Bill Moyers talks with comedian Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s THE DAILY SHOW since 1999, about how faking the news can reveal more of the truth than all of the Sunday-morning talk shows put together.
April 27, 2007
Bill Moyers talks with Jon Stewart
I’m Bill Moyers. Welcome. Every week at this time we’ll be holding a kaleidoscope up to the light and turning it to see ideas and events through different perspectives.
I’ve been a journalist since I was 16 years old, with a detour here and there, and it’s just as exciting as ever to catch a gust of news and ride it to some fresh insight and understanding. But events come faster than ever and the news from many more places — YouTube, the web, satellite radio…Ipods. So a weekly journal will reflect a variety of sources.
For example, I start my day with Josh Marshall and end it with Jon Stewart. One’s a journalist, the other says he is just a comic-but I think he’s really kidding:
CLIPS FROM THE DAILY SHOW:
Coming up on the Journal: Jon Stewart of THE DAILY SHOW and Josh Marshall of talkingpointsmemo.com.
Bill Moyers: Thank you for being with me, Jon Stewart.
JON STEWART: My absolute pleasure. Welcome back, very excited to see you back on the television.
Bill Moyers: I’m glad to be here, but you know I’m here only because I applied for a job as correspondent on THE DAILY SHOW and you turned me down.
JON STEWART: We have standards. Anybody with the kind of journalism experience and professionalism that you have displayed over these years can not work for my program.
Bill Moyers: You’ve said many times, "I don’t want to be a journalist, I’m not a journalist."
JON STEWART: And we’re not.
Bill Moyers: But you’re acting like one. You’ve assumed that role. The young people that work with me now, think they get better journalism from you than they do from the Sunday morning talk shows.
JON STEWART: I can assure them they’re not getting any journalism from us. We are, if anything — I do believe we function as a sort of editorial cartoon. That we are a digestive process, like so many other digestive processes that go on. The thing about you know, there’s a lot of young people get this and you know, young people get that from me. People are very sophisticated consumers of information, and they’re pulling all different things.
It’s the same argument people say about the blogs. The blogs are responsible. No, they’re not. The blogs are like anything else. You judge each one based on its own veracity and intelligence and all of that. And if you like, you could cherry pick only the things that you agree with from various things. Or, if you want, you can try and get a broader perspective, or you can find people who are absolutely out of their minds, or find people that are doing incredibly complex and interesting and urgent journalism. And the same goes for our show. It’s a prism into people’s own ideologies, when they watch our program. This is just our take.
Bill Moyers: But it isn’t just you, sometimes you’ll start a riff, you’ll start down the path of a joke, and it’s about Bush or about Cheney, and the audience will get it. Your live audience will get it, they’ll start applauding even before they know the punch line. And I’m thinking, "Okay, they get it. That’s half the country." What about the other half of the country, are they paying attention? They don’t care they don’t they would they wouldn’t listen to the joke, if they did, they wouldn’t get it?
JON STEWART: Well, I do you think that sense of humor goes as far as our ideology. I think that ultimately, we have we have very interesting reactions on our show. People are constantly saying, "I love your–your show is so funny, until you made a joke about global warming, which is a serious issue, and I can’t believe you did that. And I am never watching your show again." You know, people don’t understand that we’re not warriors in their cause. We’re a group of people that really feel that they want to write jokes about the absurdity that we see in government and the world and all that, and that’s it.
CLIP: THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART
JON STEWART: Bush had come mainly to discuss the war spending bill, recently passed by the Democratic Congress which gives the president all the funding he desires for the troop surge, but ties the funding to a definite date for withdrawal of the troops. And you won’t believe what the president thinks of that idea.
GEORGE W. BUSH: …pushing legislation that would undercut our troops just as we’re beginning to make progress in Baghdad.
JON STEWART: Oooh. We’re just beginning to make it ohh they just pulled the rug to d’oh, it’s just happening now! You know, I seem to remember, we’ve been making progress for quite some time now.
GEORGE W. BUSH: That’s progress. And it’s important progress, and it’s an important part of our strategy to win in Iraq.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Iraq has made incredible political progress.
