Newsweek Touts Jon Stewart's USO Tour -- And the Bush-Bashing Platform It Offers
Newsweek loves marrying Comedy Central liberals and the military -- Stephen Colbert and Iraq made the cover in 2009. In the latest issue, Newsweek touted "Jon Stewart, Live at the USO." Because like Al Franken, liberal comedians like Stewart need to differentiate themselves from the America's-the-real-terrorist leftists and proclaim they love the troops, and hated the commander-in-chief (when he was Republican).
So we're treated to Stewart proclaiming how honored he is to entertain heroes, and how aw, shucks, he's no hero for going overseas to greet the troops. But you know a Bush-hating lecture is coming when the article is headlined "How America's most scathing liberal war critic ended up at the bedside of wounded warriors -- and as outraged as ever."
Stewart's chronicler was Christopher Buckley, who very visibly endorsed Barack Obama on Tina Brown's Daily Beast website (no wonder he's in Newsweek now.) He also touted Obama for President to screams and applause on Stewart's show on October 21, 2008. He found Stewart got involved with the USO to find out how "damn right" he was about Iraq (and doesn't see the irony of how he sounds like the Bushies on that):
“One of the reasons that I got involved,” he said, “was my opposition to it. I had very strong feelings about it. But I also felt that I was indignant without knowledge. And I wanted knowledge from the people that were asked to carry this out. They are some of the brightest, most engaging, funny, down-to-earth, respectful, intelligent group of people that I’ve ever met. But what it did,” he added, “was solidify my outrage, rather than lessen it.”
We talked about Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, all of whom have written their books, which are largely of the if-I-had-to-do-it-all-over-again-I-would flavor.
Stewart laughed—a moment of irony, or Zen, was finally at hand.
“Well,” he said, “I’m glad that in the time they’ve had to reflect on it that they’ve realized how right they were. Because you read these books and you think”—his voice switching into mimetic gear—“‘I just needed time away from it to just realize how damn right I was.’”
The moment of irony passed. He went on, in a tone of controlled anger, “I’m not suggesting that their [the troops’] lives were in any way used casually. But they deserved the best strategic planning. They deserved the best in equipment. But mainly, they deserved the best in policy. Policy should rise to the level of their ability. And so when it doesn’t, or when it’s done in a way that you think is corrupt, it really makes you mad.”
“Corruption” is a word Stewart often deploys, but he doesn’t go in for the Halliburton theory or the Oedipal or the other one-size-fits-all conspiracist explanations for Bush’s Iraq War. He is not a dispenser of smug outrage in the style of Bill Maher or Keith Olbermann. In an interview a year ago with Rachel Maddow, he was dismissive of the “war criminal” label, telling her with a bemused expression that this was a term he reserved for, say, Pol Pot.
“Corruption,” he told me, “can be a corruption of ideas. To have a group sit in a room and say, ‘OK, here are five reasons why we should go in. Which one do you think will be the easiest one to sell?’ To go into a war—and this was a point I tried to make with [former Pentagon official] Doug Feith when he was on the show. And with Rumsfeld, as well. To take us into a war but treat it like a policy campaign—to me is corrupt. The conversation they [Bush et al.] had with the American people was,” again switching into mime mode, “‘We’re all gonna die! There’s a smoking gun in the form of a mushroom cloud!’ That’s the part that I think is corrupt.
Buckley is certainly not going to foul this liberal nest he's sitting in by asking if Stewart's current pose -- in the less-life-altering role of Comedian-in-Chief -- is really a version of "which way is the easiest way for me to sell myself as a patriotic liberal? I'll pose with the troops looking like Michael Dukakis in a tank!" But, we're still in mid-lecture here from Stewart:
“The most corrupt thing to me about this, and this gets back to what Dick Cheney said about why we didn’t go into Baghdad [after Operation Desert Storm in 1991], ‘Who would we turn it over to? It’s not worth American blood and treasure.’”
After the second time, in 2003, when America very much went into Baghdad, “I asked Doug Feith once, ‘Well, what changed?’ And,” he says, imitating the verbal shrug of a boilerplate answer, 'Well, you know, the nexus of terror.’
“And I said, ‘No. No. What changed with the idea of who you were going to turn it over to?’ That’s the part that was so galling. You had a policy of regime change, but you didn’t have a policy of what came next. You didn’t have anything in place.”