Tuesday, August 24, 2004

You're sittin' up there like a fool's convention

Kerry's been avoiding national media coverage for a few weeks now, since the Swift Vets debate really blew up. So what show does his campaign choose for a clearing-the-air interview? One likely to give him credibility in answering the tough and decidedly legitimate questions that have arisen in the past month, one might assume? Of course not. That would actually show some courage and character. He's getting some sloppy wet kisses blown at him on tonight's edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show. Imagine the derision that would have resulted if after, say, the service records-AWOL accusations hype, Bush had decided to grant an interview to (and only to) Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly - stalwart partisans of the party base. It would be rightly dismissed as desperation on the president's part, seeking out softball questions to avoid talking about the issue. Yet the WaPo seems to think that Kerry's forthcoming dalliance with Jon Stewart is some sort of masterstroke. I occasionally watch The Daily Show. It can be funny when not obsessing over just how eeeeevil are those damn Republicans, anyway jokes, I know; the week of the DNC, forced by current events to ignore "Mess-o'-Potamia" riffs and the like, was the most consistently hilarious I can remember. When mocking Democrats, they take the route that used to be extended to George H.W. Bush - gently mocking mannerisms and foibles. The vicious attacks on the current President Bush from Stewart and other comedians are another beast entirely. What bothers me most is that, as the WaPo article above notes, significant numbers of the younger demographic actually get their news exclusively from The Daily Show. After most of Stewart's attacks on Bush and other Republicans, I can usually rebut the argument (such as humourous monologues are) with actual facts; something fairly substantial is usually ignored for the sake of a snappier punchline. But what of those who don't know the full context, that assume that because Jon Stewart's lines are funny, they must be true? Without following the broader media at large, I can see how it'd be very easy to take a seriously skewed view of the world. This is a show whose audience applauds loudly for Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore and Howard Dean alike. It doesn't even pretend, as most of the media does, to be objective. And that's why it's not going to help Kerry. No matter what questions Stewart asks, I highly doubt the answers will rectify the many inconsistencies in his Vietnam narratives, nor demonstrate any particular strength of character, nor answer the question of just why in the name of everything good and holy his campaign thought running entirely on a four-month naval service record was a good idea. This is playing to the base - those who already think it self-evident that John F. Kerry and a handful of others were the only decent men to serve in Vietnam, and that all other vets must be Republican conspirators. Playing to the base at a time like now just seems weak and desperate. If Kerry thought he had good answers for the serious questions his critics raise, he'd be appearing on 20/20, Dateline or 60 Minutes, not a show essentially a parody of all the others. But that's somewhat apropos for the self-parodizing candidate, isn't it?


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