GEORGE W. BUSH: The Iraqis are making inspiring progress.
GEORGE W. BUSH: Iraq is making incredible political progress.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I believe we’re making really good progress in Iraq.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We’re making progress.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We’re making steady progress.
GEORGE W. BUSH: We’re making progress. It’s slowly but surely making progress.
GEORGE W. BUSH: In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.
JON STEWART: Wait a minute! Wait a minute! I figured this out. I know what’s wrong with what we’ve done in Iraq. We’ve been following time as it goes forward. What a classic mistake. Linear time is so pre-9-11.
END CLIP: THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART
JON 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?
JON 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.
Bill Moyers: Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of words were written about Gonzales’ testimony last week in Congress. And I still don’t think a lot of people get it. And all of the sudden, there on THE DAILY SHOW that evening, you distilled the essence of it.
CLIP: THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART
JON STEWART: So there it was today, the big fight. Gonzalez v Senate. Are you ready to bumble!
SENATOR: Who’s idea was this?
ALBERTO GONZALEZ: Senator, I don’t recall specifically
ALBERTO GONZALEZ: I don’t recall the-the contents.
ALBERTO GONZALEZ: Senator, I have no recollection.
ALBERTO GONZALEZ: I-I don’t have any recollection.
ALBERTO GONZALEZ: I have searched my memory.
ALBERTO GONZALEZ: I don’t recall remembering…
ALBERTO GONZALEZ: Senator, I can only testify as to what I recall.
ALBERTO GONZALEZ: Senator, I don’t recall…
ALBERTO GONZALEZ: I don’t recall…
ALBERTO GONZALEZ: I firmly believe that nothing improper occurred.
JON STEWART: After weeks of mock testimony, there you have it, Alberto Gonzales does not know what happened, but he assures you what he doesn’t remember was handled properly.
END CLIP: THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART
JON STEWART: And by the way, that was all just — that was a game, and he knew it, and the guys on the committee knew it. 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 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."
Bill Moyers: Gonzales said nothing.
JON 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."
Bill 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
JON STEWART: They don’t all, I mean…
Bill 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…
JON 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.
You know, we watched the McCain interview you did this week. Something was going on in that interview that I have not seen in any other interview you’ve done with a political figure. What was going on in your head?
JON STEWART: In my head?
Bill Moyers: Yeah.
JON STEWART: Are his arms long enough to connect with me if he comes across the table?
CLIP: THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART
JON STEWART: The American people, or at least the ones that I get on the subway with — they know there’s a real threat out there. They felt like Iraq lessened our ability to fight that threat. So when they say that-that’s when I — when they say the talking point is "they’ll follow us home," they’re trying to follow us home anyway, whether we’re in Iraq or not.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I know that, look. Bill Russell, a famous philosopher from Boston Celtics once "When things go bad, things go bad." The war was terribly mismanaged-it was terribly mismanaged.
JON STEWART: But then why not be honest about that? Why attack the people who question.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: : We are where we are now. We are where we are now. The question is: can we give this strategy a chance? I’m emphasizing a chance to succeed with a great general, and I think-
JON STEWART: Why should we? Why?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Because the architects of failure are ignoring this.
JON STEWART: If the architects that built the house without any doors or windows don’t admit that that’s the house they built and continue to say: "No, it’s your fault for not being able to see into it," then I don’t understand how we’re supposed to move forward.
END CLIP: THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART
JON STEWART: I don’t particularly enjoy those types of interviews, because I have a great respect for Senator McCain, and I hate the idea that our conversation became just two people sort of talking over each other, at one point.
But I, also, in my head, thought, I would love to do an interview where it’s just sort of de-constructed — the talking points of Iraq — sort of the idea of, is this really the conversation we’re having about this war? That if we don’t defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq, they’ll follow us home? That to support the troops means not to question that the surge could work. That, what we’re really seeing in Iraq is not a terrible war, but in fact, just the media’s portrayal of it. So, I wanted to just go through– like, is this really the conversation that we’re going other be having about something as significant as this war?
