Media

The Left vs. Jon Stewart?

| Mon Nov. 8, 2010 11:06 AM EST

On Friday, Bill Maher finally said what needed to be said about Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's "Rally to Restore Sanity":

The message of the rally, as I heard it, was that if the media stopped giving voice to the crazies on both sides, then maybe we could restore sanity. It was all nonpartisan and urged cooperation with the moderates on the other side forgetting that Obama tried that and found out...there are no moderates on the other side. When Jon announced his rally, he said the national conversation was dominated by people on the Right who believe Obama's a Socialist and people on the Left who believe 9/11's an inside job, but I can't name any Democratic leaders who think 9/11's an inside job. But Republican leaders who think Obama's a Socialist? All of them.

Here's the video of Maher's full comments:

Maher has great instincts (most of the time), but he doesn't always do the work to make sure he's fully informed about certain issues. As a commenter points out here, Maher's rarely prepared to counter the misinformation that's so often spouted by his conservative guests. Still, when he's right, he's right. At the rally, Stewart set up a false equivalence between the right and the left, and liberals gave him a pass on it because they like him and they like his show. 

I'd love to see Stewart respond to Maher's criticism—but not to Maher, who Stewart probably won't take seriously. A debate between Stewart and Ta-Nehisi Coates, who agrees with Maher, would be awesome. But Ta-Nehisi doesn't have a television show. So I think it's up to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow. She's a Stewart fan, she's been on Stewart's show before, and he owes her an appearance. Like Stewart, she prepares and does her homework. Her channel, MSNBC, was among the targets of Stewart's ire. And best of all, she's (respectfully) sparred with Stewart on this issue before. In January, Stewart criticised her reporting about Haiti, suggesting it was too political and putting her in the same boat with Rush Limbaugh, of all people. Here's what she said in response

I love me some Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. I'm a big fan. But no apologies for reporting which agency is the lead in our national effort to respond to Haiti, whether or not that agency is well resourced, whether it has been subject to partisan attacks, how much the current administration values and prioritizes and indeed brags on that agency. We all as Americans are counting on our government to do a good job in responding to this catastrophe. This is what it looks like to report on our government's capacity to do just that.

When President Obama gave USAID the lead role in coordinating this response to the disaster in Haiti he handed that agency its biggest humanitarian mission in years. Six days before the earthquake in Haiti Sec. of State Hillary Clinton had just given a major speech about how the Obama administration was going to elevate USAID to a primary position in the government.

[…]

Six days later the earthquake in Haiti and USAID gets put in charge of America’s response to it. They report that as of today USAID is fifty five million dollars into that response. They’re the ones coordinating America’s search and rescue efforts, water and emergency food aid, the way that supplies get into the country, shelter and sanitation and hygiene. At this point the road to being the world’s premier development agency runs through Haiti and we’ll keep reporting it.

I think I get why Stewart does what he does. He's a nice guy, and he wants to be able to interact reasonably with people on the Right—without shouting or name-calling. But being polite, reasonable, and fair to conservative guests doesn't require putting Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow in the same segment, or comparing anyone on MSNBC to Glenn Beck.

Every night, Maddow proves that you can be painstakingly polite and reasonable to conservatives—and still be tough and critical and super-liberal. Ultimately, her way of dealing with conservatives is better than Stewart's. She should have him on and prove it.