Serious As Crossfire

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Unlike Jon Stewart, who says he watches Crossfire every night, I long ago gave up on the cable "debate" shows. So I did not catch Stewart's spat with Crossfire co-host Tucker Carlson until Nick's comment about it directed me to the online footage. I agree Carlson did not come off well, but he was right that Stewart's criticism of Crossfire and its ilk seemed incoherent: On the one hand, they are overly contentious, partisan shouting matches that generate more heat than light; on the other hand, they fail to press their guests for answers to tough questions. It might be possible to reconcile this apparent contradiction–e.g., by arguing that all the shouting avoids the real issues–but Stewart made no attempt to do so, and I got the impression he hadn't given it much thought. Carlson was also right that Stewart shamelessly kissed John Kerry's ass when the senator appeared on The Daily Show, and Stewart's defense–that his is a just a comedy show–rang hollow; he routinely asks Republicans much tougher questions.

In fact, insisting on the distinction between a "serious" show like Crossfire and a just-for-laughs show like The Daily Show undermines the strongest part of Stewart's argument: that the "debate" shows are all about entertainment, professional wrestling with a political flavor. Personally, I don't enjoy them (I don't like pro wrestling either), but a lot of people do. The mistake, as with pro wrestling, is taking them seriously. By lecturing Carlson about how he has failed to serve the public interest, Stewart (whose show is still much more enjoyable than anything on the cable news channels) is making a similar mistake with himself.

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  1. whose show is still much more enjoyable than anything on the cable news channels…

    Eh…. TDS leaves me cold any more (it was long ago removed from my TiVo season pass). It seemed that ever since Stewart was crowned as “someone very important” by the press he’s become a pompous ass.

    Now, in terms of entertaining “debate” shows don’t change channels after TDS and watch some Tough Crowd (before it goes off the air). Granted, it doesn’t hit a home run every night, but there’s a surprising amount of decent “analysis” wedged in between dick jokes.

  2. Maybe Stewart’s criticism would make more sense if you HAD watched the show a few times. A guest comes up from one party or the other. The host from his “side” lobs a softball question, which allows the guest to look good while reciting his talking points. Then, the host from the other “side” asks a “When did you stop beating your wife?” question (for example, “Why are you liberals so unhappy that there are elections in Afghanistan?”), which doesn’t even have a real answer, nevermind one that requires real defense of a position.

    So yes, the show is both too fierce, and too light on real debate. In fact, it is BECAUSE it is so fierce, and the “opposition” obessed with making a mean political point rather than winning on ideas, that it is so light on real debate.

  3. I must be the only person who thought “The Daily Show” was better when Craig Kilborn was hosting…

  4. Is there anywhere to get this video in a format other than Real? I refuse the install that junk on my computer.

    he routinely asks Republicans much tougher questions

    Well, you should have seen him kiss the ass of Ralph Reed, of all people! I kept thinking, does Stewart even know who this guy is?! Anyway, the interview segment of the Daily Show has long been unwatchable.

    The only political slugfest I enjoy is the MacLaughlin group — and as I was watching the other day, I was struck by how little substance there is there, because all the regulars are D/R shills, except maybe Pat Buchanan – who along with MacLaughlin himself are the only interesting people left on that show.

  5. Sam,

    I think the writing is better now, but Craigers was funnier than Stewart.

  6. Stewart also kissed Henry Kissinger’s ass until it red all over. He has celebrities on his show and generally treats them all the same.

  7. I must be the only person who thought “The Daily Show” was better when Craig Kilborn was hosting…

    You definitely aren’t. Stewart’s terribly overrated.

  8. Yes, Stewart was tougher on some of the Republicans — As he was with the Spice Girls and Jennifer Love Hewitt. He was weak on Alec Baldwin, David Cross, and that actress from _Stuck on You_ who was an idiot and wore a too revealing dress.

    For god’s sake man, when did it become necessary for a fake news show to be fair and balanced? Nobody criticizes Leno for sucking up to Arnold or SNL for bashing Republicans. They can claim it is unfunny or uninteresting, but nobody suggests that it is Leno’s (or Letterman’s, or Conan’s, or Kimmel’s) _responsibility_ to treat political guests a particular way. It is the responsibility of TDS (and the other late-nighters) to be funny, and the origin of the interview segment was to give viewers a little bit of eye candy in the form of stupid Hollywood celebrities (see celebrities mentioned above).

    I mentioned on an earlier thread about TDS that the worst thing to happen to the show is that politicians started appearing on it. I think the interview portions are the worst part of the show. Nonetheless, TDS is a _fake news show_. As a result, it should be understood that the real news/information content of the interview (and any other portion of the show) should be taken with a grain of salt. If we are going to criticize Stewart for not being tough enough on guests, then I would like to begin with the following point:

    HENRY KISSINGER HAS BEEN ON THE DAILY SHOW.

    Now did Stewart fail to be tough enough on Kissinger, or did Kissinger, as always, take advantage of a media venue where he knew he would be treated gingerly (See Jack Schafer’s articles in Slate on this point). I would say the latter.