CUT TO CLIP: THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART
JON STEWART: They say that if asking for a timetable or criticizing the president is not supporting the troops. Explain to me why that is supporting the troops less than extending their tours of duty from 12 months to 15 months, putting them at stop-loss, and not having Walter Reed be up to snuff. How is it? How can the president justify that? How can he have the balls to justify that?
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: All I can say is that if you talk to these young men and women who are fighting, they’ll tell you that they think it’s a worthwhile cause, and they’re fighting for freedom, and they-well, they-all I’m saying-the overwhelming majority of them do. I hear from them all the time.
JON STEWART: The majority of the guys that I talk say "The political scene is not my scene; I’m a soldier."
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I talk to them all the time, my friend, and I hear from them all the time. They know. I know what war’s like. I know what scene’s like. And I’m telling you that they believe that they’re fighting for somebody else’s freedom. And the majority of them believe that.
JON STEWART: I don’t think that…
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: Now you’re entitled to your views. But the view of the majority of them is that feel they’re doing the right thing and their parents who have also made sacrifices, generally speaking, and their proud of the services of their sons and daughters.
JON STEWART: No one’s saying that they shouldn’t be proud of their service
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: and I’m proud of them too.
JON STEWART: Very unfair way to deal with this issue. It certainly is. It certainly is. What’s less supportive of them is — Settle down for a second.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: No, you settle down — that they’re fighting in a war that they lost. That’s not fair to them.
JON STEWART: What I believe is less supportive to the good people who believe they’re fighting a great cause is to not give them a strategy, that makes their success possible-
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: We now have a strategy.
JON STEWART: Adding 10,000 people to Baghdad? Add 350,000, then we might have a shot.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: I don’t know that that strategy will succeed, but we do have a new strategy. That’s a fact.
JON STEWART: All I’m saying is you cannot look a soldier in the eye and say "Questioning the president is less supportive to you than extending your tour three months." You should be coming home to your family.
END CLIP: THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART:
Bill Moyers: I saw McCain shrivel. I mean, he’s been on your show…
JON STEWART: He didn’t believe me. I think anybody who’s been in a POW camp for five years can– take eight minutes on THE DAILY SHOW.
Bill Moyers: But something happened. You saw it happen to him. What you saw was evasive action. It wasn’t shriveling, it was merely
Bill Moyers: But he dropped his head, and you could you could
JON STEWART: Actually, he– began to he stopped connecting and just looked at my chest and decided, "I’m just gonna continue to talk about honor and duty and the families should be proud," all the things that are cudgels emotionally to keep us from the conversation. But, things that weren’t relevant to what we were talking about.
Bill Moyers: So many people seem to want just what you did, somebody to cut through the talking points, and get our politicians to talk candidly and frankly. And I know you…
JON STEWART: Not that many people. You’ve seen our ratings. Some people want it. A couple of people download it from iTunes.
Bill Moyers: But it was this time, this moment, this week that you decided that, what it
JON STEWART: That’s right.
Bill Moyers: Coming back to him.
JON STEWART: Well, it’s also at the fore now, because the Senate and the House are working on timetables, which by the way, who knows if that’s an issue, either. It’s but it’s again, the conversation that the Senate and the House are having with the President was very similar to the conversation that McCain and I were having, which was two people talking over each other and nobody really addressing the underlying issues of what kind of country do we want to be, moving forward in this? And it’s not about being a pacifist or– suggesting that you can never have a military solution to things. It’s just that, it appears that this is not the smart way to fight this threat.
Bill Moyers: Your persistence and his inability to answer without the talking points did get to the truth, that there’s a contradiction to what’s going on in Vietnam in there’s a contradiction. Yeah, exactly, that there’s a contradiction to what’s going on in that war, that they can’t talk about.
JON STEWART: That’s right. There is a there is an enormous contradiction, and it is readily apparent, if you just walk through simple sort of logic, and simple rational points. But the thing that they don’t realize is that everyone wants them to come from beyond that contradiction so that we can all fix it. Nobody is saying, "We don’t have a problem." Nobody is saying that, "9/11 didn’t happen." What they’re saying is, "We’re not a fragile country, trust us to have this conversation, so that we can do this in the right way, in a more effective way."
