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No Joke (The Unveiling of a Political Mind?)

US Politics & Gov't  (tags: abuse, americans, congress, corruption, crime, democrats, dishonesty, economy, ethics, Govtfearmongering, healthcare, media, news, obama, politics, propaganda, republicans, 911 responders, Jon Stewart, 9 11 WTC Attack )

- 2888 days ago -
Stewart would probably argue that pushing for 9/11 workers comp--9/11 workers comp, for Chrissake!--isn't taking a political stance. It's taking a stance for decency, heroism, and the American people. Indeed, he called it "the Least-We-Can-Do-No-Brainer->


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Kit B (276)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 1:14 pm
No Joke

By pushing for the 9/11 first responders health bill, Jon Stewart steps onto the political playing field.

In the never-ending debate about whether Jon Stewart is a comedian with opinions or an activist who happens to make jokes, he's always argued for the former. When Tucker Carlson accused Stewart of liberal hackery on Crossfire in 2004, Stewart famously played the joker card. "You're on CNN," he said. "The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls."

It's true—Stewart leans left, but the jokes always come first. At October's Rally To Restore Sanity, which many observers considered his coming-out party as the anti-Glenn Beck, Stewart was careful not to cross the line into advocacy. He didn't even tell people to vote. He's just not "in the game," he told Rachel Maddow in an interview in November. "I'm in the stands yelling things, criticizing."

Last week, Stewart stepped onto the field. The change came after Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would provide $7.4 billion in medical benefits to firefighters, police officers, and health workers who got sick from working at Ground Zero on and after 9/11. Stewart didn't just mock the 42 Republicans who refused to consider the bill until the Bush tax cuts were extended. He ripped them apart. "I can't wait for them to take to the floor to talk about why their party hates first responders," he said. He shredded Sen. Mike Enzi's argument that the bill would lead to waste, fraud, and abuse by pointing to Enzi's support for corruption-riddled spending in Iraq. Last week, he did a follow-up segment, "Worst Responders," in which he called the refusal to pass the 9/11 bill "an outrageous abdication of our responsibility to those who were most heroic on 9/11." The bill would even be paid for by closing corporate tax loopholes. "It's a win-win-win-win-just [bleep] do it!" he yelled. He also blasted the media for failing to cover the story, noting that the only cable news network to devote a full segment to the issue was Al Jazeera. He then interviewed four first responders—a fireman, a police officer, a Department of Transportation worker, and an engineer—who suffered illnesses as a result of their work at Ground Zero. The segment had funny moments. But the jokes didn't come first.

And it worked. After Stewart's tirade, other networks started to cover the story. On Fox News, Shepard Smith called the Republican obstruction "shameful." ABC News noted that Democrats haven't exactly been pushing hard to pass the legislation. Rachel Maddow ran a long Daily Show clip and praised Stewart for doing a "great service." Now, with the hours ticking away before winter recess, Congress seems poised to pass a bill, with its top boosters, New York Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, announcing that "the finish line … is in sight."

So let me get this straight. Jon Stewart is "just a comedian," yet he managed to single-handedly fast-track a left-for-dead bill through the U.S. Congress in a matter of days? Not quite. The bill wasn't as far from passage as it seemed—Stewart just shined a light on the issue at the right moment. In early December, Republicans blocked the bill because of the tax deal. After the tax package passed on Friday, Dec. 17, Democrats were finally able to discuss the 9/11 bill with the GOP. Republicans didn't object to giving benefits to 9/11 workers, they said. They just didn't like the way it was paid for. So senators rejiggered the payment mechanisms—it would have been covered by closing a corporate tax loophole; now it will be paid for mainly with a 2 percent fee on federal contracts awarded to foreign countries that don't allow U.S. businesses to compete—and brought the cost of the bill down from $7.4 billion to $6.2 billion, after which Republicans were more willing to get onboard.

John Feal, founder of the FealGood Foundation who connected Stewart with the first responders who came on the show, says moving the bill toward passage has been a team effort. But he credits Stewart for its recent progress: "What Jon Stewart did was he literally shamed conventional media and the U.S. government into doing the right thing."

Stewart would probably argue that pushing for 9/11 workers comp—9/11 workers comp, for Chrissake!—isn't taking a political stance. It's taking a stance for decency, heroism, and the American people. Indeed, he called it "the Least-We-Can-Do-No-Brainer Act of 2010." But stripped of the funny, that sounds a lot like what a politician would say. So did Stewart's cheap shot about Mitch McConnell crying over the departure of his friend Sen. Judd Gregg—but not, Stewart seemed to suggest, about 9/11. Republicans may have had a flimsy case for blocking the bill, and Stewart rightly mocked the GOP for failing to help 9/11 workers after milking the tragedy all these years, but by shaming them in the name of 9/11 workers, he was engaging in demagoguery himself. It may have been for a good cause, but it was political demagoguery all the same.

Stewart has shown ambivalence about whether to insert himself into the political arena. When Rachel Maddow argued in an interview with Stewart last month that they both had political agendas, Stewart disagreed. The difference, he told Maddow, is that "You're in the game." Stewart said that at the Rally to Restore Sanity,

I could have gotten on the field. And people got mad that I didn't. But that was the point. … The next thing I could do is step onto the field and go, So now, here's what we're gonna do. … But I don't. That's my failing. And my indulgence. But I feel like I am where I belong. … I don't take any satisfaction in that. And I don't take any satisfaction in just being a critic. Roger Ebert doesn't make movies. So to say, Well, Roger, you're in the game, well, no he's not. He's not making movies. He's sitting in his seat saying, This movie sucks. That's me.

