Who won the Stewart vs. O’Reilly debate?


Even the most ardent conservative would avoid calling Comedy Central host Jon Stewart ignorant. His show is enjoyable to watch, and he, and his fifteen writers, have displayed mental acuity and a quick wit that anyone who watches his show have to consider formidable.  Stewart provides his audience some intelligent points that they must defeat when they decide how they are going to approach the topics he covers.  But over the course of the life of his show, Jon Stewart has made hundreds, if not thousands, of disparaging jokes regarding the ignorance of the Fox News viewer.
Stewart illustrated the belief that Fox News, and Fox News viewers, engage in an alternative universe that he called a “BS Mountain”.  In this pay-per-view debate, he tagged “The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium”, Jon Stewart proclaimed debate adversary Bill O’Reilly the mayor of BS Mountain.

Stewart developed this title for Fox News, and its viewers, after the reaction they had to presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s now famous “47%” speech that was captured on hidden video. Shortly before the debate Stewart also claimed that O’Reilly was full of the ‘S’ portion of the BS abbreviation.

In the debate, Stewart further expanded on this verbal illustration when responding to O’Reilly’s charge that Jersey Shore and Colbert watchers determine elections by saying: “Yeah, not everyone’s as bright as a Fox viewer.”{1} This was, of course, delivered in a sardonic manner.

In lieu of Stewart’s words, and general sentiments, Fox News viewers put the man’s thoughts and words under greater scrutiny.

The federal debt vs. the deficit: On the subject of the current national debt, Jon Stewart made a factual statement regarding President George W. Bush inheriting a surplus in deficit spending from President Bill Clinton, but Stewart then added that Bush had accumulated $10 trillion in debt over the course of eight years. The assertion Stewart was making was that, based on the fact that Bush inherited a surplus in the deficit, he started off a little above ground zero when it came to the debt, and he added $10.8 trillion beyond that.

“You’re mixing up the debt and the deficit,” O’Reilly responded. Before any Stewart defenders claim that this was a momentary slip up, they need to go to the video and see how number times Stewart attempted to clarify this point before O’Reilly mercifully cut him off.

To clarify the point, we go to a previous point collected in this column: “A surplus in deficit spending did occur in the final year of Clinton’s tenure, but after totaling up the entire eight years of Clinton’s tenure, we find that he ended up adding $1.6 trillion in total to the debt with an average annual deficit of $200 billion a year.”{3} The total debt when George W. Bush took office was $5.7 trillion.{4}

The deficit, in essense, is the difference between the money Government takes in, called receipts, and what the Government spends, called outlays, each year.{5}  The debt is an accumulation of the year-to-year deficits. Or, as O’Reilly states, “the debt is an accumulation (of each year’s deficits) that dates back to George Washington.”

Stewart attempted to save face by saying that Obama has kept the deficit stabilized, but on this point at least, the damage was already done. It was, as Stewart would proclaim in a high-pitched falsetto, “awkward!”

To understand this matter better, O’Reilly should’ve suggested that if Stewart wanted to understand this matter better, perhaps he should watch more Fox News…while Obama is following Chris Matthews’ advice to watch more MSNBC to better his debate performance.

Filing for disability: Stewart thought he had an indefensible salvo when he attempted to corner O’Reilly on O’Reilly’s Dad filing for disability. O’Reilly claimed that never happened, believing that Stewart was referring to a federal filing. Stewart reached into his breast pocket ready to, apparently, provide documentation for this charge. “You mean…you mean the filing my Dad did with the company he worked for?” O’Reilly asked.  Stewart asserted, weakly, that it was much the same. O’Reilly then countered that he believed there was a huge chasm between filing for disability with a company that his “Dad had paid into”, and filing for disability with the federal government that is an outlay made with tax payers’ dollars. O’Reilly asserted that Stewart didn’t understand the difference between the public and private sectors.  It was…awkward!

On media bias: When The Rumble’s debate topic switched to liberal bias in the media, many claimed that the differences between debate’s participants were made most apparent.

Stewart stated: “I don’t think NBC, ABC and CBS are activist organizations for liberal causes,” and he added that “Fox News was a highly-biased over-reaction to what may be a very slight media bias.”

