by Bill Kavanagh: Did anyone out there see Jon Stewart's recent interview with Newt Gingrich? It strikes me that despite leaving office to become a fabulously well-paid speaker on the lecture circuit, Gingrich remains the same sort of petty, personal pit-bull he always was as Speaker of the House. While being gently steered towards a more philosophical discussion by Stewart, Gingrich remained intent on firing off his "radical Obama" talking points, no matter what inconvenient facts might get in the way. If only Obama were so radical, we might be getting out of the stalled, unemployment-laden economy we're in now.
The funny thing was, Gingrich wanted, in this interview, which was preceded by a great parody piece from Ron Oliver at the RNC winter meeting in Hawaii, to change the subject— fast. Oliver had parodied the Republicans for their excesses and their high-priced feasting on the beach while the country is mired in such an economic jam, so Gingrich wanted to talk terror instead. Always a safe distraction from any discussion about economics, he figured, Newt launched into what a "radical" Obama is for having the 9/11 trial here in New York City, instead of summarily executing the defendants like FDR did with German spies during WWII, in violation of the US Constitution.
Stewart defended the terror trial in terms this New Yorker understands well. He wanted to see the defendants tried here to show the Al Qaeda "thugs" that we aren't afraid of them— as well as to display the resilience of our system of jurisprudence. Gingrich was having none of that. Constitutional rights, who needs 'em? Be like FDR, he challenged Obama, invoking a President Gingrich isn't often caught praising. So one of Roosevelt's least proud moments, having slammed through the execution of some German spies before anyone could say "Gesundheit," back in 1942, was his example. He probably thought the internment of Japanese-Americans during the war was a great idea, too. I wish Stewart had asked him.
But the best moment came after the interview.
Stewart had parried Gingrich's support for taking the Christmas underpants bomber out of the criminal justice system by asking why the Bush Administration tried shoe-bomber Richard Reid, who is now serving life without parole, in the same criminal system. Gingrich, never at a loss to explain without waiting a beat, brushed Stewart aside. Reid had been an American citizen, so there was no comparison with the Nigerian underpants guy, just a similarity in their explosive attire accessories. So there.
But even though Stewart had been temporarily bludgeoned into submission by Gingrich's astute legal jab, his producers had not. By the time the show wrapped, Stewart had announced to his audience that Reid was in fact a British national, who had been tried and convicted in the American courts, but imagined that Gingrich would undoubtedly soon find some other totally important reason why his case was different from the current one.
Funny. Yet sad. Our current political scene leaves the unemployed, the homeless, and the underemployed out in the cold, even while the daily back and forth frequently centers on non-issues and non-facts. Let's hope sometime soon we can get back to getting Americans to work again— and to the business of making our country whole and productive.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
(Kavanagh cross-posts at Bill's Big Diamond .)