Bill Moyers: Why aren’t we having that conversation? Well, that’s a very good point, Why is the country not having this conversation, the kind of conversation that requires the politicians who are responsible for the war to be specific to the concerns of the American people. I mean, they do come out and a kind of gauze goes up.
JON STEWART: Because I don’t think politics is any longer about a conversation with the country. It’s about figuring out how to get to do what you want. The best way to sell the product that you want to put out there, but not necessarily for the products on you know, it– it’s sort of like, when a dishwashing soap you know, they want to make a big splash, so they decide to have more lemon, as though people are gonna be like, "That has been the problem with my dishes! Not enough lemon scent!"
Bill Moyers: Well, what is your thinking about why it is as– the war enters its fifth year, and the President has announced – an extension of tours to 15 months, and they’re going to call up the National Guard. And April was the bloodiest month so far since the war started, and there was one day in April that was the bloodiest day. That people have seen they have no way to get the guys in Washington, and Condoleezza Rice, to listen to them. That there seems a detachment emotionally, and politically in this country from what is happening.
JON STEWART: It’s very hard to feel the difficulties that the military goes through. It’s very hard to feel the difficulties of military families, unless you’re in that environment. And sometimes you have to force yourself to try and put yourself in other people’s sort of shoes and environment to get the sense of that.
JON STEWART: You know, one of the things that I do think government counts on is that people are busy. And it’s very difficult to mobilize a busy and relatively affluent country, unless it’s over really crucial– you know, foundational issues. That come sort of sort of a tipping point.
Bill Moyers: War? War?
JON STEWART: But war that hasn’t affected us here, in the way that you would imagine a five-year war would affect a country. I think that’s why they’re so really — here’s the disconnect. It’s sort of this odd and I’ve always had this problem with the rationality of it. That the President says, "We are in the fight for a way of life. This is the greatest battle of our generation, and of the generations to come. "And, so what I’m going to do is you know, Iraq has to be won, or our way of life ends, and our children and our children’s children all suffer. So, what I’m gonna do is send 10,000 more troops to Baghdad."
So, there’s a disconnect there between — you’re telling me this is fight of our generation, and you’re going to increase troops by 10 percent. And that’s gonna do it. I’m sure what he would like to do is send 400,000 more troops there, but he can’t, because he doesn’t have them. And the way to get that would be to institute a draft. And the minute you do that, suddenly the country’s not so damn busy anymore. And then they really fight back, and then the whole thing falls apart. So, they have a really delicate balance to walk between keeping us relatively fearful, but not so fearful that we stop what we’re doing and really examine how it is that they’ve been waging this.
Bill Moyers: But I still need to know why McCain, this week why — you’re exactly right. But why is he the person from who
JON STEWART: Oh, he’s the only person I can get a hold of. You mean, is that why did I?
Bill Moyers: Yeah, yeah.
JON STEWART: OH yeah, no one else will talk to me.
Bill Moyers: But you were thinking of these before you got McCain, I mean, you’ve been ,,
JON STEWART: Sure, yes, this happened with McCain, ’cause he was unfortunately enough to walk into the studio you know. It’s– the frustration of our show is- very much outside any parameters of the media or the government. We don’t have access to these people, we don’t have access. We don’t go to dinners we don’t have cocktail parties. We don’t you know, you’ve seen what happens when one of us ends up at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, it doesn’t end well. You know, so he was the unlucky recipient of pent-up frustration.
Bill Moyers: You know, the media’s been playing this big. CNN, USA TODAY
JON STEWART: Well, they’ve got 24 hours to fill. You know, how many times can Anna Nicole Smith’s baby get a new father?
Bill Moyers: But what does it say about the press that, that interview you did became news. And, in a way, reflected on the failure of the quote, "professional" journalist to ask those kind of questions?
JON STEWART: I don’t know if it really reflects on the failure of them to ask. I think, first of all, for some reason, everything – that we do or Stephen does– Stephen Colbert is also then turned into news. I think it’s just about the machine is about reporting the news, and then reporting the news about the news, and then having those moments where they sit around and go, "Are we reporting the news correctly? I think we are." And then they go back to the and the cycle just sort of continues. I don’t know that if there was anything particularly astonishing about the conversation, in that regard.
JON STEWART: You know it was did you see the interview that Wolf Blitzer did with Dick Cheney a while back?
CUT TO CLIP: THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART
WOLF BLITZER: Joining us now the Vice President of the United States, Dick Cheney.
JON STEWART: (On-camera, singing Kumbaya, imitating Cheney). Now, now now. It’s not fair to judge. Perhaps this indicates does signal a new era of openness, glasnost if you will, with this administration and the American people.
WOLF BLITZER: Is Bin Laden still alive?…What if the Senate passes a resolution passes saying it’s not a good idea? …Have you contributed to his legal defense fund?…Do you trust Nouri al-Maliki?…Do you want him to arrest Muqtada al-Sadr?
JON STEWART: Oooh. Blitzer! Finally earning that white beard. Solid questions, Wolf. Mr. Vice President?
DICK CHENEY: I’m not gonna discuss it…You can ask that question all day long…You’ve got my answer…I don’t wanna be that precise…Now, no administration in their right mind is gonna answer the question you just asked.
JON STEWART: We know no administration in their right mind would answer it – we’re asking YOU!
END CLIP: THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART
Bill Moyers: Have you lost your innocence?
JON STEWART: What? Well, it was in 1981, it was at a frat party. Oh, I’m sorry. You know, I think this is gonna sound incredibly pat, but I think you lose your innocence when you have kids, because the world suddenly becomes a much more dangerous place. And you become much more — there are two things that happen. You recognize how fragile individuals are, and you recognize the strength of the general overall group, but you don’t care anymore. You’re just fighting for the one thing. See and then, you also recognize that everybody, then, is also somebody’s child. It’s I’m yeah, I mean it’s– tumultuous.
Bill Moyers: So, your children are how old?
JON STEWART: Two and a half and fourteen months.
Bill 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?
JON STEWART: I don’t consider myself a serious and social political critic.
Bill Moyers: But I do. And I’m your audience.
JON 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.
Bill Moyers: Maybe you don’t know why…
JON STEWART: I’m just trying to tell you– I focus on the task and try and do it as best we can. And we’re constantly evolving it, because it’s my way of trying to make sense of all these ambivalent feelings I have.
Bill Moyers: I watched the interview you did the other night with the former Iraqi official, Ali Allawi. And I was struck that you were doing this soon after the massacre at Virginia Tech. It wasn’t your usually DAILY SHOW banter.
CLIP: THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART
JON STEWART: On a more personal note …I don’t even know if it’s appropriate to broach it … but we in this country we have a very tragic situation occur at one of our universities and, it really has taken the country aback and there’s a real grieving process that we’re going through, And going through it mourning and learning about the victims and-learning about it and showing our support, you know, I hesitate to say, how does your country handle what is that type of carnage on a daily basis? Is there a way to grieve? Is there a numbness that sets in? How is that?
ALI ALLAWI: Well, I think the scale of violence in Iraq is really inconceivable in your terms…
JON STEWART: Right.
ALI ALLAWI: We have, on a daily basis, what you had the other day in Virginia Tech. I mean massacres of that scale. Practically on a daily basis and it’s very hard to grieve. Most of the-most of the way that people do treat this is just to leave the country. We now have a very large external refugee problem. Nearly two million Iraqis have left the country and internal refugee problem also, too many people displaced.
But the scale of violence and its continuity is such that it really numbs you. And in my case for example I had 6 people whom I had appointed at various positions in the government killed, including my office manager. We had this suicide bomber walk in to my contingent of guards. It’s quite a-quite a serious psychological problem that’s going to be one of the legacies of this terrible crisis.
JON STEWART: Yes, and I truly, I cannot fathom it and I just recall, you know, there’s been so much information and I was becoming wrapped up in our grief and then I saw the headline today of literally 150 people killed and–it just sends an awful dagger to your heart … like I can’t imagine how they deal with it.
END CLIP: THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART
Bill Moyers: I mean, it I said, "Something’s going on with Stewart there." What was it?
JON STEWART: Well, first of all, there’s you know, the process that we that was put the show together is always going to be affected by the you know, the climate that we live in. And there was a pall cast over the country. But also you know, you’re fighting your own sadness during the day. Having nothing to do with that, we felt — we feel no obligation to follow the news cycle. In other words, I felt no obligation to cover this story in anyway, because we’re not like I said, we’re not journalists. And at that point, there’s nothing sort of funny or absurd or to say about it.
But, there is a sadness that you can’t escape, just within yourself. And I’m also interviewing a guy who’s just written a book about his experience living in Iraq, faced with the type of violence that we’re talking about on a you know, as he said, an unimaginable scale. And I think that the combination of that is very hard to shake.
And I know that my job is to shake it, and to perform, that’s why it’s performing and not you know, it wouldn’t be a very interesting show if I just came out one day and said, "I’m going to sit here in a ball and rock back and forth. And won’t you join me for a half hour of sadness." You know, they I– have to I have to
Bill Moyers: People come expecting more. People come expect..but that wasn’t performance, when you were wrestling with the sadness you were feeling with him.
JON STEWART: With him. Well, it– I thought it was relevant to the conversation I was having with him. Which was a the reason that it– sort of occurred to me was you know, I was I was obviously following the Internet headlines all day. And there was you know, this enormous amount of space and coverage to Virginia Tech, as there should have been. And I happened to catch, sort of a headline lower down, which was 200 people killed in four bomb attacks in Iraq. And I think my focus on what was happening here versus sort of this peripheral vision thing that caught my eye about, "Oh, right, there are lives–" I think it was a moment of– I felt guilty.
Bill Moyers: Guilty?
JON STEWART: For not having the empathy for their suffering on a daily basis that I feel sometimes that I should.
Bill Moyers: Do you ever think that perhaps what I do in reporting documentaries about reality and what you do in poking some fun and putting some humor around a around the horrors of the world, feed into the sense of helplessness of people.
JON STEWART: No. I mean, again, I don’t know, because I don’t know how people feel. And you know, that’s the beauty of TV, is they can see us, but we can’t see them. I think that, if we do anything in a positive sense for the world, is provide one little bit of context, that’s very specifically focused, and hopefully people can add to their entire puzzle that gives them a larger picture of what it is that they see.
But, I don’t think, if anything, I don’t think it’s a feeling of hopelessness that people feel. I think if they feel — if they’re feeling what we’re feeling, it’s that this is how we fight back. I can only fight back in a way that I feel like I’m talented. And I feel like the only thing that I can do, and I’ve been fired from enough jobs, that I’m pretty confident in saying this, the only thing that I can do, even a little bit better than most people, is create that sort of that context with humor. And that’s my way of not being helpless and not being hopeless.
Bill Moyers: Is Washington a better source for jokes now that the Democrats are in the majority?
JON STEWART: It’s more fun for us, because we’re tired of the same deconstructed game.
Bill Moyers: Yeah, I saw that piece you did the other day on the Democrats debating how to lose the war.
JON STEWART: Right, exactly. This has been six years you know, we’re worn down. And I look forward to a new game to play, and something new. I mean, the only joy I’ve had in that time is having Stephen’s show come on the air and sort of give us a different perspective. And you know, because it’s made of kind of the same genetic material as our show, it feels like it’s also freshened up our perspective and kind of completed our thought. But…
Bill Moyers: Well, you could take me on as a correspondent.
JON STEWART: We would love to take you on as a correspondent.
Bill Moyers: Well, who would you
JON STEWART: You know, the pay is pretty bad.
Bill Moyers: Yeah, well, this is PBS. Well what would my assignment be? Where would you want me to be, your senior elderly correspondent? Or your senior
JON STEWART: I would like you to just sit in my office, and when I walk in, just lower your head and go. That was ugly.
Bill Moyers: I do that when I’m watching. Thank you very much.
JON STEWART: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.