    I would argue that the debate shows attempt to hold on the veneer of informative programming while nonetheless being sideshows. As you yourself suggest, the problem with them is taking them seriously. But they are debate shows on all news channels with real, law-making individuals. If I am supposed to equate them with TDS, then where do I go for real, serious, non-sideshow debates with these individuals? I believe this is Stewart’s point. He feels let down by shows like _Crossfire_ because he feels they implicitly make a claim about being informative forums and they fail to make good on those claims.

    And Carlson can’t respond the way you do, because he would never admit that Crossfire is just entertainment. Well, he might not do it on air. He has, I think, in other forums, made some frank comments about the uselessness of television punditocracy. I should think that that would make him receptive to Stewart’s point. Certainly more than, say, the bloviators on the McLaughlin Group, for example.

    This reminds me a good deal of the O’Reilly-Stewart stories of a few weeks ago. People acted like O’Reilly and Stewart were liberal and conservative sides of the same coin. This is ridiculous. Now while I agree about both shows attempting to be entertaining, the difference is that O’Reilly _wants to be taken seriously_ (See, for example, O’Reilly’s Crusade Against Rap). Why else do you think he is so pissed at Stewart’s influence on the pot-smoking views of America?

    Anyone who looks to TDS or Stewart for their poltiical views deserves what they get. But at least they were fairly warned. And what makes folks like O’Reilly and the Crossfire boys mad is not that TDS has credibility — it is TDS is pointing out why shows like Crossfire shouldn’t have any credibility, because they have failed their audiences. (Weekend Update on SNL has been doing the same thing to the nighly news for years. ) But it is not wrong for Stewart to bemoan that loss of credibility — because he wants, in this election season, news shows that aren’t sideshows.

    And he, like America, does not intend to watch C-Span.

    And yes, it may be unfair to complain that the some news shows have become entertainment while also complaining that the remaining hard news shows taste like medicine. But people have been making this complaint long before Stewart, and will make it long after, and I believe it is a healthy complaint to make. It forces people to constantly and creatively respond to the question, resulting in a spectrum of entertainment-news mixes, some of which may even turn out to be good.

    Anon

  9. Stewart said that his show is different from Crossfire in that the Daily Show is essentially a comedy show. It has sketch comedy, it’s on the Comedy Channel and the lead in is a show with puppets making crank phone calls. Crossfire bills itself as serious news.

    P.S. There you go Sam I Was, there are two people who think Kilborn was better than Stewart. I doubt you’ll find another.

  10. That should be pot-smokers above, not pot-smoking, of course. Thoguh both may be appropriate.

    Seeing comments made in the interim, I would hazard that the group of people who liked Kilborn better than Stewart turned out to be smaller than Kilborn thought, as recent events at CBS show.

    TDS under Kilborn was a parody along the lines of Weekend Update — a kind of Nightly News sendup. He was better with the celebrity segments, because he liked making fun of celebrities. Stewart is hit or miss on this.

    But anyone who think TDS would have produced its truly brilliant coverage of the 2000 election (particularly post-November 2) under the Kilborn regime is just flat out insane.

    Let us all have a moment of silence for Even Ste(ph)ven.

    Anon

  11. Stewart’s best line, when Carlson pushed him to “be funny” rather than serious (paraphrasing): I’m not going to be your monkey.

    That neatly defines what the Combat Chat shows like Crossfire are all about — putting a monkey in the ring and seeing if you can out-howl him.

    And real journalists CAN ask tough questions of politicians without the shallow partisan rancor that’s the hallmark of Combat Chat. Witness Tim Russert’s exchanges yesterday with NC Senate candidates Jim DeMint and Inez Tenenbaum:

    Full transcript: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6267835/

    MR. RUSSERT: In a previous debate, Mr. DeMint, you were asked a question, and this was your answer about teaching in South Carolina.

    (Videotape, S. Carolina Educational TV Debate, October 3, 2004):

    REP. DeMINT: If a person is a practicing homosexual, they should not be teaching in our schools.

    (End videotape)

    MR. RUSSERT: Why not?

    REP. DeMINT: Well, I apologize for that remark, because I really regret distracting from the main issues of this debate.

    MR. RUSSERT: Well, do you apologize because it’s a distraction or do you apologize for what you said?

    REP. DeMINT: No, I apologize for distracting from the real issues of this debate. This is…

    MR. RUSSERT: So do you–wait, but let’s clarify. Do you believe that gays should be able to teach in the public schools of South Carolina?

    REP. DeMINT: I believe that’s a local school board issue and the voters of South Carolina want me to talk about how they’re going to be safer, how they’re going to have better jobs, how I’m going to save Social Security.

    MR. RUSSERT: But you said they shouldn’t be. And the Republican Party in South Carolina’s platform…

    REP. DeMINT: Right.

    MR. RUSSERT: …said they should not. Do you believe that gays should be able to teach in the public schools?

    REP. DeMINT: I believe that’s a local school board issue.

    MR. RUSSERT: Well, two issues that you may have to vote on. Do you believe that gay people should be able to adopt children?

    REP. DeMINT: Adoption is one of the issues I’ve pushed for in the Congress and anything else. In fact, I was inducted into the National Adoption Hall of Fame for my work on adoption. The states regulate adoption and they need to make decisions about who’s going to adopt, but I’m going to continue to promote families through adoption.

