Jon Stewart Presses Mitch Daniels to Admit the GOP Uses Intemperate 'Socialist' and 'Confiscation' Lingo

On The Daily Show Wednesday night, Jon Stewart interviewed Mitch Daniels and there were no laughs. Stewart put on his serious face, stroked his chin, and tried to get Daniels to admit that the Republicans were unfairly defending wealthy people and making no sense.

Stewart played dumb: “It seems like the Republicans are doing everything they can to protect the wealthiest people in this country, through policy and through rhetoric. And I guess I'm just not understanding why. And I'm having a problem. This decade has not been a bad decade for the wealthiest of Americans, and if they are the job creators, why are they not creating?” The obligatory cheering and applause came from Stewart’s liberal audience.

Daniels tried to play it down the middle: “Well, Jon, you've got the wrong guest if that's your question because I've been telling my fellow citizens for – This is the only elected job I ever intend to be in. It is not our business to see the people of great means make more money. It is our business to see the people without much money have chance to make more. That's what's bothering me.”

Stewart shot back: “So you're a socialist?”

Daniels threw a little harder: “No. Socialism is a very effective mechanism for spreading misery. That's exactly why I'm not.”

Stewart replied: “Do you think socialism – In your mind, is the rhetoric you're hearing from your party misguided?” Daniels said “I think it can stand some improvement. That's the biggest point of this book.” Daniels wants a “language of unity” in the budget debate, as if Bush’s and Obama’s campaign pledges to heal the breach ever came true.

Then it was Jon Stewart, the one who called Robert Novak a “vampire demon” and aired a gospel choir singing “Go f— yourself,”  actually scolded Daniels for using intemperate rhetoric when he said Obama had an “obsession” with wealthy people.

STEWART: The president’s obsession with wealthy people. Does he have an obsession? With raising the tax rate to the Clinton era, is that an obsession? Do you really consider that this president has been bad for rich people in this country? Or Wall Street or anything?

DANIELS: That's not what I mean. It's the constant bashing. For one thing, it’s a distraction. You can confiscate all the wealth of those people and we wouldn't be anywhere.

STEWART, getting upset: Let me just, again, go to the language. "Obsession," "bashing" and "confiscate.” Now I understand the language of unity, and I'm not sure that that's it. (Applause) And I think that it’s fair...I'm going to tell you this. So in the last decade here, the top 1 percent have taken nearly 25 percent of the income. Twenty-five years ago it was 12 percent. Top one percent control 40 percent of the wealth, 25 years ago, it was 32 percent. Nobody has done better in this country than those people. I'm included in it.

And to ask them to do that, I don't understand this hard line, that’s class warfare, but somehow making the median in this country, 50%, which now controls 2 and a half percent of the wealth, that that policy is not class warfare, but talking about raising a  rate 4 percent, that’s class warfare. I don't understand that. [Cheering and applause] And as .. clearly you're incredibly smart, respected guy, but the language that even you just used and slipped into quite easily sounded [makes a face that says ‘questionable’.]

Where is Stewart getting these numbers about the top one percent? A journal of economics? No, it's Vanity Fair magazine, in an article by liberal economist Joseph Stiglitz. No one finds the irony in an article bashing the top one percent in between ads for upscale consumption for the "leisure class."

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette summed up: "Gov. Mitch Daniels had turned down The Daily Show with Jon Stewart numerous times over the years, perhaps rightly so. Wednesday night's interview wasn't the easiest or most comfortable for the governor, who joked at the end that he needed a dog for protection."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis