Tucker Carlson (right-wing CROSSFIRE yeller) and Paul Begala (left-wing) brought Stewart on expecting light-hearted banter about the presidential candidates. What they got was an earnest, if bemused, plea to stop making an unintentional mockery of democracy.
The audio is here (in MP3 format) and there are several sites offering video files (I used this one). The heart of it, I think, is here:
It's interesting. It started out looking like the sort of comedy bit that Stewart often undertakes on his own show. He tends to play a wide-eyed naive role sometimes to point out an issue, but eventually let's on that he's playing a role and pushes the joke to absurdity to underscore the point. In this case, he stayed with it to the point where I was not sure whether he was kidding, or serious. Ultimately, it started to become clear that he was, more than usually, serious. Don't get me wrong, he held on to the role of "jester," but he had a serious message to bring.
STEWART: . . . I made a special effort to come on the show today, because I have privately, amongst my friends and also in occasional newspapers and television shows, mentioned this show as being bad.
BEGALA: We have noticed.
STEWART: And I wanted to -- I felt that that wasn't fair and I should come here and tell you that I don't -- it's not so much that it's bad, as it's hurting America.
CARLSON: But in its defense...
STEWART: So I wanted to come here today and say... Here's just what I wanted to tell you guys.
STEWART: Stop. Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America.
This appearance is discussed in great depth on several big-time blogs (notably on MetaFilter) and some of that discussion is worth a look. I guess what struck me was that here was a guy saying to these clowns just the sort of thing I've wanted to say for a while now.
I have a rare form of "faux-Tourette's" disease that only appears when I'm alone in my car, listening to the news, and something truly asinine comes across the airwaves. It manifests itself in a sharp expletive and a stabbing motion of my right fore-finger towards the "change-station" button. More and more, watching the mainstream television coverage of politics, I feel that same urge, but can't give in to it while in the presence of impressionable young minds (the girls are doing fine, by the way).
This made me feel better. For a while.