    MR. RUSSERT: But do you think gays should be able to adopt?

    REP. DeMINT: I believe children should grow up in a family with a father and a mother. But I think the state should decide who are going to be those families.

    MR. RUSSERT: Should gays have federal benefits, gay couples?

    REP. DeMINT: I think everyone should be treated equally. What people do in their private lives is their private life and I don’t think any–I’ve been an employer for years. I’ve never asked questions about sexuality and I don’t plan to start now.

    MR. RUSSERT: You also, when asked about your comments about gay teachers, said this: “I would have given the same answer when asked if a single woman, who was pregnant and living with her boyfriend, should be hired to teach my third-grade children.” Do you also still believe that, that a single mom should not be a teacher in South Carolina schools?

    REP. DeMINT: I believe that’s a local school board issue. And, Tim, I was answering as a dad who’s put lots of children in the hands of teachers and I answered with my heart. And I should just say, again, I apologize that distracted from the real debate.

    MR. RUSSERT: But you apologize for distracting but are you apologizing to gay teachers or to single mom teachers?

    REP. DeMINT: No. I’m apologizing for talking about a local school board issue when the voters want us to talk about how we’re going to make them safer, win the war on terror, how we’re going to create jobs, how we’re going to fix our health-care system. And these are things I’ve worked on in the Congress and that’s what I plan to do in the Senate.

    MR. RUSSERT: Do you think that non-citizens should be teaching in South Carolina schools?

    REP. DeMINT: I think that’s up to our state superintendent. I know that we brought in thousands of teachers from other countries. That’s a decision my opponent has made, and I think that should be a state decision who’s teaching in the schools.

    MR. RUSSERT: But you’re making judgments about gay people or about single moms and, in effect, disqualifying them. Are you certain that you never had a gay teacher?

    REP. DeMINT: Listen, I have my personal beliefs, Tim, but I honestly believe that the teachers should be hired by local school districts. They should be making the decisions on who should be in the classroom.

    MR. RUSSERT: But don’t the voters have a right to know about whether or not you still stand by comments you made in the campaign? Do you stand by your comments?

    REP. DeMINT: I apologized for answering a local school board question.

    MR. RUSSERT: No, you’re apologizing for the distraction, but it’s a simple question. Do you believe that gays should be able to teach in South Carolina schools?

    REP. DeMINT: Well, Tim…

    MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that single moms should be able to teach?

    REP. DeMINT: It’s a very simple answer. I think the local school board should make that issue, not Senate can–I mean, make that decision.

    MR. RUSSERT: But you didn’t think that a month ago when you answered the question.

    REP. DeMINT: And I apologize for that, Tim.

    MR. RUSSERT: For answering the question?

    REP. DeMINT: Yeah, for distracting from the real thing.

    MR. RUSSERT: But not for the substance of your comments.

    REP. DeMINT: Tim, who hires teachers should be decided by local school boards.

  12. Actually, I thought Larry King was funnier in this CNN interview exchange with Jon Stewart:

    “STEWART: Look at Jack Ryan.

    KING: He quit today.

    STEWART: He quit today. Why?

    KING: Because his wife took her to sexual places and wanted her to perform undue acts.”
    http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0406/25/lkl.00.html

    Groucho Marx couldn’t have said it better. 😉

  13. For god’s sake man, when did it become necessary for a fake news show to be fair and balanced? Nobody criticizes Leno for sucking up to Arnold or SNL for bashing Republicans. They can claim it is unfunny or uninteresting, but nobody suggests that it is Leno’s (or Letterman’s, or Conan’s, or Kimmel’s) _responsibility_ to treat political guests a particular way.

    Sure, but that’s not the issue. It’s impossible to imagine Leno or Letterman or Conan lecturing anybody else about softball interviews. Stewart can do whatever he wants on his show, but it takes a lot of gall to do the interviews the way he does, and then harangue Carlson and Begala for not doing their show that way he’d like.

    Stewart is in a near-unique position. Out of 250 million people in America, he’s one of a small handful that can sit five feet from Kerry, with a national audience. If he wants political television shows which press their guests for answers, and are tough but fair, there’s a hell of a lot more he can do than bitch and moan on somebody else’s show. And if asking Kerry tough questions means he doesn’t get Kerry on his show, well, too bad. I haven’t heard one fan of the show say they actually enjoy his interviews, or that they’re enlightening or funny. He may be right about Crossfire, but the issue is the hypocrisy.

  14. I agree with the hypocrisy comments.

    I’d have liked to see Carlson say “Hey, John, at the end of the day we’re both on the air to get people to watch beer, car and soda ads. So chill out with all the “higher responsibility” crap”.

  15. Kurt,

    Here we disagree. You assume the politicians show up because the TDS people ask them to come. I suppose this is possible. I have just always assumed they come because they asked, and TDS won’t turn them down. Note that by TDS I mean people directly involved with the show, not “bookers” who are essentially looking to boost the show’s profile with the appropriate guests without really consulting the staff.

    I do not otherwise know who the hell on TDS is trying to book Madeline Albright, Henry Kissinger, Ralph Reed, Joe Trippi, or…God, the list goes on. Does someone think these people are funny?

    I don’t believe that it is Stewart’s fault that his show is popular. Again, this is like blaming Laugh-In for not being hard on Nixon.

    Anyone who sees a politician on Stewart surely knows they are shilling for votes, just as when they drop by on TRL. And you should not expect Carson Daly or Jon Stewart to be adequately equipped to ask them tough questions. If tough questions do occur, it should be taken as a fluke. It is surely the result of doing homework the job normally does not require them to do.

    If the best defense of Crossfire is, to say to Stewart, “Well, you’ve got your own show, why don’t you do it yourself?”…Where does that leave the rest of us?

    Now if you wanted to suggest that politicians just not appear on TDS, because they’re just shilling for votes, I would agree with that. I would also agree that Carson Daly should not appear, period. Would you also agree that they shouldn’t appear on Crossfire and hence take the show off the air?

    Anon

  16. Patrick,

    Try http://www.free-codecs.com/download/Real_Alternative.htm.

    I’m not sure of the legality of this, but it lets you play Real files without installing Real One, and you get the warm fuzzy feeling of screwing over Real Media.

  17. The real issue is that the daily show has morphed into a political show and many amaericans get their news information from shows like TDS, Leno and Letterman. And more importantly TDS has taken advantage of this. By John Stewart even being on a show like Crossfire has inserted himself into the “real” news arena, and he should be penalized, like Tuckers said “be funny.” He has become just another celebrity with a forum to voice his own uniformed opinion to an always aproving crowd of college kids. And most importantly his ratings have been down. Sorry

  18. The latest Nielsons show the Daily show losing 12% of its audience in the last ratings period. Understandably so, IMO. John Stewart was great when he was on top of the fray cynically poking both sides. But now he’s waded in for Kerry, and it shows in everything he does. He’s taking himself WAY too seriously, and when he gets called on it he falls back on, “Hey, leave us alone – we’re just the fake news”.

    And there’s the real problem – Stewart is using his, “We’re just a little ole’ comedy show” shtick to give himself an unfair advantage over his guests. It goes like this: Stewart takes a shot at a gues (usually a Republican). Guest tries to answer seriously, and Stewart makes a joke. Guest tries to answer again, and Stewart makes a cheap-shot insult. Then Stewart asks another barbed question. Repeat.

    If you’re going to ask serious questions, your guest deserves the right to make a serious answer. Stewart shifts gears whenever the heat comes back in his direction, and plays the, “We’re just a comedy show” card. It’s a fundamentally dishonest way to interview people, and it’s starting to turn his audience off.

    I remember a while ago when he had Stephen Hayes on the show. You can disagree with everything Hayes has to say about the war on terror, but Stewart didn’t even give him a chance to defend himself. Hayes sat down, and Stewart lit into him. Every time Hayes tried to respond, Stewart either talked over him or cracked a joke at Hayes’ expense and shifted the topic. Eventually, Hayes just gave up and sat there and smiled and let Stewart rant until he could leave.

    Hopefully after the election we’ll get the old Jon Stewart back, because he’s one of the funniest guys on TV. He’s just a little too crazed with partisan fervor right now.

  19. Hmm…does Jacob wear a bow-tie, too?

  20. Ethan,

    You’re right, TDS is morphing into a credible show, and I think that does hurt it. I do wish Stewart wouldn’t appear on shows like Crossfire that, after delegitimate him by legitimating him (Does that make sense?). But what should Stewart do, go hermit like Letterman? He’s taking advantage of an opportunity, and while I think it is a poor decision, I can’t blame him. Just as I don’t blame politicians shilling for votes. But I am more tolerant when these acts aren’t cloaked. I do not think Stewart has ever claimed any qualifications for speaking about the news of the day, even though people keep asking about it. This is certainly different from celebrity blowhards like Sean Penn, mentioned early in the _Team America_ review, who claim an authority they have not earned.

    Again, I am sympathetic to the claim that Stewart, by playing along and even appearing on shows like Crossfire, is giving the impression that people should pay attention to his opinion. I agree that people shouldn’t. However, I have generally found that Stewart makes a consistent effort to state explicitly that people should not take the Daily Show seriously. Some may feel this claim is disingenuous, and that Stewart really wants the attention. I think Stewart feels that it is idiotic that he is asked to appear on these shows, and he demonstrates this by his actions during these appearances (the Crossfire incident being the most explicit). Again, I feel this is a losing strategy in the end, but I think that’s the way he’s chosen to play it.

    I have no idea where its rating stand. But we are talking about pay cable here. I’m not sure who you want to compare his ratings to.

    Anon

  21. I think Stewart would’ve been satisfied if Tucker or Paul actually said, “We’re in the entertainment business, too.” The thing is they wouldn’t because it would diminish the percieved value of their show.

    The Daily Show picks on the underlings and people that don’t matter on their interviews. He’ll pick on the Stephen Hayes, but lay off of the Kissingers or the Karen Hughes. I mean his lips were far more firmly planted on McCain’s or Dole’s asses than on Kerry’s. He does celebrity interviews.

    Something tells me he’ll lay into the Kerry administration if he somehow wins. He enjoyed picking on Bill (even though he threw him softballs during the interview).

    Personally, I’d rather they show the Best of Stephen Colbert during the interview time.

  22. I’ve only read the transcript, but reading it alongside the ‘Media’ chapter of _America: The Book_ I get a sense of Stewart as intensely frustrated at being put into the position his ratings have put him in.

    I don’t think he wants the responsibility of being a serious show, of being a lone voice of common sense and rational media coverage. He wants the actual media to do their jobs, so that he doesn’t feel obligated to step up and do their jobs for them.

    It’s interesting to read comments that say ‘TDS was funnier before [blah]’ — because I agree, it was funnier when it was just a gag-reel of politics and current events, and I suspect Stewart agrees, as well. Which is the motivation for his rant, I suspect.

    I can’t fault him for feeling an obligation to do the right thing from his soap box, even when he knows the right thing is 1) not his forte, 2) somewhat antithetical to the purpose of his show, and 3) somewhat of a suicide pact for his ratings and his influence.

    I read his attitude as ‘I don’t want to be here, I don’t want to have this responsibility. If I could get you people to do your damn jobs, I wouldn’t have to try (and fail) to do them for you.’

    Which, even though I find his Kerry ass-kissing irritating, I can completely respect.

  23. I liked Craig Kilborn better than Jon Stewart, too. I used to watch the show more, but it really seems kind of formulaic and repetitive to me. I’m not sure why I liked the Kilborn version better–I pretty much hate the whole cutsey sarcasm of ESPN anchors–but I think it was much funnier.

    I have no problem with comedians wading into politics, but history shows (again and again) that it’s dangerous to let your comedy pick up too much shrillness from your politics. Look at Dennis Miller, who seems much less amusing as an active conservative, or Al Franken, or any other of several famous examples. I think Robin Williams might be a mild exception to the rule (and there are other exceptions, of course), though he usually mixes up his act enough to avoid too much political material.

    There has been a disturbing tendency lately for some “humorists” to hide behind their comedy when they get called out on inaccuracies or gross bias. Michael Moore is notorious for that, for instance. It’s certainly no way to gain credibility when your mistakes and misrepresentations are always “comedy”. . .when you get caught. I suppose part of the problem is that no one–even professional comedians–enjoy not being taken seriously.

  24. “A guest comes up from one party or the other. The host from his “side” lobs a softball question, which allows the guest to look good while reciting his talking points. Then, the host from the other “side” asks a “When did you stop beating your wife?” question ”

    Unfortunately, Stewart wasn’t able to come up with this concise, clear explaination.

    Kilborne was funnier. Thought his smarmy schtick that worked so well on TDS didn’t work on a talk show though.

  25. Dan H. is right about how TDS has become less funny now that they’ve gone from shots at both sides to being the humor arm of the Kerry camp. I stopped watching a few months ago, and am not surprised lots of others have done the same.

    My old-fashioned, Midwestern guy take on the Crossfire appearance: Stewart was a total jerk. When you are invited on a show, even a confrontational one like Crossfire, have some basic manners and don’t repeatedly insult your hosts. If he wanted to make some points, fine, make some jokes, not rude and unfunny insults.

    And while we’re on the topic of the election and televised rudeness, Senators Kerry and Edwards, in this country it’s not acceptable to use the sex life of a candidate’s child to make debate points. Schmucks.

  26. The basic point of Stewart’s remarks seemed to be, “The country needs help” and “You’re hurting the country.” Frankly, I think this do-gooder rhetoric sounded a bit ridiculous and self-important. What kind of crisis does Stewart presume the country is in? And what does he think a news talk show could do to get us out of it?

  27. To give credit where credit is due, I believe this whole topic originated when I commented on the issue over the weekend in a response to the Friday Fun videos item (after stumbling over the Stewart video at iFilm). Yay me.

  28. Anyway, John is just pissed off that his mommy is in prison.

  29. Anyway, John is just pissed off that his mommy is in prison.

  30. http://wearabledissent.com/101/floridaballot.html#

    You have got to visit this website (if you haven’t done so before). Quite funny.

  31. Regarding Anon’s comments. It would be a “fake news” show if the news were fake. It’s not a fake news show – they just take real news and make wise cracks about it.

    Generally I think that most comedy shows (like SNL for example) are “Funny and Balanced”.

  32. “And while we’re on the topic of the election and televised rudeness, Senators Kerry and Edwards, in this country it’s not acceptable to use the sex life of a candidate’s child to make debate points. Schmucks.”

    Then it was very odd for Cheney to thank Edwards when he mentioned Mary at the VP debate. And to bring he up himself at a “town meeting” event in Ohio.

    Keep repeating it, and it will become true. Not this time.

  33. A few comments:

    1) Of course his Nielsen ratings have gone down. TDS has been in reruns for two weeks. I doubt his Crossfire appearance even showed up in that set.

    I don’t watch the show when it’s in reruns.

    2) It seems everyone here is missing a basic point. TDS isn’t a mockery of politics. It’s a mockery of the news.

    Jesus, can’t you tell by the format: “Headlines + Human Intrest Story + Expert Commentary + Interview”. It’s FOX, CNN, MSNBC in a 30 minute show. It’s cable news on speed.

