Jon Stewart to Pakistan President: Is Bush ‘Paying Attention’ When You Talk?

Jon Stewart, during a September 26 interview with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, discussed Middle East policy and used the opportunity to trot out his standard, "Bush-the-Moron" material. Sitting across from a valuable American ally, the "Daily Show" host couldn’t resist making this unflattering comparison:

Stewart: "Let’s say, if there were an election held in Pakistan today...And we put up two candidates, George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden, be truthful, who would win a popular vote in Pakistan?"

It’s one thing to acknowledge that, in some extremist areas, bin Laden may have greater popularity, but Stewart appeared to state this concept with glee. He also attempted to goad Musharraf into criticizing the effort in Iraq:

Jon Stewart: "Welcome back, we’re here with President Pervez Musharraf. In your book, it's an incredible autobiography of a life, a very interesting life. There's no mention of Iraq. Is that because you felt like it was such a smart move and has gone so well that to mention it would be gloating?"

Musharraf: "No. I think we were so very concerned with our area. I had mentioned about, in a passing reference to Iraq and I know that the situation, whatever the reasons of going there, I won't get involved in a debate on that. But it has led, certainly, to more extremism and terrorism around the world."

To make his point one more time, Stewart followed up by sarcastically wondering, "So, we’re safer?" Again, Musharraf answered and, at the same time, attempted to defer confrontations:

Musharraf: "No, we are not. We are not safer. But I, I believe in looking at the present and then trying to work out strategies for the future. That's what we should concentrate on."

In the segment, which aired at 11:24PM EDT, he also encouraged Musharraf to engage in the lame attacks that the Comedy Central host has become known for:

Stewart: "When you met with, with the President, you met with our president a few days ago, are you able to speak candidly with him about what you feel is, is working and what isn't? And is he seem- open, or paying attention or-- Does he, does he, let’s say, have the tv on  or--"

Musharraf: "Let me give, to his credit, first of all, well, we didn't discuss Iraq, if you are meaning that. But we did discuss Afghanistan and the environment around, on our side of the border. He was listening carefully."

Not through yet, Stewart quipped, "‘Cause he sleeps with his eyes open."

"The Washington Post" covered Musharraf’s appearance. (Registration required) They noted that "as usual, much of Stewart’s humor was rooted in criticism of the U.S. administration." It’s interesting that the general assumption of Stewart, even by liberal outlets such as "The Washington Post," is that his base is left-wing, Move-On types. Yet, the media rarely classifies him as appealing to a niche audience, in the way that they do with Fox News.

A transcript follows:

 The Daily Show 9/26/06

Jon Stewart and Pervez Musharraf

11:24PM EDT

Jon Stewart: "Welcome back, we’re here with President Pervez Musharraf. In your book, it's an incredible autobiography of a life, a very interesting life. There's no mention of Iraq. Is that because you felt like it was such a smart move and has gone so well that to mention it would be gloating?"

Musharraf: "No. I think we were so very concerned with our area. I had mentioned about, in a passing reference to Iraq and I know that the situation, whatever the reasons of going there, I won't get involved in a debate on that. But it has led, certainly, to more extremism and terrorism around the world."Stewart: "So, we’re safer?"

Musharraf: "No, we are not. We are not safer. But I, I believe in looking at the present and then trying to work out strategies for the future. That's what we should concentrate on."Stewart: "When you met with, with the President, you met with our president a few days ago, are you able to speak candidly with him about what you feel is working and what isn't? And is he seem open, or paying attention or-? Does he, does he, let’s say, have the tv on or?"

Musharraf: "Let me give to his credit, first of all, we didn't discuss Iraq, if you are meaning that. But we did discuss Afghanistan and the environment around, on our side of the border. He was listening carefully."

Stewart: "Mmmhm. ‘Cause he sleeps with his eyes open. I just want you to know that. All right, Mr. President, we're delighted that you're here. But we have to put you on ‘The Daily Show’ seat of heat. Let’s say, if there were an election held in Pakistan today-- and not, clearly for your job, because you’re doing a wonderful job, for let’s say the mayoralty of Karachi or ombudsman or something. And we put up two candidates: George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden, be truthful, who would win a popular vote in Pakistan?"

Musharraf: "I think- They’ll, they’ll both lose miserably."

Stewart: "You’re off the seat of heat, sir. Well done."

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org