John Stewart is one of the only sources of sane political discourse on TV. It's frustrating to see him stumble in the face of a double-speaking Rick Santorum. Brian Lehrer also blew it this week when Santorum was on his show. Both hosts spent way too much time being gracious during the interview and not nearly enough in preparation for interviewing a guy who is a disturbingly well-prepared and reasonable-sounding generator of reactionary disinformation.

Both Stewart and Lehrer have a literary bent, and some of the limitations of this showed in their encounters with Santorum. When an inane conservative essayist is on the Daily Show, Stewart reads the book and tears him to shreds in a hilarious and affable way. Faced with a well-prepared figure with real power, taking the host seriously by appearing on the show, and repeating discourse that a team of people came up with, both interviewers crumble. Stewart similarly crumbled in the face of Colin Powell, for the same reasons.

Despite this one weakness, the show is great. Maybe the success of the Daily Show could signal the beginning of more cultural phenomena where, in the face of the current overwhelming abject inversions and denials of fact from the public sphere, some people turn to truth-telling by using the power of sarcasm for good rather than evil?

No comments: