8.26.2005The Daily Show is something of a defining feature of the college-age generation today, and as such it recieves a lot of undue credit and unwarranted criticism. Last night's episode, however, is a good example of why it deserves its place in contemporary political discourse. The interview of Hitchens was perhaps the best public debate on the Iraq war since we declared victory; for a 5 minute segment, that is saying an awful lot.
You can watch the opening segment and interview at Crooks and Liars.
Here was my analysis from the SA TDS thread:
Hitchens supported his arguments very well, and Stewart had nothing to say in response to Hitchen's justifications for war.
What Stewart did was pick up on Hitchen's off-hand poke at the attitudes of the anti-war crowd, and launched into his standard line against the current political environment and lack of sane political discourse and transparency. Stewart was absolutely right on this point, of course, and his rant at the end was classic, but this is the exact same line he has fed us every day for the past year. We know his stance on the Iraq war, and his opinion of government, and he did nothing to address Hitchen's arguments. He knows his 'reasonable centrist' view holds water, and he knows he'll get a rousing applause, and he went for it to close out the interview.
It was cheap, and he knew that too, so he stopped himself to give Hitchen's a curtesy plug. But seriously, his ending rant basically functioned as a repetition of his standard centrist talking points.
To Stewart's credit, I dont think the irony of this is lost on him, which is why I think the dynamic of the interview was so great- they both knew they disagreed, but respected each other enough to come out and say it, and not mince words or tread lightly. And it was this frankness, I think, that made it such a powerful interview.
Agree with Hitchens or not, the argument in the interview wasn't over the war at all, but between Stewart's naive idealism that thinks an open, responsible, and competent government is necessary (and possible), and Hitchen's jaded realism that realizes that certain actions must be taken, even if it has to be done behind the guise of a distant and unresponsive government.
Also, it should be noted the amount of 'leg time' Hitchens gets. People lamented about the absense of the couch, for its formality and the fact that you can't see the guest in full figure, twitching appendages and all. But changes to camera placement have come back to compensate and add a human touch.