    He mocks the media with every show he makes, and it undoubtably pains him that his mockery is more informative than the actual news.

    Why do you think Tucker Carlson pisses him off so much? Why do you think he hates Crossfire? Why Wolf Blitzer irritated the shit out of him? Why he blew off promoting his book to try to actually talk to these numbskulls?

    Because he wants real news, and no one’s giving it to him.

    News, real news isn’t playing “He said/She said”. It isn’t getting a quote from both sides. It isn’t balancing your Republicans with your Democrats.

    But that’s all you see these days, and the country suffers because of it.

  34. “I think Robin Williams might be a mild exception to the rule”

    How so? In that he’s never been remotely funny ever even one time at all? Or in that he’s possibly the most annoying man in America?

  35. Stewart still had the best line back in the primaries:

    To a picture of Kerry, “Senator…why the long face?”

  36. Then it was very odd for Cheney to thank Edwards when he mentioned Mary at the VP debate.

    He coolly thanked him and then waived the rest of his time. I guess you don’t recognize an angry snub when you see one.

    And to bring he up himself at a “town meeting” event in Ohio.

    There’s nothing wrong with candidates talking about their own children. That doesn’t make them “fair game” (Mary Beth Cahill’s phrase) for opposing candidates to talk about them. Big diff.

  37. “I guess you don’t recognize an angry snub when you see one.” I’ve seen Angry Dick. That wasn’t Angry Dick, that was Dick Taking a Pitch.

    Alan Keyes referred to Mary Cheney, by name, as a “selfish hedonist.” Nada from the Bush spin people. If you honestly believe this outrage is heartful, I pity you.

    This is about the Bush team trying to find something to talk about other than how badly their candidate lost the debate. Even if they lose this argument, which they will, they’ve still changed the subject. It was very well done.

  38. I honestly don’t care who hosts the show (the “correspondents” like Steve Colbert and the sadly-departed Steve Carell are the highlight of the show for me) as long as it isn’t Craig Kilborn – his fratboy demeanor *really* turns me off.

  39. In defense of Jon, in the news coverage and analysis portions of the show he seems to make fun of KE almost as much as he makes fun of BC. Kerry’s wooden speaking style is a regular schtick. And there’s always the really great summary of the vp debates:

    Cheney: RAWWWRRR!
    Edwards: (gomer pyle voice) GOLLLLY!

    The BC camp gets more vitriol simply because they’re the ones in power. Satire doesn’t work as well on targets which have the challenger/underdog status. If KE wins and if they end up being as irrational and contradictory as BC, then I’m certain Jon will give ’em hell.

    As for the interviews, Jon only seems to go on the attack when the interviewee tries to mindlessly push talking points. If they’re willing to have a conversation, he usually gives them a free pass.

    However, I have to agree that the Kerry interview was completely rotten.

  40. Craig Kilborn sucked.

    The show that comes on afterward “Tough Crowd” is way better.

    Dude, I really liked the Ralf Reed interview.
    John steward said “why don’t you give me you line of BS”
    And Ralph Reed said “Here is my line of BS” and then laid out the line of BS very well articulated, but with the introduction it got, it came off as extremely honest in that it was ID’d as spin.

    In a way without actually verbally admitting to anything I thought the Ralph Reed interview was the most honest I have seen on any show in a while.

  41. I very rarely enjoy the interviews no matter who the subjects are. The celebrity interviews are usually boring fluff unless the celebrity is funny. The more politically-oriented interviews are mostly ass-kissing by Stewart regardless of party. The only interesting ones are his attack interviews, although even some of those are bad.

    Really, the big story here isn’t that Stewart’s interviews are biased toward the left. (Going easy on 95% of left-leaning guests and 90% of right-leaning guests is a pretty weak bias.) The real story is that Stewart’s interviews are biased toward, um, what’s the word I’m looking for? Fluff? No, not that. Um, triviality? No, not that one either. Oh, yeah: Suckage!

  42. BTW, my least favorite Stewart attack interview was the one with John Stossel. He wanted to argue with a libertarian and Stossel didn’t feel like indulging.

    The Ralph Reed interview was good. I liked his “OK, lower my expectations” part.

    My least favorite fluff interview was with Bill Clinton. I mean, I didn’t expect anything other than fluff, but the Clinton years were by far the most fun years the White House has ever seen. And Clinton is so damn charismatic. I was expecting some good fun, but Clinton seemed incredibly uncomfortable there.

    Personally, I’d rather replace the interviews with commentary by Lewis Black and Stephen Colbert.

  43. Stewart said that his show is different from Crossfire in that the Daily Show is essentially a comedy show.

    That’s the same bullshit defense Michael Moore uses — which probably explains why Stewart verbally fellates Moore at every opportunity.

    Yeah, Stewart’s show, like Moore’s documentaries, is just comedy. The problem is that there are many people stupid enough to take them seriously — to consider The Daily Show, or Fahrenheit 9/11, etc, legitimate sources of information. Stewart, like Moore, has gotten into the habit of encouraging this misguided belief. So for Stewart to pretend that he thinks there’s something wrong with blurring the line between entertainment and news is ridiculous.

