02:00 AM

When you've said that Stewart "takes his clown nose on and off" to avoid the questions posed, I think it's an unfair accusation. The Crossfire hosts were trying to compare his show versus theirs and in essence say "See? You're no worse than us." This is like comparing Nightline to the SNL Weekend report, literally....

What the Crossfire hosts didn't do was rebut the charges made...that reporters in general do not perform what is supposed to be their duty of investigative journalism. Instead, they help to spin the message given out by the politicians.

Posted by: Adam at October 19, 2004 02:20 AM

i've been scrolling through the responses to this jon stewart thing, and everyone seems to be missing something. the most telling moment of the night was in something most glossed right over - stewart should never have had to defend himself in the first place. jon stewart came on crossfire strictly to take begala and carlson to task (as sensationalists first and debators/commentators second) - and when faced with his criticisms, carlson's only response was to turn the same criticisms back on stewart (a classic schoolyard "oh yeah, well you don't do it right either" retort). to say that stewart's "i'm a comedian, not a journalist" answer was irritating (as many of you, including jim treacher, did) is to miss the point entirely. carlson never defended his shortcomings as a political commentator, he just tried to make everyone ignore them and focus on stewart's. the fact that stewart IS a comedian (and therefore not under the obligations carlson and begala are to engage in rational political discourse) is almost an afterthought. his answer (that irritated so many) was in fact accurate - but totally unnecessary. stewart would never have had to defend his own credibility if carlson had answered the criticisms themselves. rather than address a direct, sincere, and articulate criticism with any measure of the same dignity and integrity that stewart showed in issuing it, carlson simply made crude jokes. stewart was right about every word he said to those guys (including the bowtie thing, which was not a crafty insult so much as a point about carlson playing a role, thus putting theatrics above integrity again). i'm truly glad that this appearence is causing such a debate, but i wish more commentators had noted carlson's dodging (which looked an awful lot like bush and kerry's) instead of just focussing on how tense the exchange felt, or how stewart never defended his journalistic integrity.

Posted by: chuck carlise at October 19, 2004 03:05 AM

"Say he's not funny, he tells you he's a concerned citizen. Try to engage him on the point, he tells you he's a comedian. I think I've adequately explained my opinion on that tactic, so I won't belabor it any further."

We can agree that THAT tactic is a problem. But that is not the tactic he's using. It's more like this:

"Say he's not funny _during an appearance on Crossfire (or other interview show)_ and he tells you he's a concerned citizen speaking out. Try to engage him on the point by saying that his SHOW and his broadcast persona do not meet journalistic standards and he'll tell you that his SHOW is a comedy show."

His detractors are the ones opening up the flawed citizen/comedian argument. They're saying how can you, the citizen, legitimately say anything when your show, the comedy, doesn't meet broadcast news standards (even though it does not claim to do so!). And he's saying, You can say whatever the hell you want about my show - I'll even laugh about it because you're right, it is a joke - but that still doesn't address the arguments I'm making right now, _not_ on my show (which can't be taken seriously), but on your show (which thinks it should be taken seriously). Instead, you defend yourselves by saying - well, at least we're not fake comedy. That doesn't reflect well on your show, does it?

The real problem with the interview is not that they "engaged him" on being a citizen - it's that they never realized, or never could believe, that he was speaking as a citizen the _whole_ time. And as a citizen he takes himself, but not his _show_, seriously. They seem to have thought that he really is a comedian, rather than someone who plays one on tv. Look at this exchange, which happened well into the broadcast:

BEGALA: Which candidate do you suppose would provide you better material?

STEWART: I'm sorry?

BEGALA: Which candidate do you suppose would provide you better material if he won?

STEWART: Mr. T. I think he'd be the funniest. I don't...


BEGALA: Don't you have a stake in it that way, as not just a citizen, but as a professional comic?


STEWART: Right, which I hold to be much more important than as a citizen.

BEGALA: Well, there you go.


Watching the clip Stewart's voice clearly shows that he'd much rather talk as a citizen about real issues than talk about his show. But all they can do is talk about the show and pretend that they're addressing - even refuting - his concerns.

Although Stewart doesn't express this clearly - that's the biggest flaw, I think, in his performance - his point isn't so much that the media is too hard or too easy on politicians in the abstract: it's that journalists have lost so much sense of what's important that they go too hard on people for things that don't matter (i.e. whether or not the Daily Show is a public service) and bypass the things that do (i.e. whether or not Jon Stewart's voiced criticisms are valid ones, and if they are, what can we do about them?).

The Crossfire "hosts" - and I mean that in the parasitic, viral sense of the term - tried to run through a preset script of questions, never realizing Stewart wouldn't play the written role. His complaints should be the real news, but all people seem to care about is when he can or cannot wear a "clown nose."

Because that, of course, is the most important issue of all.

Posted by: aj at October 19, 2004 03:35 AM

Here's the thing I found hypocritical-the whole time Stewart was on, Carlson kept trying to get Stewart to be a comedian. "You're funnier on your show," "I thought you were going to be funny," etc. In other words "Please stop having an opinion and caper for our amusement," yet he's trying to give Stewart grief for not acting like a serious journalist during the Kerry interview. So Carlson wants Stewart to be a comedian with nothing of import to say while he's on Crossfire, and he wants him to be Tom Brockaw when he's on The Daily Show. Tucker's a little confused, huh? What's more, the fact that Carlson insists on holding Stewart to two different professional standards *at the same time* says a lot about how inept a journalist Carlson is. His basic message to Stewart seemed to be "You're nothing but a lowly comedian, so shut up and do something funny. Oh, and when you're done with that, could you please do my job for me?"

I don't think Stewart is terribly comfortable with his new status as influenceal psuedo-pundit, and he sees his show's newfound prestiege more as a failure of the real media than any sort of success
on his part. The way he was making these condemnations in a mostly shy, reserved tone, the way he looked almost depressed being there, seems to suggest that, despite what Carlson thinks, Stewart would never make a good journalist because he doesen't like confronting people (he said as much on the Daily Show on Monday night) but at the same time, if he's stuck with this influence, he may as well use it to do some good. It was the rarest thing to be found on television: Brutal honesty.

That's why I disagree with the "clown nose on, clown nose off" comment. It seems to me that Carlson was trying to force Stewart to put the clown nose on the entire time, but what he didn't realize was that Stewart didn't even bring the clown nose. He left it on the set of the Daily Show, where it belongs.

Posted by: Wyvern at October 19, 2004 03:44 AM

People on this blog keep complaining that Stewart can not be a pundit and comedian at the same time. But his statements on the show are social, not political. Comedians in general provide social commentary, so I think he is well with in the comedic boundary. The reason they are not political is because they did not represent an attack on either candidate or address any political issue. He just pointed out what we all know, the news media is lousy. They talk about themselves and any issue which takes little research, they are entertainment shows, not news shows.

Posted by: byb at October 19, 2004 04:59 AM

I only read about 3/4 of the comments, so apologies if this was covered.

1. Whence the assumption Jon is a liberal? I'm sure he is, but FROM THE SHOW, his salient positions are a) he comes down really really hard on the Bushies and the media for selling us a bunch of bull on Iraq and b) he's very libertarian on gay issues and church-state issues. He was doing lots of Taliban jokes in Spring 2001, remember. But I don't see Jon doing big riffs on the how we need a Canadian style health care plan!!

