Jon Stewart, journalist

We can live without Jon Stewart’s comedy when he gives up his gig on The Daily Show later this year. But his astounding grilling of New York Times reporter Judith Miller last night was a reminder that we’ll be hard-pressed to replace his journalistic chops when it comes to interviewing, or — more accurately — his refusal to be a megaphone for newsmakers peddling garbage.

Miller, who carried water for the Bush administration during the run up to the war in Iraq, has a book coming out and it was clear during her uncomfortable performance that she’d have rather been anywhere else than in a studio answering the kind of questions that she didn’t ask as a reporter.

“I believe that you helped the administration take us to the most devastating mistake in foreign policy that we’ve made in a hundred years,” Stewart said.

“I wasn’t alone,” Miller said, taking no responsibility for anything other than merely repeating what she was told at the time.

Stewart wasn’t buying it. It took effort, he said, to shift the country from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Miller, sensing Stewart was moving in for the kill, noted that Democrats like John Kerry and Hillary Clinton favored war in Iraq.

“Idiocy is bipartisan,” Stewart responded.

(Video link)

“The intelligence was not what it was and not everyone got it wrong,” Stewart said.

“Somebody pointed the light at Iraq and that somebody was the White House and the Defense Department and Rumsfeld,” he said of the defense secretary who was looking for a reason for war in Iraq.

“All journalists are manipulated and all politicians lie,” she said.

But Stewart persisted, citing fact after fact pointing that Miller’s work depended on material fed to her from the White House, even as she still denied knowing that it did.

“Were we not supposed to report what it was that had the community, the intelligence community, so nervous about Saddam?” Miller said.

“In the context that this administration was very clearly pushing a narrative and by losing sight of that context, by not reporting….” Stewart started to say.

“I think we did,” Miller responded.

“I wholeheartedly disagree with you,” said Stewart.

“That’s what makes journalism,” Miller said.

“It’s actually not what makes journalism,” Stewart shot back.

(Video link)

“These discussions always make me incredibly sad,” Stewart said. “I feel like they point to institutional failure at the highest levels and no one will take responsibility.”

“I think they point to intelligence failures that I still worry about every day because we’re still relying on the same intelligence communities to give us information about Iran, North Korea, Pakistan and the other countries we have to deal with,” Miller said.

“Well given this same effort,” Stewart said of Miller’s, “we’ll get to invade all of them soon.”

Stewart wasn’t rude. He didn’t yell. He didn’t muzzle his guest. He merely proved Miller’s journalistic malpractice with what Miller disregarded in her work. Facts.

It was brilliant journalism.

  • BJ

    Maybe after a year or so off he will come back and create a rival new organization to all those he is blasting.

  • MrE85

    Gary F is sick today, so he asked me to post this for him. “So where is Jon Stewart’s tough questions about Benghazi?”

  • GA

    The interview was great. However, Stewart should have told Miller when when she kept saying that the analysts agreed that the analyst she was speaking about were gov’t analysts that the administration had influence over. Analyst that objected were silenced by fear of their positions and jobs.

    Benghazi?? The problem is there are no tough questions. The right wing has been trying to make that one stick for 2 years and have failed.

    • Except for that pesky Benghazi report debunking GOP accusations and theories which was researched and released by…the House GOP.

  • Matt K

    Good journalism maybe, but as far as humor goes, the Daily Show has been steadily in decline in the laugh department. There used to be a biting wit to its writing, but sometime in the last 5+ years that has turned into just showing outrageous clips from Fox News and Stewart just acting aghast at it.
    The loss of political humor I truly grieve is Colbert. Here’s hoping that Late Show doesn’t disappoint.

    • GA

      My favorite thing are the clips. Especially when a politician or news station (usually Fox or CNN) say/state something and then the Daily Show shows clips where they said exactly the opposite before. Also, many times they pick up on the message of the day/week where they show everyone saying exactly the same thing. The clips are outrageous and need to be shown. It brings home the hypocrisy of it all and/or how if you repeat something often enough people believe it. That said I do find some of the Daily Show humor sophomoric and agree that Colbert was the best. The Late Show is not a political show so unfortunately I don’t think we will get much political humor other than monologue jokes. I expect that we may see more skits where Colbert’s improv experience will shine.

      • Postal Customer

        The problem with the Daily Show as I see it, and maybe it’s one of the reasons Stewart is leaving, is that, in an attempt to bring in younger audiences, the humour has become more low-brow. Lots more toilet humour. I’m guessing Stewart is not completely on board with that.

        Still, these kinds of interviews are nowhere else to be found. I’ll miss that.

  • Jim G

    Failed intelligence and the telling of political narratives brought us Pearl Harbor, the Korean War, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the Vietcong Tet Offensive, the fall of Saigon, 9-11, and the Iraq tragic folly. Americans were and are poorly served by both our government and the 4th Estate. Where were the real journalists during the run-up to the Iraq Invasion? The tragedy of these wars and the mystery of our involvements cry out to us from the past. A past that we cannot learn from because of journalism’s failures. We just don’t know it.

    • MrE85

      “Failed intelligence and the telling of political narratives brought us Pearl Harbor…” The 350+ Japanese warplanes that attacked Hawaii may have been a contributing factor, too.

      • Postal Customer

        That’s like saying it wasn’t the guy running the stop sign that caused the crash, it was the two tons of steel hitting the other two tons of steel.

        • Jansen

          No accountability. This is the day of the cover-up being far more criminal then the initial crime.

    • Jeff

      I thought it was less a failure of journalism than the Bush administration playing on the post 911 fears of the public and politicians. If I recall at the time not all the media was complicit.

      For me it is sad that there are few consequences for making terrible decisions. Thousands died, but so what we all got good book deals.

  • jon

    Thanks for the transcription… I don’t like watching video’s at while work.

  • E Hamptonberg

    Jon Stewart is an ass. He is neither funny nor insightful. He is just a big mouth clown with diarrhea of the mouth. Useless brain rot.

  • John Dilligaf

    Seems to me this is still happening throughout institutional media. They just report on the press releases with no investigation into reality.