    The other problem with the “I’m a comedian” defense is this: his appearance on “Crossfire” wasn’t the slightest bit funny. So why was he on that show? To prove that, when you take away the jokes, he’s as bad as a Crossfire host? Is there anyone who didn’t know that already?

  44. So what’s your point Dan? Is it that the Daily Show isn’t really comedy? Is it that comedy shows should be held to the same standard as hard news shows? Are you making the profound observation that the line between hard news and comedy/entertainment is a bit more blurry than it used to be?

    What’s the point Dan?

    P.S. JDM, I remember listening to an album of Williams’ stand-up when I was a little kid, back in the very early eighties (It may have been ’79.), and I distinctly remember laughing.

  45. Oh, the cokehead Robin Williams was very, very funny. There’s an HBO special out there somewhere that captures it perfectly.

    I prefer TDS with Stewart, but Kilbourne was better as a walking news-anchor spoof. He was in character all the time. Stewart is more like a regular guy reading the news.

  46. Alan Keyes referred to Mary Cheney, by name, as a “selfish hedonist.” Nada from the Bush spin people

    The Republican Party tolerates homophobes, no question about it. That doesn’t change the fact that Kerry and Edwards brought up Mary Cheney solely to appeal to the Homophobe Vote, both to shore up support among blacks and union members and to further discourage paleoconservative Bush supporters.

    Whether or not it was a net benefit to Kerry to do so remains to be seen. The swing voters and weakly pro-Bush voters that I know thought it was a pretty sleazy thing for Kerry to try, but it hasn’t actually changed any of their minds about who they’re voting for.

  47. Dan-

    Are you sure they brought up Mary Cheney to win over homophobes? I thought it was to point out hypocrisy (real or imagined) in the administration’s stances on gay issues: Bush and Cheney know deep down inside that homosexuals aren’t bad people, but they’re bashing homosexuals anyway because it wins votes. Therefore, Bush and Cheney are devoid of souls or decency.

    Or so the argument goes.

    (Then again, one could argue that anybody who seriously aspires to be President must be soul-less.)

  48. So what’s your point Dan? Is it that the Daily Show isn’t really comedy? Is it that comedy shows should be held to the same standard as hard news shows?

    My point is that comedians who encourage people to think of them as something other than comedians don’t get to use the “I’m just a comedian” defense.

  49. Thoreau.
    I think that is the argument the Kerry people are going for.

    But I don’t think that the homophobe thing is what Kerry was actually doing. I got that from the way he said it.

    Then I was reminded that Edwards brought up Cheneys daughter also. I now think Edwards was trying the same thing, but he was much more slick than Kerry. I thought Edwards was a better debater over all than Kerry.

    I don’t think that Kerry was really that good a debater at all. That Bush was unable to make him look stupid sais a lot of Bush.

  50. kwais,

    It’s hard to judge; Kerry may have practiced saying that naturally for weeks. Do you remember in the second debate when Kerry brought up Bush’s $80 odd in timber company profits? It sounded like he pulled that fact off the top of his head, but, obviously, he couldn’t have done that.

    Does anyone else out there remember the Clinton – Dole debate? Clinton walked out in front of Dole’s podium and started slapping his hands together, ostensibly to emphasize his point, in a way that made some of the people who saw it think that Clinton was making fun of Dole’s useless arm. Of course, no one could actually accuse President Clinton of doing that; still, Dole wasn’t himself for the rest of the debate.

    I’m not saying that Kerry mentioned Cheney’s daughter on purpose, but I’m not convinced he didn’t do it on purpose either.

  51. Are you sure they brought up Mary Cheney to win over homophobes? I thought it was to point out hypocrisy (real or imagined) in the administration’s stances on gay issues

    Could you explain how the fact that Dick Cheney has a lesbian daughter makes the Bush administration hypocrites on gay issues?

    Besides, the only gay issue on the radar during this election is gay marriage. Kerry has taken pains to describe himself as being every bit as anti-gay-marriage as Bush is. Why would he be calling Bush a hypocrite on gay issues? Doing so means saying, basically, “I’m allowed to be anti-gay, because my family is pure, whereas the Bush administration is compromised.”

  52. Dan-

    I’m not suggesting that the official policies of one candidate are any more or less homophobic than the official policies of the other. Hence I put in qualifiers like “real or imagined” and “or so the argument goes.” However, there’s no disputing that the public perception of the candidates is that the Bush administration is more hostile to gays than Kerry. The real policy differences may be smaller than the perceived differences, but that’s the way it so often is.

    Anyway, I think Kerry’s point about Mary Cheney was “Look, this guy may be trying his best to look anti-gay, but deep down he knows it makes no sense to discriminate against gays.” The question is whether he was trying to win over homophobes (“see, he doesn’t really agree with you!”) or social moderates (“look, he’s being intolerant to win votes even though he knows it’s wrong!”).

    Hmm, the more I think about it the more I think Kerry was trying to appeal to both demographics.

  53. I think it’s fascinating that Kerry’s statement about Cheney’s daughter (while obviously cynical and clumsy) is what outrages people about that debate. Isn’t it more outrageous to repeat that 75% of Al Quaeda leadership has been “brought to justice” when they don’t even know how many Al Quaeda leaders there were? (I even watched Rice try to answer the “out of how many?” question by saying, “We think it’s in the tens to the hundreds.”) That’s just blatently dishonest.

    Isn’t it outrageous for Bush to deny having said he wasn’t concerned about bin Laden, when he so obviously did? (And please don’t bring up “context.” At no point in the press conference did he say anything about bin Laden being worried about us.) Is it more outrageous to mention a political opponent’s daughter’s sexuality or brag about waging a pathetically incompetent, dishonest war?

  54. I just saw Stewart’s interview with Ed Koch, who is supporting George W. Bush in this election. Most of the interview focused on Koch’s support for Bush. Stewart treated him with kid gloves. Maybe it’s just because Koch is a Democrat and Stewart’s bias is in play here, but one might think that the bias would cause Stewart to treat Koch as a traitor. In any case, tonight a person heaped praise on Bush during an interview with Stewart and Stewart didn’t go after him.

    Don’t get me wrong, I certainly don’t want Stewart to skewer guests every day. I just don’t see the point of watching Stewart sit there and say “gee, that’s nice, thank you so much for coming on our show” when Stephen Colbert could have found a humorous way to fill that time.

  55. I’ll just say the interview portions of the Daily Show are definitely the worst part. Some people apparently think that Tucker won the fight, but that’s clearly at odds with reality and the majority opinion. The audience of Crossfire kept laughing as Stewart TRASHED Crossfire. Obviously he was effective at making hist point. Half a million people watched the show on iFilm alone. I think it’s safe to say, Tucker got his ass handed to him. At least Begala had hte good sense to shut his mouth and sit there and just accept he’s in the entertainment business.

  56. Dan:

    “Kerry has taken pains to describe himself as being every bit as anti-gay-marriage as Bush is.”

    you mean Kerry is also pushing for a constitutional amendment to ban gay-marriage?

  57. “That doesn’t change the fact that Kerry and Edwards brought up Mary Cheney solely to appeal to the Homophobe Vote”

    The rest of Kerry’s answer:

    “I think if you talk to anybody, it’s not choice. I’ve met people who struggled with this for years, people who were in a marriage because they were living a sort of convention, and they struggled with it. And I’ve met wives who are supportive of their husbands or vice versa when they finally sort of broke out and allowed themselves to live who they were, who they felt God had made them.

    I think we have to respect that.

    The president and I share the belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. I believe that. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.

    But I also believe that because we are the United States of America, we’re a country with a great, unbelievable Constitution, with rights that we afford people, that you can’t discriminate in the workplace. You can’t discriminate in the rights that you afford people.

    You can’t disallow someone the right to visit their partner in a hospital. You have to allow people to transfer property, which is why I’m for partnership rights and so forth.”

    Yup, a big ol’ pander to gay-bashers, that’s all it was.

    I actually winced when Kerry first mentioned her (as I wrote on a thread that night), but the rest of the answer made it clear what he was, rather clumsily, trying to do. That is, to point out that gay people are someone’s kid, someone’s spouse, someone’s brother or sister. That they are part of decent human society, and have the right to be treated as such.

    Of course, it you’re already a homophobic bigot, like say James Dobson of the Family Research Council, then any public mention of someone’s homosexuality is going to look like a slander, just like a public mention of someone’s alcoholism or pedophilia. But Kerry’s words from that debate make it clear that he was in no way slandering Mary Cheney, he was defending her, her partner, and their right to have their family recognized as such.

  58. “I’m not suggesting that the official policies of one candidate are any more or less homophobic than the official policies of the other.”

    “Kerry has taken pains to describe himself as being every bit as anti-gay-marriage as Bush is.”

    Are you people out of your minds? John Kerry has come out publically (no, not that way) in favor of granting committed gay couples equal protection under the law (civil unions). George Bush has come out in support of a constitutional amendment that would preclude that from happening at the national, state, or local level anywhere in the United States. George Bush has removed language protecting gay federal employees from job discriminations based on their homosexuality. John Kerry has come out in favor of restoring those protections.

    Haven’t you people ever heard the expression “half a loaf?” Oh, wait, I forgot which site I’m on. 😉

  59. joe-

    You need to learn my posting style a little better. When I say “I’m not suggesting X”, that doesn’t mean that I think X is false. It simply means that I’m not arguing in favor of X right now.

    When I said “I’m not suggesting that the official policies of one candidate are any more or less homophobic than the official policies of the other” I didn’t mean that Bush and Kerry were necessarily equally good or bad on that issue. I simply said that whether or not they are equal on that issue (as Dan was alleging) was irrelevant, because there is a public perception that they are significantly different, and that perception will determine how people vote.

    Besides, I’ve learned to be careful on this forum when I make any suggestion about either candidate’s stances. If I imply that Kerry in fact agrees with X then you’ll come down on me and point out the various nuances, contexts, etc. If I suggest that Bush takes a particular stand, everybody else will come down on me and point out that Bush didn’t really say that, you can’t trust the liberal media, and even if he did say it he hasn’t acted on it because to do so would be electoral suicide, so I need to chill out.

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