Christ! I just watched a replay of the Tenet interview on Comedy Central’s website. This is from last night’s episode of the Daily Show. Stewart threw him softballs all night, and it backfired on him completely. Think about the difference between what happened last night and his interview with John McCain a week ago. Stewart completely skewered McCain, and he had the audience behind him, giving standing ovations at every tough question Stewart asked.
Of course, it was unfair for several reasons, the main one being that McCain is a longtime friend of the show and has appeared on there several times. McCain walked in with a grin on his face, expecting some lighthearted ribbing about some of his more idiotic stunts as of late, and what he got was a militant Jon Stewart. He forgot that Stewart is a liberal who is against the war in Iraq, and that was his fatal mistake. The laughter died out after the first few introductory lines, and Stewart tore into McCain’s talking points and ripped them apart one by one. By the time McCain knew what was happening, it was too late. He hadn’t given enough thought to how he should respond to someone exposing his rhetoric for what it was: bullshit. All he could do was sit there blithering, trying to maintain his presidential smile and repeat the same rhetoric that Stewart was dissecting right in front of him. When asked about the old “If we leave Iraq, the terrorists will follow us home,” all he could say was “Well, they will.” It reminded me of a schoolyard fight, or a Pee-Wee Hermanesque retort: “I know you are, but what am I?” The sad part is that it didn’t make for good television. I had to change the channel. It was literally too painful to watch.
One would expect that Tenet would get the same treatment, especially considering that the man has shamefully admitted to going along with the Bush administration’s war plans in Iraq when he knew there were no real grounds for war. What happened is that Stewart let his own grudge against the Bush administration undermine his journalistic integrity. It may seem foolish to use words like integrity when referring to news satire show, but anyone who has watched the Daily Show in the last few years knows that it has set the trend—that the O’Reilly factor and Countdown with Keith Olbermann are easily as biased as Stewart—and that the news you get from the Daily Show is some of the best in the nation.
Anyway, Stewart wanted Tenet to smear Bush so badly that he failed to ask him a single tough question. He kept lobbing softballs at him: “Isn’t it true that the Bush administration was deceptive in this way…..etc.” Stewart thought Tenet would hit it out of the park with something like, “Oh, yes, they knowingly deceived the American people, and they deserve to be tried for war crimes…” but, it never happened. The man used these soft questions to defend his own shameful deeds, and the interview was a wash. I know Jon Stewart cursed himself for letting this asshole leave the building without once having to answer for himself, but if you play that game, that’s what happens. You have to be tough with everyone, and if you don’t, sometimes you get screwed. I just hate that it had to happen to Stewart instead of Sean Hannity. I was watching him interview Mitt Romney the other night, and I thought I was watching children’s television. It was obviously scripted, and all of Hannity’s questions simply set up the talking points Romney had planned on delivering anyway. It was a shameful excuse for journalism, and ironically, it actually turned me sour on both of them. Prior to the interview, I was leaning towards wanting to see Romney win the primary. I only wish that Romney could have flipped the table on him and said something horribly offensive like calling Bush a drunken child murderer, or maybe he could have announced Al Sharpton as his running mate. Anything to wipe that smarmy smile off Hannity’s face.
I guess the moral is that journalism is on a downhill slide in this country, and that sounds like a cliché’, but I don’t mean that it’s losing its objectivity. I’ve never really believed in objectivity anyway. I watch conservative and liberal media sites for entertainment value alone. I mean that journalists now have only two real goals in interviews: they bring on interviewees they hate and shout at them the entire time, or they bring on people they like and lob softballs towards them all night, ignoring their real faults. Either way, they have no integrity and never concede the other side. My guess is that Stewart learned his lesson last night. The questions is: Will Bill O’Reilly do the same?