This is just fantastic, and shows Stewart for the insightful journalist he is, even as he claims not to be. I’ve tried to select a few hi-lites below, but the whole interview is great.
[quote]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.
[i]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.[/i]
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.
[i]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.
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.
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 Iraq. 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.