The first regular episode of the latest incarnation of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS featured Comedy Central host Jon Stewart (recently hailed by Moyers as "the Mark Twain of our day") mocking Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for appearing to be a "low-functioning pinhead" and comparing the Bush administration to the mobster characters in the movie Goodfellas. He suggested the White House press corps was a joke, suggesting they're the Washington Generals to Bush's Harlem Globetrotters: "the government is just you know, blowing the doors off the media."
First, the "Daily Show" fake anchor expressed amazement on the Friday night show that Gonzales would be so willing to look foolish and wildly incompetent so that Congress would fail in its attempt to impose oversight:
STEWART: Yeah, it's kind of astonishing. There is I used to have a real disconnect, I think, with the administration, I couldn't figure out what was going on. I think it's suddenly become clear to me. They would rather us believe them to be wildly incompetent and inarticulate than to let us know anything about how they operate. And so, they do Constitutionally-mandated things most of the time, but they don't — they fulfill the letter of their obligation to checks and balances, but not the intent.
For instance, Alberto Gonzales, and you've been watching the hearings. He is either a perjurer, or a low-functioning pinhead. And he allowed himself to be portrayed in those hearings as a low-functioning pinhead, rather than give the Congressional Committee charged with oversight, any information as to his decision-making process at the Department of Justice.
And I used to think, "They're doing this based on a certain arrogance." And now, I realize that it's because they believe there is one accountability moment for a President, and that is the four year election. And once you get that election, you're done.
BILL MOYERS: They're right, are they not?
STEWART: They're completely not right. The election moment is merely the American public saying, "We'd rather you be President than that guy." That's it. The next four years, though, you still have to abide by the oversight process that is there to prevent this kind of bizarre sort of cult-like atmosphere that falls along. I mean, I accept that kind of veil of secrecy around Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, but I don't accept that around our government.
There he is, Stewart the Idealist, trying to make a speech like Goldie Hawn at the end of the movie Protocol. This is one of those moments where Stewart betrayed his interest in putting his weight on the side of everything good and liberal. He likes to hit self-deprecating notes about his knowledge or the size of his audience, but his burning desire to punish Team Bush comes through, which is what makes him such an attractive guest for Moyers. A little later, he turned to the mob-movie references about the White House:
STEWART: And for the President to come out after that and say, "Everything I saw there gave me more confidence in him," that solidified my notion that, Oh, it's because what he expected of Gonzalez was, it's sort of like, do you remember in Goodfellas? When Henry Hill [the Ray Liotta character] got arrested for the first time and Robert DeNiro met him at the courthouse and Henry Hill was really upset, 'cause he thought Robert DeNiro would be really mad at him. And DeNiro comes up to him and he gives him a $100 and he goes, "You got pinched. We all get pinched, but you did it right, you didn't say nothing."
MOYERS: Gonzales said nothing.
STEWART: Right. And "you went up there and said nothing. You gave them no legal recourse against you, and you made yourself a smart man, a self-made man look like an utter pinhead on national television, and you did it for me."
Stewart has been hailed as a comedic genius by many players in the liberal media elite, and yet, he echoed the Moyers talking point that the Washington press corps are a garden full of pansies:
MOYERS: How do you explain that the Washington press corps, by and large, particularly the Sunday shows join the game with them? I mean, you watch those shows
STEWART: They don't all, I mean...
MOYERS: No, not all of them do, but there's a kind of wink-wink questioning going on there. You know, I'll ask the devil's advocate...
STEWART: Well, it's because it's the Harlem Globetrotters playing the Washington Generals. It's they're the only teams playing, and they know they've got to play each other every week, and they all have sort of assumed their role. And, I mean, at this point, the government is just you know, blowing the doors off the media. And not everywhere, and I think, this is where you know, a lot of those blog reporters and all of those things are bringing a lot of urgency and a lot of momentum to stories that wouldn't normally carry any momentum.
Here's a moment where Stewart tried to express his utter lack of self-awareness, and bluster about his modesty, even as Moyers mentally dressed him up in a white suit and tousled Mark Twain hair:
MOYERS: So, has it been within that period of time that you made this you wouldn't recognize it, but we recognize it, transformation from the stand-up comic to a serious social and political critic?
STEWART: I don't consider myself a serious and social political critic.
MOYERS: But I do. And I'm your audience.
STEWART: Yes, and I end up with one of your tote bags. But the important thing is, that I guess I don't spend any time thinking about what I am or what we do means. I spend my time doing it. And, I think that's I-- I'm not trying to be modest of self-deprecating or in any way trying to do that.
But that moment isn't quite as phony as multi-millionaire Bill Moyers, the prince of PBS Home Video profits, making jokes about his low pay at PBS.
MOYERS: Well, you could take me on as a correspondent.
STEWART: We would love to take you on as a correspondent.
MOYERS: Well, who would you...
STEWART: You know, the pay is pretty bad.
MOYERS: Yeah, well, this is PBS.