2. I sorta agree with the "nose on, nose off" point. But it's tough for Jon to go on a show like this when the hosts think TDS is a satire of politics. IT'S NOT. It's a satire of political news. WE all get that, but Begala and Carlson don't. When the writers were on Deborah Norville, she didn't really get it, either. I think what Jon could have done is explicitly, directly address this point on one of the questions that made the wrong assumption about the nature of TDS. For example, the dumb "was Kerry the best" question. A better question for Jon would be, what do you think of the way Dean was treated by the media? If he had answered the second or third of that type of question with with "I think you guys shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque. I don't really care very much which guy wins. Mr. T. would be great, but whoever wins, we do most of our stuff making fun of how the media portray them, how the media interact with them. We don't really make fun of Bush or Kerry very much. We make fun of you guys." In my opinion, Jon doesn't understand how to deal with people who want him to be a political satirist instead of a media satirist, which he is, and that is part of the confusion here.

3. I agree that TDS hasn't been very funny lately. The reason for that, IMO, is that they're doing less of what they're great at, which is mocking journalists. Their presidential debate coverage, for example, wasn't good because they focused on Bush'n'Kerry.

Better would have been, after the 2nd debate, to eviscerate Hardball and Chris Matthews' panting and longing for Bush. Or mock a panel that had two GOP operatives (Ginsburg and Buchanan), Ron Reagan, and Alan Greenspan's wife. Or after the 3rd debate, do a riff on Andrea Mitchell calling out Kerry for pandering, and how the Hardball panel all agreed, and how they all thought Greenspan's take is the Word of God. Then follow Greenspan's 20+ year record on Social Security, and finish with a mockup wedding picture with Mitchell and Greenspan's heads photoshopped onto a wedding cake decoration.

Posted by: Raleigh at October 19, 2004 06:08 AM

It's enjoyably absurd to watch bloggers try to skewer Jon Stewart for abandoning his obligation to entertain by confronting the whiney, squirming Carlson and dumbstruck Begala. That was the most exciting "Crossfire" I've ever seen, and funny to boot! Looks like Stewart amply fulfilled the mandates of his job and his conscience.

Posted by: Paul Batsel at October 19, 2004 06:21 AM

Somewhere above Ted Wrote: "Crossfire is not a news program. It is an entertainment program ..."

And this is exactly the point Mr. Stewart was trying to make! He was telling them that CNN is a supposably a _NEWS_ network; people _BELIEVE_ CNN is a news network. Mr. Stewart's point was that given those two common perceptions of CNN, that Crossfire should necessarily provide more than just partisan hacks yelling at each other. It provides little utility beyond letting Jimmy Carville and Mary Matlin (sp?) (both of whom I like, btw) talk ugly things about one another's politics. As a "debate" show it is absurd and depressing. As theater it is at times entertaining.

I think that is what Mr. Stewart was trying to say and I completely agree with him.

Posted by: cowboyneal13 at October 19, 2004 06:48 AM

As a side note: Did you notice how it was Carlson who felt compelled to try and out-insult the comedian? Everytime he made some "witty" retort, Stewart would verbally disembowl him with surgical precision.

Begala, for the most part, took Mark Twain's advice to heart: "It's better to say nothing and look a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."

Posted by: cowboyneal13 at October 19, 2004 06:53 AM

I see. So Jon Stewart gets to go on Crossfire because he's a "human being" and a "concerned citizen."

OK, when's my turn? Any of you guys been on?

C'mon, that's patent horseshit.

Posted by: DrSteve at October 19, 2004 06:56 AM

DrSteve, you're on right after me.

Posted by: cowboyneal13 at October 19, 2004 07:16 AM

Here's the problem with the argument that Jon Stewart kept taking the clown nose off and putting it back on again. If you watch the tape, you'll see that he was confronting Crossfire on the fact that they don't really challenge politicians. The hosts responded that The Daily Show doesn't challenge politicians, and Jon Stewart said "it's a comedy."

Jon Stewart said the news media isn't doing it's job. Tucker Carlson said The Daily Show was doing the same thing the news media was doing. Stewart responded that The Daily Show isn't news. I don't see the clown nose on, clown nose off.

Stewart was not trying to be a clown on the show, he was saying that The Daily Show is a comedy, and can only be judged as such. However, Crossfire is intended to be a news/debate show, and should be judged as such.

Posted by: nobody you'd know at October 19, 2004 07:56 AM

This was great TV and an entertaining public service. Sorry to see the knives coming out here after Jon Stewart. Why is he held to such an impossibly high standard?

He could have made nice and pimped his book, but he went for it. If he got a little cutsy-poo at one point, SO WHAT. He's slammed Crossfire, Hardball, etc. in interviews, and he had the guts to show up on Crossfire and say it to Tucker's bowtie. I'd have preferred that dessicated evil-troll, CIA agent-outing traitor Novak.

Begala was quiet because he really didn't disagree. Stewart's absolutely right about Crossfire, but I'm glad Begala's shoveling on his end.

He and Carville are just about the only actual liberal/progressives allowed into cable world. These guys walked into an established flawed format, and they play the cards they were dealt.

If both quit tomorrow, would rabbity CNN replace them with anyone better? Both are lefty, tough-minded street-fighters and fast on their feet.

What really threw Begala wasn't the broadside against Crossfire, but Stewart going after "Spin Alley". That's the political system as it now stands, and Begala [who mastered it long ago] started defending the sincerity of Bushie operatives as part of that system -- realized it and shut-up.

The points raised earlier re: "political satire" vs the Daily Show satirizing the media's antics are correct.

Stewart's right. The media IS a disgrace with its focus on trivia, and their fear of saying "You didn't answer my question." or "Mr. President, that answer doesn't make any sense."

Stewart had the guts and temerity to not just note the emperor's weinie press corps is running around buck naked, but "Please Stop" and do a better job of being journalists.

Good for you Jon !

Posted by: Allyson at October 19, 2004 08:01 AM

> Stewart's right. The media IS a disgrace with its focus on trivia, and their fear of saying "You didn't answer my question." or "Mr. President, that answer doesn't make any sense."

Matthews does this all the time with his guests, and yet people seem to say he's part of the problem. I think people just don't like the fact that candidate X from the oppossing party is not physically beat up by the reporters. C'mon.

Posted by: ElCapitanAmerica at October 19, 2004 08:08 AM

"People on this blog keep complaining that Stewart can not be a pundit and comedian at the same time."

Oh, so you're saying that he's a shitty drummer because he only has one arm!

Posted by: Angus Jung at October 19, 2004 08:13 AM

This was role reversal TV: Stewart, the comedian, was deadly serious and coldly accurate. Begala and Tucker, the "serious" self-important debaters of public issues, tried to deflect the dead-on criticism with pathetic attempts at humor.

Unfortunately, Stewart's serious "citizen" role is sanctimonious, and he DID try to have it both ways, more than once.

Begala and Tucker see themselves as pseudo-serious journalists who enrich the public discourse and enlighten the masses, but they only proved that they are God-awful partisan hacks who also happen to be humorless.

