Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On John McCain and Jon Stewart

I wrote the following piece for my ill-conceived web site in 2006. I still see people are sometimes surprised to find out John McCain is not such a moderate, so I thought I'd repost this here, as it still seems sort of relevant.

On April 3, 2006, the glorious Jon Stewart conducted a short interview with John McCain on "The Daily Show," during which he chided Senator McCain for his decision to deliver a speech at Jerry Falwell's tax shelter of intolerance, Liberty University. The interview generated two responses of note: Senator McCain has been lambasted by liberals for evidently losing his mind and supporting uber-conservative Jerry Falwell, and Jon Stewart has been lauded by liberals for finally relentlessly hitting a conservative guest with tough questions. I'd like to address each of those points.

John McCain has been a right-winger the entire time.
During the 2000 and, especially, the 2004 election years, John McCain seemed almost moderate-- compared to George W. Bush, Karl Rove, et al. That's an important distinction. Let us not forget a number of political observers have advanced the theory that Richard Nixon was reasonable, compared to the current administration.

In 2000, John McCain had a 67% approval rating from the John Birch Society, and a 91% approval rating from the Christian Coalition. By 2004, he had a 90% rating from the John Birch Society (Project Vote Smart). These organizations don't give approval like that to moderates.

What we saw in 2004 was Republican Party infighting. And liberals were so desperate to see a chink in the conservative wall, some quickly embraced John McCain, going so far as to suggest the Democratic party court him as a potential presidential candidate. I think the idea was lobbed half-jokingly, but I believe it was a case of kidding on the square.

So now people worry Senator McCain has suddenly gone bananas in endorsing at least one of the more powerful dark forces within his party. I believe it's just the opposite. He's behaving like a man who wants to be President of the United States of America and knows there's only one party whose support can make that achievement remotely possible.

How many times does Jon Stewart have to say "fake news show" before you believe him?
I think it must have started when a flurry of media reviews suggested some great percentage of young adults learned of current issues and events primarily through "The Daily Show." For the last year or so, I've read numerous complaints that Jon Stewart doesn't dog his guests with hardball interview questions. He's criticized for being a soft -- what? -- journalist? I wonder if that isn't because he's actually a comedian. Doing a comedy show. On the Comedy Channel. With comedy.

Granted, he's often able to sting a guest with a pointed observation or express complete disagreement with his guest, but nine times out of ten, it's funny when he does it.

It was the same with John McCain on April 3. McCain had some idea of what he was about to get, and he seemed to come into the interview prepared to be ribbed. He mostly responded with humor, and Stewart was able to push for answers in a way that maintained the comedy, while (maybe) getting a couple of flustered responses from Senator McCain.

I happen to think the significance of what has been seen as McCain's major slip is overrated. Frankly, I think he was joking around.


I have a few more posts I want to work on this week, but I will try to update this piece with links to my sources in the next few days.

1 comment:

punditfight said...

One of the reasons John McCain has as much appeal as he does is because of his association and warm friendship with Jon Stewart. I wonder what feelings Jon has about that.