Presumably Stewart saw the 9/11 health-benefits bill as a test. He could either keep standing on the sidelines, tossing empty beer cans. Or he could suit up. He chose to suit up. The question now is whether he'll pretend it was a clown suit all along.

by Christopher Beam for slate

Robert Shaffer (27)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 1:18 pm
I for one love Jon Stewart, his show is the best "news" on TV. I've seen him rip both parties to shreds and his jokes are based on the truth.

Ralph R Sutton (56)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 4:11 pm
He does have a talent for making you laugh at infuriating political situations.

Yvonne White (229)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 4:18 pm
Love Jon, he gets down to business when nobody else will. :)

Vallee R (280)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 4:18 pm
I like watching him - but he walks a fine line - thank Kit!

Linda G (187)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 5:39 pm
Heaven knows we need a way to laugh at the outrageous acts of "government". I love the way he sees things so clearly. Whether he's a comedian with opinions or an activist who makes jokes, he has a knack for hitting the nail on the head.

Terry King (113)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 5:59 pm
Jon stewart is just a comedian like I'm just another pretty face!

Kit B (276)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 6:37 pm
aww, Terry but we love your pretty face and your sarcastic wit.

Jon Stewart is one of a kind, there are other good satirists, and good comedians, but Stewart just catches that edge. He says what many of us are thinking.

William K (308)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 6:37 pm
It seems that decency actually is a political stance these days.

Past Member (0)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 6:59 pm
Noted, thanks Kit. Maybe now that Jon has "stepped onto the field" he'll be "in the game".

Melissa O (43)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 7:36 pm
i might actually vote for Jon Stewart if he ran.

hm-m-m-m...wouldn't that be an interesting election?

it does say a lot about how truly awful the politicians are that they had to be publically shamed into doing the right thing.

how do we get politicians to get paid what they are worth -- minimum wage?

i'd like to see that come about. now that i'm thinking about it, maybe minimum wage is still too much...

Dave Kane (308)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 7:44 pm
It always seems to come down to me, me me, when it should be you, you, you.

Carmen S (69)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 8:04 pm
I love these two guys, Stewart and his cohort who is a lot like him and at this point I cannot remember his name. They are comedians but they tell the truth in humor.

Mary L (132)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 9:14 pm
One day he may take the Al Franken route, but I'm betting he's stay right where he is. Noted.

Kit B (276)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 9:15 pm
Well at least we know he has a good sharp mind and a sense of humor, Thanks Mary.

. (0)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 11:10 pm
It's coooooooooool to be a puppet.. when you get to play and pull the right strings..

Sundeep Shah (0)
Tuesday December 21, 2010, 11:55 pm
signed and note

patricia lasek (317)
Wednesday December 22, 2010, 5:06 am
From CBS Newsw:

During his press briefing Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters that comedian Jon Stewart may well have helped breathe new life into the prospects for passage of a health care bill for 9/11 first responders.

Stewart last week devoted a nine-minute segment of his Comedy Central program, "The Daily Show," to lambasting Congressional opponents of the Zadroga bill, which would provide health care coverage to first responders at the September 11, 2001 attacks on NYC's World Trade Center.

Some subsequently credited Stewart with helping a long-stalled piece of legislation get a second life.

"If there's the ability for that to sort of break through in our political environment, there's a good chance that he can help do that," Gibbs told reporters on Tuesday. "I think he has put the awareness around this legislation. He's put that awareness into what you guys cover each day, and I think that's good."

Indeed, it was following Stewart's rant - during which he called the Republicans' opposition to the bill "an outrageous abdication of our responsibility to those who were most heroic on 9/11" - that the story began gaining increased traction in the media.

A number of Republican commentators, including former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, have since condemned those within the GOP who have failed to pledge their support for issue. Stewart - no stranger to political rhetoric despite the fact that his show is ultimately about comedy - has suggested that "the party that turned 9/11 into a catchphrase are now moving suspiciously into a convenient pre-9/11 mentality when it comes to this bill."

"This bill has long been a huge priority for us in New York, but Jon's attention to this helped turn it into the national issue it always should have been," Sen. Chuck Schumer, one of the bill's sponsors, said in a statement to ABC News.

But Congress is running out of time to pass the legislation - and some Senate Republicans have threatened to do everything they can to prevent it from reaching a vote.

In his briefing today, Gibbs said he was still holding out hope for passage with Stewart's help.

"I hope he can convince two Republicans to support taking care of those that took care of so many on that awful day in our history," Gibbs said.


KS Goh (0)
Wednesday December 22, 2010, 5:33 am
Thanks for the article.

Past Member (0)
Wednesday December 22, 2010, 8:35 am
Who is Jon Stewart?

Past Member (0)
Wednesday December 22, 2010, 10:16 am
We need more people like Jon Stewart!!!!!

Jane H (139)
Wednesday December 22, 2010, 2:41 pm
good post ,Kit. Couln't send you another green star. I second Rachel Maddow ---and think Stewart did something very good when he paid attention to this issue.

patricia lasek (317)
Wednesday December 22, 2010, 4:55 pm
The pressure worked! I just posted the story. This passed and they ratified START.

William Y (54)
Wednesday December 22, 2010, 6:42 pm
Maybe the banana brains in Washington should start listening to the comedians. it seems they make more sense.

Marianna molnar woods (9)
Thursday December 23, 2010, 12:26 am

Barbara D (70)
Tuesday December 28, 2010, 6:15 am
Four words: Jon Stewart for President.
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