Monday, February 01, 2010


Howard Kurtz can't tell the difference between Jon Stewart's criticisms of the Obama administration and what Stewart used to say (and still says) about the Bush administration -- and that's no surprise. You see, in Kurtz's universe, for much of the last decade it was considered perfectly rational to argue that the president was literally an emissary sent by God to stave off the Apocalypse. Even the less religiously inclined among Bush supporters were expected not to deviate too far from this posture of worship -- at least that was the case until Bush started costing the Republicans elections. Kurtz, believing it's normal for supporters of a president to think and act that way, seems to assume that constructive criticism of Obama is highly significant apostasy:

... Last week, though, the president was the punch line. After showing video of Obama speaking to schoolkids, the "Daily Show" host said in amazement: "You set up a presidential podium and a teleprompter in a sixth-grade classroom? ... I'm not a political adviser, campaign strategist, et cetera, but that's not a great photo op in a middle school classroom."

... Stewart, who makes no secret of leaning left, is a pop-culture bellwether.

... Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor and an occasional guest, sees a glimmer of hope. "Jon has always been a crypto-neocon," he e-mails. "Could he be coming out of the closet? ... A neoconservative is a liberal mugged by reality."

Stewart relentlessly ridiculed George W. Bush for eight years, painting the Iraq war as a giant "Mess O' Potamia." ... he and Stephen Colbert became cult heroes for many younger, liberal fans.

... In recent weeks, Stewart has accused the president of hypocrisy for breaking his pledge to televise legislative negotiations on C-SPAN: "This looks and sounds pretty bad for Obama." His "senior black correspondent," Larry Wilmore, solemnly informed the host that "Negroes aren't magic.... He's just suffering from the hard bigotry of high expectations." On another night, Stewart chided Obama for his cerebral style, saying: "You thought you could win us over with rational policy decisions and an even temperament?"

None of these jokes are particularly cutting, but what's telling is that they're being told at all....

The left's honeymoon with Obama ended long ago....

Stewart didn't criticize the Bush administration's conduct of the Iraq War because the freaking optics were bad -- he criticized it because it was unnecessary and immoral and a travesty of what we'd like to think are American values. That's the difference between Stewart's "Mess O' Potamia" bits and this teleprompter bit. Stewart has liberal principles, and he chides Obama when Obama falls short by Stewart's standards -- and yes, there's been quite a bit of that lately. Stewart buries his face in his hands when Obama makes an unforced tactical error. (And then, for good measure, the Larry Wilmore bit Kurtz quotes is the Stewart show's self-criticism of Obama backers who expect Obama to hit it out of the park all the time.) All this seems shocking to Kurtz because a right-wing equivalent of Stewart's show would never do any material critical of Republicans if the GOP were in power -- all evil and absurdity would be said to reside on the liberal/Democratic side.

Kurtz is docked a couple of additional points for reproducing Kristol's moronic soundbite and taking it seriously. I suppose I should leave open the possibility that it's just a wisecrack, but I actually think Kristol means it -- I think he thinks anyone who believes 9/11 was a bad thing really is a "crypto-neocon." Idiots like Kristol actually believe that you and I like Al-Qaeda, or at the very least have "forgotten 9/11"; they think we're rooting for a victory by jihadists because we hate America and want to live in an Islamist theocracy. Stewart, by contrast, has declared that Al Qaeda is bad -- so he's a neocon! I don't expect Kristol to agree with us on foreign policy, but if he's too goddamn stupid to understand our anti-jihadist-but-anti-wingnut point of view -- yours, mine, and Stewart's -- then I don't care if he gives good quote. Don't invoke him as an authority, even in a "light" little piece like this.

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