I suggest all three men stop pretending to be something they are not and go back to playing the TV roles they were born to play: Stewart as the hilarious, wildly successful political and media satirist and Tucker and Begala as the dreadful ringleaders of an unwatchable and unenlightened clown act.

Posted by: DoggyDee at October 19, 2004 08:24 AM

>But doesn't The Daily Show get higher ratings than Crossfire anyway? Maybe not, I don't know. [Update: Yep. It's not even close.]

God this is such a tired, stupid argument. You've got a brain. Use it. Stewart didn't say Crossfire wasn't popular. If he had, then, yeah, you really nailed him with the above "catch." But he didn't say that. Quality and popularity are not equal. That's why we have different words for them. So, fine, make your arguments against Jon Stewart, but using ratings to judge the merit of his arguments is So. Fucking. Stupid.

Posted by: s at October 19, 2004 08:56 AM

Guys? At this point I'm starting to get used to the refutation of stuff I never said, but I really need everybody to stay calm. We're gonna get through this, okay? Deep breaths. You are in control.

Whew. Thanks again!

Posted by: Jim Treacher at October 19, 2004 09:20 AM

john stewert was neither a pundit nor a comedian on crossfire. . . he was a citizen. He said as much in his sarcastic rejoinder to begala (something like 'oh yeah, being a comedian is more important than being a citizen').

There use to be a time when being a citizen mattered. It implies community, and shared goals and a shared desire to find a way to attain them. Now the citizens are suppressed, replaced by pundits and scholars, politicians and advertising. 'The Citizen' is not televisual; it is interpersonal. Stewart was tilting at windmills, but don't denigrate him by misrepresenting his impossibly noble gesture as an empty maneuver. He wasn't talking to begala or carlson, he was confronting you, citizen viewer. Do you care? caring, and relating, do not require a defense. Like love, they only require honest comittment.

John Stewart as Jesus in a saddle with a lance, tilting at the media Wind Machine. They spin and spin, but all of the citizens, if they were to climb out from their holes, could stand up to them.

Posted by: ns at October 19, 2004 09:37 AM

I agree that John Stewart's gonna have to get a lot of new tricks if he wants to be a serious pundit.

For now, that was the greatest political TV moment I can remember.

Posted by: anonymouscoward at October 19, 2004 10:07 AM

I think Jon Stewart is consistently funny AND insightful. What was most sad about that appearance was that he sincerely tried to have a meaningful conversation with Carlson and Begala but they balked.

I find it both amusing and disturbing that many do not get that The Daily Show skewers the news media itself; news as a product, news as a regurgitator of official party lines, news that inserts itself into the story in meaningless ways, news that pretends to be objective when at its most lemming-like, news that gets distorted by the feedback loop (hence, public affairs shows that become more Springer-like because that gets noticed), news that serves as a propaganda arm; amplifying distortion and lies to Orwellian proportions.

I initially had high hopes for Crossfire but quickly saw that they served up more heat than light. Many times I'd tune in to see a particular champion on the political scene only to be disappointed by the insipid questions, bizarrely rigid format, and the talking/shouting over each other with largely ad hominem arguments that are rendered in the transcripts as [unintelligible]. Unintelligible indeed!

Posted by: LanceThruster at October 19, 2004 10:25 AM

Huge thread.

I like this reponse from Lauren Wheeler:
"I think there's a point that's being missed here: on Crossfire, Jon Stewart was a concerned citizen, taking advantage of his fame and popularity to call out two pundits on the behavior that irks a lot of us. On his own show, he is a comedian. That's the point he was trying to make with the "monkey" comment."

However, I think thats a given, thats not what is debatable. Screw what points Carlson was trying to make, he's an idiot.

The bigger point is if Stewart is pundit off of TDS, can he switch from The Pundit to The Comedian in the same interview? He did not do that in the Crossfire interview, obviously. But as a huge fan of Stewart, I HAVE seen him do it before. I've also seen him be The Comedian in one part and The Pundit in the other. The big problem with this is what resonates through this thread, how do we know which Stewart showed up for the interview and whether we're supposed to take him seriously or not?

Nevertheless, I still think he's great and he was right.

Posted by: Adrock at October 19, 2004 10:31 AM

Man, I'm so sorry I missed this, being in Brazil -- definitely going to go download it.

I think the thing with JS is that he does actually see himself as a bit of a schmoe. I can't think of one time he has ever *not* mocked himself in regards to public standing. If it's an act, it's as airtight as that annoying voice/persona of Gilbert Gotfried.

That being said, I think that he, as a self-appointed sort-of-normal smartass schmoe, has trouble stepping out of his comfort zone and really, actually getting into his core beliefs. I mean, it's one thing to air all of your doubts while drunk with friends, but with Begala and Carlson?

Stewart's only just begun to run with the big boys (in terms of easily -- and frequently -- booking big name political guests) in recent years, I think he's not sure if he likes it. Like many of us, he sees so many things wrong, but like many of us if we're true to ourselves, he doesn't exude that "I'm sure everything I say is right and everything you say is wrong" air that pundits like C & B do. Sure, he's pretty sure everything THEY say is wrong...

Anyway, I guess my point is Stewart's not yet sure he wants to become an Institution. Once you are seen as a font of wisdom, once you're, essentially, taken seriously as a public speaker, it carries a lot of responsibilities. The most important, and one I think most scary to Jon, is that people start to take what you say, WHATEVER you say, at face value, cuz hey, you're YOU, a star, a pundit, etc.

His "i'm just a comedian" act is definitely a cop-out, but I think it's an understandable one in a seemingly very geniune human being. His underlying real-life philosophy seems to be for people to think for themselves -- not believe the spin, not believe the "carnival" of today's media and "analysis." But once he accepts the mantle as Legitimate Commentator, he'll automatically become part of the CW, and some people watching him will tune out to thinking for themselves. I think he strenuously wants to avoid becoming such an Institution, or at least part of The (media) Institution, yet sees so much he feels is wrong he can't help but shout -- even if he wishes he weren't shouting alone, or on TV, but rather from the back of a very large crowd, an anonymous voice of humor and reason...

Posted by: J at October 19, 2004 10:35 AM

I am getting tired of the "It's a comedy show" defense, and you make a good point that TDS has a wider viewership than "Crossfire" -- and is certainly more "culturally relevant" in a lot of circles. That said, I don't think it matters that he used the comedy defense on "Crossfire," because neither host came close to answering (or even understanding) his argument. And, if they had heard Stewart's Bill Moyers interview a couple years ago (which first turned me on to Stewart as a serious observer) or his recent Fresh Air appearance, his argument should have been old news, and they should have had a response for it -- or at least a better response than Carlson's "so's your old man" routine.

The Kerry interview was not Jon's finest hour, but not for the reasons that Carlson thinks. On Xfire, Stewart ran a clinic in sticking to his talking points, and Carlson & Begala let him get away with it -- which is exactly what he claims happens between pundits and politicians.

Posted by: Carrie at October 19, 2004 10:38 AM

Talking points?

Read a White House script.

Stewart's stance is quite clear - the media pretends to pesent the truth, but instead brings us liberals vs. conservatives shouting at the other guy, which is how they can be simultaeously too hard, and too soft on a candidate.

This isn't a matter for debate - go to spinsanity.com, if you're unsure of what's at stake.

