The Daily Show is routinely the most intelligent and entertaining program on television. And it achieves that despite being mostly about politics and the press. Stewart is one of nation’s great satirists and commentators.
However, last night’s episode (video below), while having moments of good humor, hit some surprisingly sour notes that were both unfunny and misrepresented the facts. The show’s first segment was focused on President Obama’s White House speech regarding the debt ceiling crisis. The first sign that Stewart was slipping out of bounds was his mockery of the President for delivering a “belt-tightening” speech in the opulent environs of the White House. Did Stewart expect the President to take a camera crew to a local soup kitchen? Would he have been satisfied if the speech was delivered from the White House laundry room? This complaint simply made no sense.
Then Stewart played a portion the speech where the President described the competing plans to resolve the crisis, saying…
“Basically, the debate has centered around two different approaches. The first approach says, let’s live within our means by making serious, historic cuts in government spending. Let’s cut domestic spending to the lowest level it’s been since Dwight Eisenhower was President.”
Stewart cut the video at that point to mock the President for proposing a plan that sounded more like it came from the Republicans. He would have been right except for the part he cut out that included this:
“Finally, let’s ask the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations to give up some of their tax breaks and special deductions. This balanced approach asks everyone to give a little without requiring anyone to sacrifice too much.”
Had Stewart left that in there would have been no punchline. It was the core component of the President’s plan that seeks to raise revenue from corporations and the wealthy. It is what distinguishes his approach from the Tea Party/GOP. And Stewart left it on the editing room floor on behalf of mediocre joke. But the worst part came after Obama made an appeal for viewers to contact their representatives in congress:
“So I’m asking you all to make your voice heard. If you want a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, let your Member of Congress know. If you believe we can solve this problem through compromise, send that message.”
To this Stewart offered his patented smirk and queried incredulously…
“That’s your idea? Call your Congressman? Did the President just quit? I mean seriously, you’re the President. You’re asking US to call congress? Oh yeah, sure I’ll the congress. Why don’t you come here and mow my _______ lawn because I got ____ to do. It’s like you’ve given up.”
Stewart’s humor generally contains poignant insights cloaked in hilarity. But on this occasion he is badly adrift. What exactly does he think is wrong with asking the American people to take an active role in their government’s processes? How can he characterize Obama as having “given up” just because he believes that the people’s voice matters? What could be more patriotic than encouraging citizens to get involved?
I’m sorry, Jon, if you think that asking people to participate in government, at a time when their welfare is at great risk, is too much to do. I’m sorry if you have to mow your lawn and can’t be bothered with conveying your opinion to your representative on a critical issue. Many Americans will not have lawns to mow if the nation goes into default, interests rates rise, and they can no longer make their mortgage payments.
The upshot of Stewart’s position is that people should tend to their personal affairs and the President, and others in Washington, should fix everything for us, magically discerning our wishes. That is neither democratic, constructive or funny. And for his trouble, Stewart was the featured headline on Fox Nation with a headline that blared: “Jon Stewart Turns on Obama.” Try again Jon. I’ll still watch tonight.
And, by the way, was it really necessary to suck up to Juan Williams and refrain from challenging any of his self-serving PR? I mean, you couldn’t even make fun of his book title, “Muzzled,” despite the fact that he broadcasts daily on a platform where he reaches millions. I wish I was that muzzled.