Saturday, January 16, 2010

Stewart, Misguided

Sometime last year on CNN's Reliable Sources, Tucker Carlson told (video below, starting approximately 2:22) host Howie Kurtz

I think Jon Stewart is dishonest. I also think he's a sacred cow. There's nobody who has the huevos to attack Jon Stewart because he's too popular. The press sucks up to him...

Stewart may or may not be dishonest, but in the months which have followed, still no one has attacked Jon Stewart any more than, say, someone inside the Beltway will say that homosexual behavior is deviant or there is no constitutional right to bear arms.

But "Heather" at Crooks and Liars has, albeitly gently, boldly stepped up and criticized Stewart. She notes

Rachel Maddow responds to Jon Stewart's criticism of her reporting this week on USAID and has no apologies for Stewart.

Maddow: I know that's politics, but listen, I love me some Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. I'm a big fan. But no apologies for reporting which agency is the lead in our national effort to respond to Haiti, whether or not that agency is well resourced, whether it has been subject to partisan attacks, how much the current administration values and prioritizes and indeed brags on that agency. We all as Americans are counting on our government to do a good job in responding to this catastrophe. This is what it looks like to report on our government's capacity to do just that.

When President Obama gave USAID the lead role in coordinating this response to the disaster in Haiti he handed that agency its biggest humanitarian mission in years. Six days before the earthquake in Haiti Sec. of State Hillary Clinton had just given a major speech about how the Obama administration was going to elevate USAID to a primary position in the government.

[…]

Six days later the earthquake in Haiti and USAID gets put in charge of America’s response to it. They report that as of today USAID is fifty five million dollars into that response. They’re the ones coordinating America’s search and rescue efforts, water and emergency food aid, the way that supplies get into the country, shelter and sanitation and hygiene. At this point the road to being the world’s premier development agency runs through Haiti and we’ll keep reporting it.

Here's the Daily Show segment Rachel was responding to. I think Stewart is comparing apples to oranges to put Maddow anywhere near the same category as Limbaugh and Robertson. He completely misses the mark on this one. This is from the Jan. 14th edition of The Daily Show.


You'll notice that after playing the clip (video way below) of Maddow, Stewart remarks

Not the right time! Congratulations, MSNBC viewers, you are on the right side of this terrible, terrible,tragedy.

It's a curious response from this media/journalistic/entertainment icon toward the effective use of "soft power." Maddow was not expressing a hard ideological position but merely adding context to the approach of the United States government. She did not do it sarcastically, maliciously, or in a narcissistic manner, but carefully, rationally, and moderately. It was less an opinion piece than analysis, as was evident when she explained

That was Hillary Clinton speaking just last week. Today, USAID in charge of our country‘s massive recovery and relief effort in Haiti.

Not only is this us doing what we think is our obligation as a responsible partner in the community of nations, but in blunt terms, it often has good consequences for our country in terms of American power, our prestige, goodwill around the world.

This is the kind of thing that transcends politics. It is a way for us to directly help the citizens of another country, often in difficult parts of the world, and the interaction is not mediated by politics or by their government, really.

I don‘t think we do it so that we will be better liked in the world, but that, fortunately, is often a side effect.


President Obama's response is not motivated totally, and probably not primarily, by the impact his government's actions toward the tragedy in Haiti will have upon our standing in the world. But it necessarily is a factor and for Obama (as he no doubt is aware) to neglect consideration of the "consequences for our country" would be thoroughly irresponsible.

The responsibility for conducting a "war on terror" (or more accurately, struggle against terrorism) was thrust upon this nation before the attacks of 9/11/01. President G.W. Bush's decision to invade Iraq under false pretenses, as well as the perception of hostility toward Islam, has made the U.S. the target of hostility in much of the Muslim world. That is not a good thing. Obviously, President Obama, in his speech in Cairo and otherwise, is determined to turn that around. If our generous national response in Haiti saves lives and allows us to "be better liked in the world," all the better. Rachel Maddow understands that. Whether Jon Stewart does is now an open question.





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1 comment:

Dan said...

at least half of rachel maddow's show revolves around criticizing other people's statements and reporting, but how dare anyone go after her, for she is always right!

I saw the Stewart segment and to be fair, I was puzzled as to why he included the part about Maddow. I figure he wanted to show people on all sides were trying to go beyond the disaster and find something more to talk about that fit their own agenda. I think she had a decent point and it wasn't in the same category as the others, but it still was a good addition to round out stewart's segment

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