Or better yet, ask yourself why when people are being beheaded in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Haiti, our news media is obsessed with what people do with vibrators and whether lesbians choose to live a life where they're abused and ignored.

If the hosts of the show were interested in the serious debate they pretended they were, they would have tied to clear up the confusion that resulted during the interview rather than encourage it.

They have no case...only dodges.

Posted by: Toto at October 19, 2004 11:08 AM

The main point the crossfire interview seemed to establish was the radicalization of John Stewart. A few years ago he was a 'moderate' (see his old New Yorker interview). Yet watching the strategies and absurdities of this administration has pushed him into more extreme positions. The same polarization, of course, has happened to the entire country. When the world is really going wrong, even the clowns get cranky.

Posted by: RA at October 19, 2004 11:20 AM

It's funny that people cannot get a hold of what Stewart is saying when he said "It's just a comedy show!". He was responding to others wanting to compare his show to a real "News" show, in a sense saying "The Daily Show" has a level of responsibility to the public that is much lower than "Crossfire!".

The confusion over this point shows that "News" shows can be confused with parody.


Posted by: Gandothesly at October 19, 2004 11:34 AM

"Anyway, I guess my point is Stewart's not yet sure he wants to become an Institution. Once you are seen as a font of wisdom, once you're, essentially, taken seriously as a public speaker, it carries a lot of responsibilities. The most important, and one I think most scary to Jon, is that people start to take what you say, WHATEVER you say, at face value, cuz hey, you're YOU, a star, a pundit, etc."

I'm a huge Bob Dylan fan, and as many of you are aware, he's got his memoir out. Reading this reminds me of the dilemma facing Bob in the mid-60s, when he, apparently, took advantage of his motorcycle accident. He overstated the effects so that he could drop out and lose status. He was TRYING to lose status as the Spokesman of a Generation and all that, because he didn't want that.

It'll be interesting following Jon over the next few months. Will he embrace his role and try to leverage it into change? Or will he drop out?

Posted by: Raleigh at October 19, 2004 11:42 AM

remember jon stewart was the first person to ever actually ASK john kerry if he was in cambodia in xmas 68. all the national news people were going nuts about the story but nobody every asked him straight out. during his interview jon asked the tough question the mainstream media never bothered to ask.

Posted by: anonymous at October 19, 2004 11:55 AM

"remember jon stewart was the first person to ever actually ASK john kerry if he was in cambodia in xmas 68."

Uh-huh. And what was Kerry's answer? And what was Stewart's next question?

Posted by: Angus Jung at October 19, 2004 12:09 PM

Just a quick reminder that this isn't the Atrios comments. Screeching will be deleted. (And no, if you can still read what you wrote, I'm not talking to you.)

Posted by: Jim Treacher at October 19, 2004 12:14 PM

"But then again, calling Tucker Carlson a dick? Right to his face? That is a Golden TV Moment."

What the hell is that supposed to mean, Treach?

Posted by: Chuck F. at October 19, 2004 12:41 PM

I cracked up hearing Tucker Carlson label Jon Stewart Kerry's "butt boy." Tucker should know, since he carries himself like a man who takes it up the ass.

Posted by: JoBu at October 19, 2004 12:42 PM

Toto is dead on. Stewart's point is basically who gives a shit if Kerry was in Cambodia or not or what relevance is Mary Cheney to this campaign. He's not there to critique the candidates, he's there to critique the way the candidates are covered.

Posted by: ed at October 19, 2004 01:14 PM

"He's not there to critique the candidates, he's there to critique the way the candidates are covered."

Except he's part of that story now, and this is just making him an even bigger part of it. See, that's the thing. That's the topic of discussion.

Posted by: Angus Jung at October 19, 2004 01:22 PM

Wow. I jumped into this thread very late. Forgive my simple minded comments, as I are a konservative.

I don't mind if Stuart is a liberal.
I don't mind if he is a comedian.
I don't mind if he is a liberal comedian who makes fun of conservatives.
I DO mind that he DOES NOT OPENLY ADMIT THAT he is a liberal comedian. He implies that he is moderate and unbiased. He is neither. I USED to watch his show, but I never saw him make fun of liberals, and believe me, there's plenty of material there.

If you want to watch a decent show, watch Dennis Miller. Yeah, he's goofy at times, but he OPENLY tells you where he stands, and he genuinely tries to understand all sides of the argument. I think Dennis Miller would be very upset if anyone left his show feeling badly or feeling like they were mistreated, yet he ocasionally asks some tough questions.

Just my two cents. Full disclosure: I am an arch conservative who is very concerned about the deep division in our country. May God help us.

Steve D.

Posted by: Steve D. at October 19, 2004 01:35 PM

"He wasn't talking to begala or carlson, he was confronting you, citizen viewer. Do you care?"

No. 'Cuz he's just a comedian. Right? Just a funnyman, just a clown. Not to be taken seriously.

I guess what I'm facing up to now is the fact that there wasn't enough logical structure in Stewart's argument (at least, to be fair, the part he could get out between Carlson's petulant sputterings) to really critique it. We're all doing some filling-in of the blanks here. I still don't know, for example, whether Stewart thinks it's bad for *anyone* with a large number of viewer impressions to get manipulated by a politician, or whether it's only wrong for *newspeople* to be so used.

Posted by: DrSteve at October 19, 2004 02:00 PM

"I wish to hell Stewart or someone in the national news or the Kerry campaign would ask Bush why he gave the Taiban $43 million American taxpayer dollars just a few months prior to the 9/11 tragedy."

Wow, you need to do some research if you still believe that is true. You are not very smart. Here's a place to start, and it isn't even pro-Bush! Good luck, kiddo!


Posted by: Sortelli at October 19, 2004 02:12 PM

""But really, if the political theatre of Crossfire is hurting America, what the hell is the Daily Show doing?"

Providing a catharsis. "

Oh yeah, coz, see, Crossfire, that's political theatre that is NOT SUPPOSED to be political theatre.

But the Daily Show, see, that's political theatre that's SUPPOSED to be political theatre.

I get it now! Y'see, in the community... when you introduce love into the community...hjhgskm *gets high on scorpion poison and falls asleep under the soda machine*

Posted by: Sortelli at October 19, 2004 02:28 PM

Can't you get a blog for free now?

Posted by: Chef Hellboyardee at October 19, 2004 03:16 PM

I think your point is well-taken Jim, but I also think you are mischaracterizing what Stewart was doing on the show. His response, "We're a comedy show" was in direct response to Carlson's repeated attempts to ask him why he couldn't have asked John Kerry more substantive questions on TDS. It's not clown nose on, clown nose off in that respect. Stewart's main argument was the very point that The Daily Show isn't the same thing as Crossfire; that one is on, to paraphrase Stewart's words, Comedy Central, a channel where his lead-in is puppets who make crank phone calls; while the other is on CNN, a channel that calls itself our "most trusted news source." Carlson and Begala wanted Stewart to come on their show and be the court jester and he was trying to be a normal citizen fed up with both sides of the punditry taking over the major mass media by making almost every minute of programming op-ed. He wasn't criticizing liberals or conservatives; just for once (and surprisingly) Carlson had an even bigger mouth than Begala.

