I had high hopes for Jon Stewart, really I did. I even added Comedy Central to my Spectrum channel lineup specifically so I could watch The Daily Show.
I didn’t appreciate the way Stewart was unceremoniously dropped from Comedy Central along with his compatriot, Stephen Colbert. Colbert was kicked upstairs to Comedy Central’s older sibling, CBS, where he continued to thrive, while Stewart was left to wander the streaming wilderness.
But Stewart and Colbert were built for a time when politics were, for lack of a better word, normal. The stakes in this election are about nothing less than democracy vs. autocracy. Given that choice, everything else pales in comparison.
This is not the time for cutesy old man jokes and bothsidesism. What we need is the full-throated condemnation of someone like Lawrence O’Donnell (The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell) and the analysis of his legal experts (and frequent guests) Laurence Tribe, Andrew Weissmann and Neal Katyal.
As it happens, Stewart debuted a few days after Donald Trump made a speech in which he said he would encourage Putin to attack our NATO allies if they didn’t “pay up.” (Never mind the fact that NATO countries don’t actually pay America anything.)
In normal times (i.e., pre-Trump), Republicans would have gone ballistic over a comment like this. Instead, there was crickets, if not outright support.
And what was the news media covering when this happened?
There were tons of stories about President Biden’s age, brought on by special counsel Robert Hur’s report on Biden’s retaining of classified documents (which Biden, unlike Trump, promptly returned), in which Hur inserted his personal opinion about Biden’s mental acuity. There hasn’t been such an egregious case of editorializing since Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, preemptively cleared him before Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation into “Russiagate” was released!
On the same night that Stewart’s show aired, O’Donnell, on his show, used the example of Franklin Roosevelt, who was one of the most accomplished presidents in history despite being confined to a wheelchair,1 to make the point that it’s not one’s appearance that matters, but how qualified they are at making decisions.
The New York Times, which published more stories over the weekend about Biden’s age than about Trump’s NATO comments, tried to atone for their lopsided coverage by publishing an essay by a neuroscientist, explaining why we shouldn’t be concerned about Biden’s memory lapses.2
Paul Krugman expressed a similar opinion in his column.3
Meanwhile, Trump makes gaffes on a daily basis and the media doesn’t even bother to cover it.
So, forgive me, if I won’t be watching The Daily Show’s election coverage for the next nine months. I’m afraid it would only make me more infuriated than I already am. I think the nostalgic comfort of Seinfeld might be more what I need in order to be able to go to sleep.