Thursday, May 18, 2006


Jon Stewart v. Ramesh Ponnuru.

The National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru has a new book out call, subtly, The Party of Death. The very serious Ponnuru is not being ironic, and the broadside is so bizarrely over-the-top that lefties have mostly ignored it. Jon Stewart decided to invite Ponnuru onto his show and Ponnuru, shockingly, accepted. What resulted should immediately be sent out to every Democratic candidate running for office this year. I'll include some excerpts below. They're a bit long, but perhaps worth it. You can watch the clip here.
STEWART: The thing that always struck me is that this is a conversation that clearly America should have openly, but doesn't. And in many respects--and I know you care very deeply about your issue--but it seems like rhetoric such as ... The Party of Death ... puts people on, I guess what I would call, the defensive.

PONNURU: I have noticed that from time to time. But look, I do think that, um, you know the (stammering), I can't really present the argument against things like abortion if I'm pretending it doesn't have something to do with death, you know. I mean, that's just part of the argument.

STEWART: Could you agree that there's maybe sanctimony on both sides?

PONNURU: Oh, absolutely. No question.

Stewart: Now ... what is the sanctimony on ... your side.
Ponnuru actually gave a reasonable answer to this--that pro-lifers play the God card--but the remarkable thing is that here he was, the author of The Party of Death, and he was arguing against his own point. Now, in that vein, watch how Stewart lulls Ponnuru into another booby trap:
STEWART: The book feels like it doesn't give credence to the idea that this is a really difficult decision that people make and that there is no real clear-cut--your thing is just flat-out clear-cut: you are a human being from the moment of conception and anything that happens from there, and from there on is immoral if it is not to the protection of that life.

PONNURU: Well, I mean there are a lot of not-quite-so-clear-cut issues that I take up in this book. Like end-of-life care issues and some of the stem cell issues as well.

STEWART: But even on those issues, it seems like it's, you're very clear-cut about, "these are all lives and the Democrats and the media disregard that."

PONNURU: And the courts, don't forget the courts.

STEWART: And the courts. And I think a lot of people would be sympathetic to these arguments if you (shrugging) ... you know what I mean?

PONNURU: Well ...

STEWART: Well, let me put it to you this way, and I apologize. The President said--let's talk about stem cells, since you don't want to talk about abortion--the President said, "I do not condone the taking of innocent life to save life. And I assume that's your position on stem-cell research.

PONNURU: Yeah, that's right.

STEWART: But couldn't you say that that was the exact justification of the Iraqi war?
What happened next was sort of interesting. There was a brief pause, and then Ramesh clarified what Stewart meant, then stammered a little, and only then did the crowd sort of tumble to what Stewart had said--responding with hoots, cheers, and laughs. As Ponnuru stammered more, it reached a crescendo that drowned him out. Ponnuru tried to dig himself out of the hole, and then Stewart hit him with the coup de grace:
PONNURU: Leaving aside this particular war, anybody who's not a pacifist is going to be confronted with the question of--

STEWART: That's not the case.

PONNURU: --is going to be confronted with the question of supporting wars that take innocent lives, right?

STEWART: No, because it's armies that fight each other. But there are civilians that have nothing to do with it who are dying by the thousands.

PONNURU: Yes, but any war involves civilian casualties.

STEWART: But this is--what they consider "collateral damage" in that war somehow is not acceptable when it might lead to a cure for Parkinsons.

PONNURU: Okay, all right, I see your point.
If that weren't enough, Ramesh compounds his difficulty by saying he was against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which brought ridicule from Stewart. It was a devestating exchange.


Torrid said...

I was rapt watching that segment. Usually Stewart is very jovial and easy going, leaning back in his chair, trying to make cutesy jokes while doing his interview.

But only one other time have I seen him the way he was with Ramesh (I can't remember who it was, maybe a neocon). He was dead serious, facing Ramesh the entire team, and clearly had a trap set that was not intended to make people laugh, but to make people go...Oh. He reserves that posture for people he truly thinks are dangerous and poisoning the discourse. Hey, wait a minute! I remember who it was he did it to before: the guy who wrote 100 Liberals who are screwing up America! Stewart ate him alive: "Barbara STREISAND??!?"

I would pay a week's salary to watch Stewart take over for Tim Russert at MtP just once.

The Decider said...

as colbert would say....jon NAILED him!

zemeckis said...

stewert and colbert are lookin to be our woodward and bernstien

BigHeathenMike said...

That was one of those interviews (like with the 100 People Hurting America guy, and the last time he had Christopher Hitchens on and Hitch leaned a little too far into a dig) where all through it just felt tense. Jon was sharp, concise, and deadly.

Along with Letterman and Colbert, if you get on Jon's hit list, you're in for a long and painful evening.

Anonymous said...

i give stewart a lot of credit for not ridiculing the guy's voice, which is really begging to be ridiculed.