O’Reilly responded: “The culture (in the media) is left-wing.  And how that plays out is — (Stewart’s) right — they’re not marching in the newsroom with ‘We love Che’ signs. But it’s who they hire, it’s who gets promoted, it’s what they put in front of you as far as story content, what stories they concentrate on, what stories they ignore. All of that plays in, and that’s why Fox News is successful, because it gives voice to traditional conservatives at the same level as liberal voices.”

“Indeed,” adds a Thomas Eddlem from The New American, “The major media companies all skew heavily leftward, with OpenSecrets.org revealing that political donations from media company employees being overwhelmingly Democratic at Time-Warner, ABC-Disney, Comcast/NBC-Universal and CBS. Even employees of Fox News’ parent corporation News Corp donated more to Democrats than Republicans, with donations to Obama ($63,075) outpacing Romney donations ($8,500) by a more than seven-to-one margin. And among donations to Republican candidates, the bulk of the donations were given to establishment and liberal Republican incumbents such as Eric Cantor ($10,000) and Orrin Hatch ($7,000) rather than Tea Party insurgents within the GOP.”

The institutions the government runs properly: The O’Reilly point that the federal government can run the military “based on tradition” much better than they can run the medical industry, or anything else for that matter, has probably received the most scorn from the media. Stewart claimed that the “tradition” response was weak, and his gesture displayed how little he thought of it, but one who looks at how the military operates verses, say the medical field, cannot help but see the sense in it.

First of all, it’s unreasonable to ask a state like Idaho to form a militia that can thwart an unorganized attack from an al Qaeda operation. It’s even less reasonable than asking an Idaho to provide parameters that will work for Idahoans in the field of medicine. The idea that the military can, and should, be run by the federal government based on tradition, suggests that through the years military personnel and officials have perfected the idea of defense. They have made, and will make, errors in their attempts to defend, but they have learned from these mistakes in such a way that they have achieved a method of defending the country that is unmatched in the world today.  That is what O’Reilly meant by tradition in this writer’s humble opinion.

There is also the tradition of technology being provided by government contractors to the military, and private enterprise providing technology to the medical field. If the government cracks down on private enterprise’s technological influence in the field of medicine, there will, at least, be a general slowing in medical technology…if the government allows for proper, or necessary, medical technology for profit in the field at all. If the government were to switch the medical field’s technological needs to contractors, there would at least be a great deprivation period that would occur in the interim…if they are ever able to provide products that match those of the current profit-based private enterprises.

Private versus public: O’Reilly, a self-proclaimed traditionalist and independent, ceded far too many points to Stewart for some tastes, and this was excruciatingly apparent on the issue of the housing crisis. Consistently proving that he is no conservative on a nightly basis, and in this debate, O’Reilly ceded the point that the government should’ve stepped in on the September 2008 housing crisis without mentioning Carter’s role, Clinton’s role, George W. Bush’s role, and the role of the federal government as a whole. (O’Reilly has mentioned the government’s role in the debacle on his nightly show, but he does so flippantly.)  The importance of mentioning the government’s role in the debacle is less important to conservatives in shifting blame, though that is important to them, but it pales in comparison to importance of finding a solution.  When we arrive at a “let’s legislate the landlord”, Dodd/Frank solution we arrive at a solution that addresses only some of the problems and makes others worse.  Few conservatives would suggest that Wall Street is without blame, but when you focus all of the blame on Wall Street, you fail to incorporate the comprehensive solutions that are necessary to prevent a similar disaster in the future.  O’Reilly’s response on this issue, and a number of others, not only elucidates the idea that O’Reilly is no conservative, but that there was no conservative on stage that night.

Both debate participants, and the moderator E.D. Hill, claimed that there were no winners of this debate, and yet we all won by having it.  Some viewers can’t help but think if there had been a true conservative on stage that night, one that properly deconstructed and refuted Stewart’s points, perhaps there would’ve been a true winner.

{1} http://entertainment.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/07/14275237-bill-oreilly-vs-jon-stewart-10-best-moments-from-online-rumble?lite {2} http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/politics/item/13142-stewart-v-oreilly-the-bumble-in-the-air-conditioned-auditorium {3}http://www.examiner.com/article/what-obama-didn-t-say-precisely-on-the-late-show?cid=db_articles {4}http://www.nationalreview.com/campaign-spot/265304/national-debt-was-growing-even-george-w-bush

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