Many bytes have been spent comparing Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to the ‘legitimate’ news organizations, most notably when Jon appeared on CNN's Crossfire in 2004. Today I just want to point out a particularly great moment I witnessed on Tuesday night.
The guest was conservative author Bill Bennett, pimping his new book, America: the Last, Best Hope. The ‘hope’ in the title refers to the hope of all people to live free, and this history of the United States is a narrative about the progress of freedom.
Jon Stewart jumped on this to get Bennett to defend the talking points on Bush's constitutional amendment to restrict marriage – once and for all – to straight folks. How is that about the progress of freedom?
Bennett began, predictably, by defending the traditional family structure and the stability it provides. This led into Stewart's strongest moment:
Stewart: So why not encourage gay people to join in that family arrangement if that is what provides stability to a society?
Bennett: Well I think if gay… gay people are already members of families.
Bennett: They’re sons and they’re daughters…
Stewart: So that’s where the buck stops? That’s the gay ceiling? [laughs]
Bennett: Look, it’s a debate about whether you think marriage is between a man and a women.
Stewart: I disagree. I think it’s a debate about whether you think gay people are part of the human condition or just a random fetish.
Slam! Huge cheers from the audience. The conversation continued, and they even split it over the commercial break, which is rare. It only got worse for Bennett, but to his credit he seemed a very gracious guest, even in defeat. There are video clips to be found on YouTube if you're so inclined.
I guess I don't need to say much else about Bush's marriage amendment, except that I find it difficult not to take the right-wing rhetoric personally: “Watch it, that's my family you're libeling, you pricks.” I think a perfectly rational response is: “how I live my life is none of your god-damned business.” But it doesn't seem to hold much sway with these folks.
To my conservative friends: yes, I know very well that Democrat candidates don't tend to endorse gay marriage either, and that Clinton sold us out years ago by signing the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Furthermore, at least the position of some social conservatives seems to stem – at the best of times – from their deeply-held (though misguided) convictions. Democrats that don't fully support gay marriage seem to base their positions on the poll numbers instead, which I admit is pathetic.
One more of Jon Stewart's lines from the segment: “Divorce is not caused because 50% of marriages end in gayness.”