To this viewer, Stewart became the most important political and media commentator of our day simply by not being afraid to take on two TV personalities, a show and to a degree the entire Fourth Estate itself. There's no hypocrisy there.

The same goes for the content of his show. Stewart has never claimed to be an independent, such as O'Reilly, and the show's politics lean left, but that doesn't mean they don't make fun of both sides, and anyone who says otherwise doesn't watch the show. On last night's program, the first joke, after his comments regarding the Crossfire appearance, was ridiculing Kerry for how many numbers, as in percentages of this and that, he used in the debate. Stewarts joke: like a nervous student he asked, "Is this going to be on the ballot?" He also has thrown just as many softballs as people like Dan Bartlett and Ralph Reed as he did to John Kerry, and I'm sure if Bush ever actually did the show, Stewart would be more nervous comedy-show-host with his questions than Chris Matthews.

Just my 48 cents (inflation, you know).

Posted by: Aaron at October 19, 2004 03:21 PM

The only point I'm going to disagree with is the "nose on, nose off" bit. Pretty much, the only time he pulled the "I'm a comedian" defense was when that Carlson tried to tell him off for not asking Kerry hard-hitting questions on The Daily Show. Because, by God, The Daily Show is all about responsible journalism. That was incredibly weak on Tucker Carlson's part. Maybe Jon Stewart shouldn't have been the one to remind him which show is supposed to be a legitimate news vehicle and which is a spoof newscast brought to you by the folks who gave us Crank Yankers, but it seems like someone had to do it.

Posted by: Jennifer at October 19, 2004 03:40 PM

I'm the Chief Surgeon of a large urban hospital. Turns out one of the members of our Board of Directors is married to George Clooney's third cousin, and he was staying in town, so he accompanied our Board Member to work. We all thought that was pretty cool, at first, 'cause it's nice to take a break from our normal routine (trauma, disease, medicine, etc) to chat up a celebrity.

Well, all of a sudden George starts telling us about how a friend of his had a really bad experience in our Emergency Room when, apparently, one of our trauma surgeons incorrectly diagnosed a pulmonary embolism and the guy almost died.

One of our Board Members, being rather quick on his feet, said, "Hey, wait a minute - quit picking on us, I saw you make the exact same misdiagnosis last season on ER! So there, Mister!"

I sittin' there thinkin' to myself "Yeah, so there!" when all of a sudden George comes right back with:


This really happened, honest.

Posted by: Brautigan at October 19, 2004 04:06 PM

Give me a freaking break. The only time he mentioned comedy was when they tried to compare their show to his--and he was right. His lead in is puppets, theirs is hard news. Of course they should be held to higher standards.

And I don't think the laughter was uncomfortable. I think the audience like seeing Tucker get his ass handed to him on a plate. I like how Dana quotes you as speaking for the blogosphere. Gosh, I somehow don't think the reaction on left-leaning blogs like atrios and dailykos was quite the same.

Posted by: DJ Adequate at October 19, 2004 04:10 PM

The difference is: Stewart levied his charges against Crossfire as a concerned American citizen. Tucker Carson was trying to engage him as a journalist - dogging him about responsibility and "sucking up" to Kerry and all. And he was like, hey, I'm no journalist - I'm a comedian. If they had tried to engage him as a concerned citizen, then the "clown nose on, clown nose off" argument would make sense. He spoke to them as a citizen and they criticized him as a journalist, which he is not. Whether or not it's his responsibility as a satirist to press the candidates is a different story. I don't think it is.

Posted by: Katie B at October 19, 2004 04:43 PM

It's about time somebody thought to make that point.

Posted by: Angus Jung at October 19, 2004 04:52 PM

This criticism of JS is kinda of silly. The man has a comedy show on a comedy cable network. The folks at Crossfire have him on because they presumes (perhaps rightly) that it would be good for ratings. Stewart's defense is solid.

He has the freedom of a satirist to do he wants, whether it's to be Kerry's butt boy or to remove and put on his clown nose in succession. He is an entertainer, and a good one at that.

If anyone is the loser here it's the Crossfire people for taking him seriously enough to bring him on. In fact, I find bringing him on and accusing him of journalistic partisan trickery to be so ridiculous that it would be nice to see the show cancelled. Crossfire is a CNN "news debate" show and they get all peeved because somebody came on and said what he thought, and made them look like the theatrical hacks they really are.

Even though I know Crossfire is a joke and an easy target (especially that uptight right-wing yuppie jerk with the bowtie): I applaud Jon Stewart for speaking his mind.

Posted by: dispatcher-from-TOAD at October 19, 2004 04:54 PM

I always though crossfire was a joke. Never saw Stewart before. Saw him last night.


New Fan

Posted by: George at October 19, 2004 05:18 PM

Stewart managed to make this boring show interesting. Sure he was pompous, but it was entertaining. To get these jackasses out of their boring, scripted banter was amazing. How often do you get to see moral outrage in its rawest form? Sure it was not pretty, but it was real.

Posted by: Joe Bloggs at October 19, 2004 05:20 PM

Stewart's outburst will surely bring about the end of civilization as we know it. The idea that a man who is known for his satire would presume to come on a legitimate news show and proceed to lecture its hosts on journalistic standards is without precedent. Begala and Carlson are the icons of great American journalism and political though and are beyond criticism, especially from someone as crude and uninformed as Stewart. All hail CNN!! All hail the great minds of crossfire!!!

Posted by: Bob Novak at October 19, 2004 06:08 PM

I am a little surprised that most of the response to Stewart's antics on Crossfire boil down to critiques of his behavior. To me, the message was far more attention getting.

It was shocking to see a comedian demonstrate live the degree to which "the free press" has become a literal farce and a hollow phrase.

Stewart simply ambled into a studio and showed what happens when a guest makes a point that is a)valid and b)doesn't fit into the standard left/right pre-packaging. The whole thing is a false exercise if journalists do not uncover news but rather mostly pass on what is whispered in their ear by some PR person or government official.

Crossfire is not about debate, it is about dissemination.

The injection of even a modicum of honesty took the entire format off the rails and nearly gave Carlson an aneurysm.

Stewart illustrated the impossibility of genuine communication on television by going on television and trying to genuinely communicate.
Frankly, I thought it was brilliant.

It seems to me the fundamental questions are:
1.Is Stewart right? and
2. If yes, what can we do about it?

Posted by: Malt at October 19, 2004 07:02 PM

So when is someone gonna get on The Daily Show and do that Stewart, anyway?

I mean, we all know The Daily Show is an unserious comedy show, so hey, it's no big deal if they do their spin and give hot stone massages to candidates et all. They get their message out just like everyone else, only everyone else should do better.

But it's not like anyone actually believes Crossfire is a serious news show, or that CNN is the most trusted news network, either.

Posted by: Sortelli at October 19, 2004 07:09 PM

"1.Is Stewart right?"

As you might have noted from the first three paragraphs of this monolith, my answer is yes.

"2. If yes, what can we do about it?"

Don't watch those crappy shows. I've been having great success with that strategy for years now.

Posted by: Jim Treacher at October 19, 2004 07:14 PM

Wow. I couldn't make it down the full lists of responses without feeling the need to say a few things.

