Wearing an American flag shirt and playing patriotic songs, Jon Stewart sounded like a voice of reason at his “Restore Sanity” rally. Pointing at the U.S. Capitol, he thundered that the politicians, as well as liberal and conservative voices on cable TV, were polarizing the country and driving us into conflict and controversy. But in the end, he couldn’t shake his television persona. The “serious” side of Jon Stewart was a bust.
It was difficult for Stewart to accuse others of dividing the nation when his recent TV guest, President Obama, had called on Latinos to defeat his “political enemies.” Stewart said, “We can have animus and not be enemies,” oblivious to the reckless political verbiage that the President had used. Obama had engaged in what the liberals used to call “Nixonian” tactics, identifying “enemies” and seeking their political destruction.
“Glenn Beck—Go FOX Yourself” was visible on one of the posters being held upfront in the crowd and scanned by the Comedy Central television cameras.
In Stewart’s mind, the problem is not Obama; it’s his political opposition, including on cable TV. While a series of funny TV excerpts did show some MSNBC personalities making wild accusations, the thrust of his remarks was that things are not as bad as Obama’s critics say they are.
“We live in hard times, not end times,” Stewart said, as if he understands the gravity of the situation and others don’t. This remark, clearly directed at religious people who believe America is at a crossroads and that God’s help is required to save the country from a combination of secular and spiritual forces, demonstrated Stewart’s commitment to politics as usual. It was as if he were saying, “Give Obama a chance. Just give the President and the Democrats two more years.”
That was the clear sentiment of many in the audience.
Playing to this mostly liberal audience, Stewart attacked those claiming that “Marxists [are] actively subverting our constitution,” as if Marxism is too harsh a term to use to describe a President tutored by a member of the Communist Party USA who has pursued socialist-style policies during his two years in office.
In Stewart’s world, the fault lies with the President’s critics.
Apparently in serious mode, Stewart tried to explain why America will somehow muddle through any problems which confront us. Oddly, he played footage of a traffic jam, using that as an illustration of how people with different ideologies and political affiliations drive their cars and avoid crashing into one another in order to get to a common destination. This was America in action, he implied, as if he were making a profound observation that will go down in history.
His criticism of the press, delivered in those final 10 minutes of “enlightened” commentary from the stage at the end of a series of gags and songs, fell flat. He attacked cable TV when he is in fact a cable TV star. Other talking heads specialize in political commentaries while Stewart makes a good living by ridiculing them for doing so. He feeds off the beast that he attacks. Why is he not a part of the problem that he exploits?
For a while, however, Stewart had wanted people to believe that he could rise above it all, as if he were the statesman and all of the other talking heads which he showed in funny TV clips on a big screen were buffoons who rile up people for ratings and profits. He wanted us to believe that he had a rational response to the seemingly irrational.
Coming just before a stunning rendition of “America the Beautiful” from Tony Bennett, Stewart presented himself as a beacon of hope, as somebody who could lead America out of the wilderness. It was a clever performance but a performance nevertheless. Stewart himself read from a large teleprompter and noted things going wrong on stage in spite of rehearsals.
While portrayed in much of the liberal media as a public service, the rally was a corporate publicity stunt, designed to increase his own ratings, as well as those of his sidekick, Stephen Colbert, who not only has his own Comedy Central show but coordinated his “Keep Fear Alive” rally with Stewart’s.
But there was clearly another purpose as well, one that Obama recognized by going on Stewart’s TV show recently to plead his case and ask for more time.
It was obviously an effort by liberals and “progressives” to do something—anything—to counter the conservative revival in the country, as reflected in such events as Glenn Beck’s massive 8/28 rally in Washington, D.C. Of course, this helps explain why there was so much more media interest in the Stewart rally than the Beck rally. The Stewart rally was a political agenda sold and advertised as a joke. The liberal media got the joke and sympathized with the agenda.
This was a last-ditch effort just before the election to rally the base for Obama, without saying so in explicit terms. Even Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, a close friend of Obama, had endorsed the event, perceiving that it was in fact a counter to the Beck and Tea Party rallies that had truly rocked Washington, D.C. with their astounding numbers of participants.
For Ayers, who still believes in “the struggle” and thinks that the left has to move Obama even further to the left, the Stewart rally was an important organizing tool.
The “progressives” had tried on October 2 to rally the base in the “One Nation Working Together” rally. But honest liberals admitted the turnout was paltry and the crowd was pumped up with literally dozens of Marxist groups anxious to grab new recruits and pass out their noxious propaganda.
Stewart had his conservative moments, such as defending Fox News analyst Juan Williams against the charges that got him fired from National Public Radio, supposedly for anti-Muslim comments. He also implicitly attacked CNN, saying that Rick Sanchez, recently fired for making disparaging remarks about Jews, should not have been labeled a racist.
On the other hand, Stewart greatly overdid his depictions of Muslims as victims, making the elementary point in dramatic terms that there is a difference between Muslims in general and those who wage the terrorist attacks against us. The American people know this, and Stewart knows they know it.
Introduced as Joseph and Yusuf, the performer once known as Cat Stevens before he converted to Islam greeted the crowd with the cry of “peace” and sang part of his famous song “Peace Train” before being interrupted by Ozzy Osbourne trying to sing something out of his distant past. The entrance of the has-been singer turned reality-show actor was clearly orchestrated and intended to be funny but was a terrible sour note in the day’s events.
Unfair treatment of Muslims was a big theme of the Stewart rally.
Several comments were implicitly directed at Bill O’Reilly of Fox News for stating on ABC’s “The View” that Muslims had attacked the U.S. on 9/11, when he obviously meant to say that Muslim extremists had done so. To drive his point home, during a fake debate with Stephen Colbert, Stewart introduced former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a Muslim (“Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is Muslim.”) who didn’t scare anybody except for other basketball players.
“We’re all on the same team,” Abdul-Jabbar proclaimed.
It was this effort to minimize the Muslim threat that was offensive, coming as it did just hours after explosive packages had been mailed to Jewish synagogues in the U.S. and intercepted before they could injure, kill, and destroy.
In his arrogance and condescension, Stewart cannot fathom that Americans understand that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is not scary. But we also know that Muslims are behind most of the terrorism targeting America, and that Muslim countries are facilitating these attacks. Except for one brief and esoteric comment to the effect that there are things that we have reason to fear in life, Stewart pretended that the threat didn’t exist. He failed to deliver the sanity he promised.
As far as Colbert was concerned—despite the facetious title of his own rally—the fact is that fear is sometimes justified, especially when the nation is under attack from within and without. It is this fear that is driving action in America today, as tens of millions of Americans work to avoid the destruction of the American dream and the American way of life. The only thing Stewart said in their defense was that they were not all racists.
Whether Stewart has the last laugh will be determined on election day.