1) Jon said it best, HE IS ON A COMEDY SHOW. He is not a journalist, but merely a parody of one. He can't be held to journalist ethics and shouldn't be. His point was that CNN generally and Crossfire specifically should be mindful of what they are doing.

I have watched TV journalism degenerate to a point where I can no longer depend on anything they say or do. Whether it's left or right it doesn't matter. It should be as Joe Friday said "Just the facts"

Of course he isn't required to ask anybody anything in-depth. That is the role of the real journalists. So some of the arguments that "Stewart set himself up to look pretty foolish as the program ended." are incorrect. He was tired of having to explain that he isn't a real news show and isn't the problem.

2) Capt. Americrunch is an racist idiot period. Any argument you pose that contains the phrase "New York Jew" only shows that you belong in the same place that all Nazi's do...

Posted by: Bay Area Commuter at October 19, 2004 07:33 PM

What is he then a Prespaterian from Sue City Iowa. The bays nice this time of year why dont you jump in.

Posted by: Capt. Americrunch at October 19, 2004 07:50 PM

Jon Stewart is awesome and I'm a bigger fan now than ever!

Posted by: Mercedes at October 19, 2004 08:58 PM

""But really, if the political theatre of "Crossfire is hurting America, what the hell is the Daily Show doing?"

Providing a catharsis. "

Oh yeah, coz, see, Crossfire, that's political theatre that is NOT SUPPOSED to be political theatre.

But the Daily Show, see, that's political theatre that's SUPPOSED to be political theatre."

1. What is the difference between a lie delivered with a wink and a smile, and a lie delivered as a fact?

Which do you prefer?

Posted by: Toto at October 19, 2004 08:58 PM

Seriously, is it true that a Blogger blog is quick and easy to set up, not to mention free? That you could be sharing your theories and opinions with the world over and over and over again in no time flat?

Posted by: Chef Hellboyardee at October 19, 2004 09:18 PM

Just so we're clear, Stewart's self righteous "clown nose off, clown nose on" stance of above-it-all-edness is disingenuous since his show (among others) is what created the problem in the first place, by providing an easy out to pols who wanted exposure without risk or substantive discussion. Stewart claims that shows like Crossfire are "part of [the candidates'] strategies." What, exactly, does Stewart think his is? Bill Clinton did MTV and Arsenio Hall rather than real news specifically to avoid real questioning; other politians took note. Why does Stewart think that Kerry would do his show, and Oprah's, and other non-news shows while systematically avoiding "real" reporters (see http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20040908-104357-3415r.htm) other than the fact that Stewart is a soft interview that still provides exposure to millions of likely Kerry voters. In other words, strategy. And while Stewart's profile is enhanced and profits immeasurably from being able to garner appearances by such elites on his show, he makes it that much harder for shows like Crossfire to obtain those same interviews, and to ask the questions he claims to want them to ask. If you're a candidate and you want facetime with a couple million potential voters where do you go - to get grilled by Russert or Matthews or joke around with Stewart, and have him ask how you're holding up. And if you're Crossfire what incentive do you have to do substantive debate or meaningful questioning of candidates when every such debate and/or question drives viewers and guests to easier venues - like The Daily Show. Stewart's comments are the height of hypocrisy.

Posted by: Junyo at October 19, 2004 10:33 PM

It was a Lenny Bruce moment ...went right over the heads of the intellectual pygmees who regularly watch that dribble.

Posted by: lisa at October 19, 2004 10:40 PM

Yikes, that's a lot of comments. I read through about half of them and the point that was constantly being made was 'The Daily Show isn't news. It points out the absurdity in the media and politics'.

Well, it does and it doesn't. Just watch the show about the first debate - Wes Clark comes on, goes through his tired talking points for three minutes straight, honest to god, I was bored and offended. The audience cheered, Stewart's questions were pretty much 'please, go on'.

Then Giuliani comes on, and Stewart asks 'how can you defend the war when there were no WMD?'. He starts defending Kerry's flipflopping on support/nonsupport of the war. Again, not a joke to be found, he's just cheerleading for Kerry.

No, it's not a news show, it's a comedy show. But he's not playing the part of the comedian. He's a left-wing pundit amid all that joking, and it's specious to argue that away by saying 'it's Comedy Central'.

Of course, as lefty pundits go, he's by far my favorite.

Posted by: Sam at October 19, 2004 10:53 PM

Jon Stewart's big problem is that he doesn't think he's left-wing or biased. He thinks he's mainstream. Maybe I should qualify that; he thinks he's mainstream intelligent. In reality, outside of his bubble he's very left-wing. He runs his show with an obvious bias and won't admit it or doesn't realize it, which is kind of sad. The only conservatives he's polite too or respectful towards are the ones who he is intimidated by (James Woods, John McCain, Giuliani, etc.). His hypocrisy is laughable. I wanted to smack that smug, sanctimonious prick the entire time he was on the Crossfire.

It's shame he's so damn funny on the Daily Show. Underneath he's just another self-righteous celebrity who thinks America is in need of his freaking opinion.

Posted by: tac at October 19, 2004 11:41 PM

"1. What is the difference between a lie delivered with a wink and a smile, and a lie delivered as a fact?"

In a Mentos ad, it's everything!

Like the one where Jon Stewart climbs into a tower with a rifle and starts blowing people away in an obvious satire of all those kooks are hurting America by climbing into towers with guns, but then he pops out the Mentos with a wink and a smile and everyone had a good laugh.

Posted by: Sortelli at October 20, 2004 12:45 AM

"I denounce political leanings, if I may. I think it is the bane of the existence of this system. For God's sakes, right and left? Even the most basic of charts at least has a y-axis. It's silly to say that human thought is two-dimensional like this."


Posted by: Angus Jung at October 20, 2004 03:08 AM

Exactly. I'm seeing Stewart's critics are deliberately ignoring every joke his show has made about the left (despite the fact that they can easily go download several from the comedy central website), dismissing every reasonable conversation he's had with the conservatives he respects as "he had too", and pretending he hides a bias rather than tries to nuetralize it because he's openly stated he's voting for Kerry this year.

Most refuse to seriously talk about his point regarding honesty entirely, which tells me all I need to know...

Posted by: Toto at October 20, 2004 05:08 AM

Those are some interesting thoughts. Are there any other lessons you might be able to take away from that quote? I can think of at least one, but I don't want to spoil it for you.

Posted by: Angus Jung at October 20, 2004 05:15 AM

Hee-hee, I love the critisicm that goes something like this:

"Oooooh, I hate that Jon Stewart guy because he's so lefty and hides behind his comedy shtick and kisses the asses ot important people in his show to promote his biased views because so many people watch him!!!"

Well, maybe his show is so popular and reaches so many people (especially for a medicore cable network) because he touches a nerve in so many people that actually agree with the views he promotes.

And if that's true, maybe he is more mainstram than the rest of the biased (and, because they pretend to be objective, more disingenuous) media is purporting America to be.

Clearly this country is divided (perhaps the South should have ceceded?), but I think the blue Americans agree with many of the points Stewart makes. The red Americans despise him.

And I think this thread clearly shows the perspective of these two sides.

I guess on election day (if the election isn't stolen again by Republicans using "frivolous lawsuits" in Florida) we shall see just how mainstream (or not) Stewart's perspective really is.

Posted by: dispatcher-from-TOAD at October 20, 2004 07:40 AM

Q: From a purely comic perspective, do you want four more years of Bush?

JS: "If given the choice between the smoldering ruins of the world and a good job in comedy, I would like to think I'm altruistic enough to give up my comedy job. Or just have a harder time accomplishing it."

Smouldering ruins of the world? Yeah, he has no hidden agenda in his comedy.

Posted by: Chef Hellboyardee at October 20, 2004 08:36 AM

"'We're a comedy show!' is, in that context, a copout."

Sorry, I have to disagree, and I think these criticisms of Stewart are a bit disingenuous.

Stewart used that line only AFTER being attacked by Tucker Carlson for not doing enough hard-hitting journalism on TDS. The fact is, TDS *is* a comedy show, and criticizing Stewart for not doing enough hard-hitting journalism is idiotic.

Instead of criticizing Stewart for pointing out -- accurately -- that TDS is comedy, all you bloggers should talking about how utterly sad it is that when confronted with the horrible quality of their "political news/discussion" show, the Crossfire hosts responded by yelling "but you don't do hard-hitting journalism on a comedy show!!!" That was the most telling statement of the entire segment.

Posted by: MD at October 20, 2004 11:04 AM

Stewart has no responsibility to be unbiased or objective about the news. He was asking those who responsibility it is to, well, act responsibly. He was dead on, and also very funny.

Posted by: nighttrain at October 20, 2004 12:20 PM

Re: clown nose on, clown nose off.

I think you missed the point of Stewart's comments regarding TDS vs Crossfire. Carlson kept wanting to hold The Daily Show up to compare it to Crossfire, and Stewart rightly pointed out each time that TDS is a comedy show and not journalism. It should not be used as a comparator for Crossfire in the hopes of making TDS look like a less-responsible new show. He did not say, don't pay any attention to me, I'm a comedian ("clown nose on" as you put it); he said, don't treat TDS like a news show, it's not, and his job there is not to be an journalist. If anything, I think his references to this basic fact were not intended to deflect criticism; they were despairing and disbelieving expressions of outrage -- he was clearly dismayed at the idea that such a comparison would even be made, let alone that it would be made repeatedly. Had Carlson said the interview wasn't funny because the questions were softballs, that would have been more to the point. He was too off-balance to shift tack, though, and that's good, because shifting to talk about the lameness of the interview would have been changing the topic. As it was, neither of the hosts ever really made any response to Stewart's criticisms, which is pretty sad.

Posted by: JohnB at October 20, 2004 01:37 PM

"Most refuse to seriously talk about his point regarding honesty entirely, which tells me all I need to know..."

Most people offended by Stewart don't bring up his honesty point because they think its beside the point. They might agree with it to varying degrees. They simply want to vent about what a self-righteous, patronizing, hypocritical prick he is. They can't understand why you don't. But I do. Because you're just like him.

Stewart's argues that shows like Crossfire 'hurt America' because the topics are presented in a dishonest, polarizing way. Yet he watches it and is not polarized. He is able to dig through the partisan hackery, right down to the 'absurdity' of it all. What is disgusting about him is that he insults the intelligence of the very people he claims are being 'hurt'. I think its the same with most of you defending him. You might watch Hardball and Fox News, but you see the absurdity of it all. America can't possibly. That's why they don't get it. That's why we're polarized. They're helpless. Helplessly stupid. Do you not see how incredibly condescending this argument is?

Posted by: cal at October 20, 2004 11:01 PM

stewart is very funny and highly intelligent and should not have to stop being either of these wherever he goes. kudos to him. he showed guts and conviction. what he said was right and he said it well - period.

Posted by: ragtaggypeople at October 21, 2004 12:02 AM

"Stewart's argues that shows like Crossfire 'hurt America' because the topics are presented in a dishonest, polarizing way. Yet he watches it and is not polarized. He is able to dig through the partisan hackery, right down to the 'absurdity' of it all. What is disgusting about him is that he insults the intelligence of the very people he claims are being 'hurt'. I think its the same with most of you defending him. You might watch Hardball and Fox News, but you see the absurdity of it all. America can't possibly. That's why they don't get it. That's why we're polarized. They're helpless. Helplessly stupid. Do you not see how incredibly condescending this argument is?"

You're putting words in my mouth. I don't blame you - mine haven't been clear.

So allow me to clarify.

I know I'm not smarter than most people.

In fact, the opposite is true.

A few years ago, a doctor made a mistake...

As for Stewart's criticism - of course everyone can see Hardball is a comedy show. The trouble is, they're repeating what our leaders are saying, almost word for word.

Same as every other pundit. Same as every reporter who believes it's their job to take dictation.

If it wasn't working, we wouldn't be having this conversation.

My interest in this, is that I believe in the information age, spin is dangerous, because it creates the illusion of something wicked bein concealed. After having studied the management styles of both Bush and Kerry, as well as their history, I found I've had to defend the actions of both from people who were legitmately scared shitless.

The trouble isn't that the American people are stupid, or shallow.

The problem is that both candidates think they are.

All this time and money spent lying to us would be more effectively used by inspiring us.

Especially since it's interfering with our effectiveness overseas...

We're fighting ignorance and hate in the War On Terror. The last thing we need to be doing is spreading it.

Posted by: Toto at October 21, 2004 05:48 AM

Hardball = Crossfire. My bad. I have no idea why I'm typing this at this hour...

Posted by: Toto at October 21, 2004 05:51 AM

"or Sortelli..regarding the Bush gift of $43 million to the Taliban...Sortelli, I recommend that you do some research about the $43 million Bush gave the Taliban only months prior to 9/11. There was actually significant coverage at the time so all you need to do is go to lycos.com or any other search engine and type in "Bush administration gives Taliban $43 million" and you will find ample support for the facts of the story. However, I do realize that people like Sotrtelli are not interested in research or facts, just right wing NEWMAX.Com kind of crapola...."


The charge is false.

From spinsanity -

"Many pundits sling jargon or make blithely irrational arguments. Some, however, seem to specialize in twisting the facts to fit their ideology, continually making assertions that are at best unsupported and at worst blatantly false until they--and presumably their readers--come to accept these false tropes as truth. Robert Scheer, a nationally syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times, has established himself as the leader of this breed, with some of his worst spin coming since the September 11 attack. Sadly, this is only the latest iteration of a trend that can be seen in Scheer's columns throughout the year.

A brief history
Scheer has had an interesting career in journalism. He started at the radical left publication Ramparts in the 60s, then become a national correspondent for the L.A. Times for 17 years. For the past eight, he has been a columnist whose work appears weekly in the Times and papers across the country. He also co-hosts a radio show on an affiliate of National Public Radio in Los Angeles and writes for publications like The Nation. Throughout his career, Scheer has been one of America's leading liberal pundits, reliably bashing Republicans and many conservative Democrats.

Dissemble, spin, repeat
An overview of Scheer's writing reveals that one of his favorite tactics is to create a politically potent trope and repeat it over and over until it seems true. When faced with criticism, Scheer simply dismisses his critics without addressing their arguments and continues to repeat his idea, as if the more he says it, the truer it becomes.

An excellent example of this tactic can be found in what my co-editor Brendan Nyhan has labeled the "Taliban aid trope." Scheer created this trope in May, when he attacked a "gift of $43 million to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan," saying it "makes the U.S. the main sponsor of the Taliban and rewards that 'rogue regime' for declaring that opium growing is against the will of God."

Drawing on work by Bryan Carnell of Leftwatch, Brendan pointed out that the $43 million was not aid to the Taliban government. Instead, the money was a gift of wheat, food commodities, and food security programs distributed to the Afghan people by agencies of the United Nations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Secretary of State Colin Powell specifically stated, in fact, that the aid "bypasses the Taliban, who have done little to alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people, and indeed have done much to exacerbate it."

Since the US began focusing on the Taliban for harboring Osama Bin Laden, whose Al-Qaeda network is the primary suspect in the September 11 attacks, Scheer has repeated this false assertion about U.S. aid to Afghanistan, and in fact twisted it even further. In a September 17 column, he says that the aid was a tacit endorsement of Bin Laden:

This is typical of the mixed signals we've been sending. Call it what you will, even humanitarian aid, and funnel it through the United Nations, but the effect is the same: to send to the Taliban a signal that its support of Bin Laden has been somehow acceptable.
Note how Scheer takes note of his critics' points by prefacing them with "Call it what you will," as if these points were arbitrary labels and not facts. They are facts, however, and Scheer is simply trying to avoid them.

Scheer wasn't done spreading this trope, or with his irrational dismissal of critics, however. Two weeks later, on October 1, he spun humanitarian aid for the Afghan people as some sort of a fairy tale:

Believe that [the Taliban convinced farmers to stop growing opium through religious appeals rather than by force], and you can believe that the $43 million in aid that Secretary of State Colin Powell announced that same week--to help the Afghans, "including those farmers who have felt the impact of the ban on poppy cultivation, a decision by the Taliban that we welcome"--was simply humanitarian aid and not really a reward to the Taliban for helping the U.S. in its drug war.
Again, Scheer does not explain to readers how humanitarian aid funneled through the U.N and NGOs can be considered a gift to a government that never receives funds or controls any food aid. Notice also how he selectively quotes Powell, avoiding the statement mentioned earlier in which Powell explicitly notes that the aid will bypass the Taliban. Even more disturbing, however, is a fact brought to our attention by Dan Kennedy of the Boston Phoenix in an email: Powell's statement was made in response to a question about future aid and had nothing to do with the $43 million aid already provided. Once again, Scheer is twisting the truth to fit his argument."

Posted by: Toto at October 21, 2004 06:02 AM

"You're putting words in my mouth. I don't blame you . I know I'm not smarter than most people. In fact, the opposite is true."

I apologize for using your quote because after reading your response I obviously wasn't talking to you. I agree with you partly in that the people are treated without any respect by the parties as well by people like Stewart. I just don't by your information-age dooms-day argument. A larger number of people are more informed on issues and able to formulate positions based on that information than at any point in history. This is, in large part, because of cable news. Its not perfect, but its better than say, Real World-Laguna Beach. To believe otherwise, in my opinion, is arrogant and condescending, because it still takes for granted the stupidity of the viewers.

But I don't buy for a second that Stewart's argument comes from the same place as yours. Take the example of the coming election; Stewart, seeking explanation for Bush's popularity, has decided that there must be some external pressure influencing the view of the public. The explanation cannot be that people are making informed, rational decisions. Stewart believes people are basically good, maybe not stupid, just stupider than him. This is arrogant and condescending.

Posted by: cal at October 21, 2004 10:14 AM

To Harley: Jon Stewart endorsed Spinsanity. Take it up with him. I agree the president has much to answer for, but an attack based on distorted information damages the credibility of his critics.

To Cal: My concern isn't so much the talking points themselves, so much as the absence of information caused when they fill our airwaves, which might have led to more constructive ideas being generated. It's not enough to know who's lying - we need to know who's telling the truth.

I'm also concerned about the reaction of people less media savvy when we lose our credibility. A small example; (my apologies, this is the first one that came to mind) Bush's mistake in calling the war on Terror a "crusade" was soon forgotten on this side of the ocean. In the Middle East, where the crusades killed thousands of innocents, it reawakened fears of a holy war.

We can't afford to make these kinds of mistakes.

We need to be aware of what other people don't know.

*My apologies - I don't have time to edit what I'm writing, hopefully I'm making sense*

Posted by: Toto at October 21, 2004 11:36 AM

Why start now?

Posted by: Angus Jung at October 21, 2004 11:40 AM

Another new rule you guys are forcing me to create: If you want to cut-and-paste entire copyrighted newspaper articles, start your own blog.

Posted by: Jim "Fascist Thug" Treacher at October 21, 2004 01:41 PM

Harley: This is Jon Stewart's review of Spinsanity's work.

"Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (8/12/04):

What I really like about this book - and I have to tell you, I donít recommend books, because I'm on television and you're basically taking food out my baby's mouth. But I have to recommend this. It is an absolutely, I think, non-ideological, very well-researched case of how it's done. It's sort of like that Fox show, ďMagicianís Secrets Revealed.Ē And I really enjoyed it... All the Presidentís Spin Ė itís on the bookshelves now, you should really get ahold of it."

Angus:You're good at punchlines. Short, conscise, and almost good enough for early morning basic cable. Or Garfield. Keep up the hard work.

Looks like this debate is more about testosterone addiction at this point - a sure sign that almost everything that can be said, has been said.

Cal:Thanks for the debate - I've missed those.

Posted by: Toto at October 21, 2004 01:46 PM

Treacher:My apologies.

Posted by: Toto at October 21, 2004 01:47 PM

"Angus:You're good at punchlines."

Well, somebody's gotta be. You can type a lot more words, though, I'll give you that much.

Posted by: Angus Jung at October 21, 2004 01:50 PM

All of the commentary on Stewart's nose-on, nose-off behavior is enlightening, but his appearance is totally wasted if all you focus on are the roles each of the the three actors played on the show. As I see it, Stewart's essential message that the "theatre" of politics on television is "hurting America" is right on, and Crossfire is just the tip of the iceberg. The way that all of these shows encourage divisive partisanship as a means of attractng viewers, and in turn selling ad space, is creating a nation of two groups, and no, it ain't liberals and conservatives. One group is reactionary hatemongers (on either end of the political spectrum) who refuse to believe that anyone who disagrees with them and their party on any ideological or political issue has a shred of humanity or sense. The other group is the cynics who are paralyzed by the ridiculous media concept of a strictly "black and white" world and are so turned off by the system that they find it laughable to take any of it seriously. Oversimplification? Sure. The media and guys like O'Reilly, Begala, and Limbaugh have taught me well.

Posted by: daved at October 21, 2004 03:55 PM

Hello from the UK. All I wanna say is that it's good to see this kind of thing happening. The media in the UK is fast heading towards the kinda of "partisan hacks" that the guys (well Carlson Tucker anyway) on Crossfire represent.

I think we should send Jeremy Paxman over there but I doubt any of your politicians would talk to him, few of ours do!

Posted by: Gordon at October 22, 2004 06:03 AM

Well, I'm glad we got that cleared up.

Posted by: Free-Speech Crusher at October 22, 2004 11:00 AM