On Monday, Jon Stewart joked about the 3,000 troops Obama is sending to the Middle East to act as advisors to America’s allies on the ground. Last night he got the chance to ask Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power about all those advisors in a more serious context. Most of the show was taken up by the interview, but while that may have killed some of the jokes that does not mean it was not interesting. Power took a very diplomatic angle to the talk and seemed comfortable with the format. The beauty of The Daily Show is that it is not meant to be as serious as any other pundit program. Jon Stewart’s interview, however, was not short of difficult questions that Samantha Power had to field, including Ebola, ISIS and her opinion of Congress.
Ambassador Power returned recently from a trip to Africa, where she visited Ebola hotspots Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. When Stewart asked her, “Are we winning?” she likened the efforts to building an airplane while flying it. She lauded the response of the many volunteers and told the show’s host that anyone who volunteered should be treated as heroes, not alienated and shunned like some have been. The United Nations estimates that Africa needs 1,000 health professionals and doctors to make a real dent in the problem. Sadly, there is no stand-by army of doctors wearing United Nations helmets. Right now, the effort to fight Ebola depends on volunteers.
Jon Stewart then moved the interview on to topics regarding ISIS, quizzing Samantha Power about the rhetoric and those 3,000 advisors. It was at this point that the ambassador had to adopt a truly diplomatic tone. The initial questions regarded the fact that America has taken a leadership role in combatting ISIS, but at the same time is only willing to commit to airstrikes. To Stewart, it seemed like a bit of overreach on the United States’ part and just a bit hypocritical. Power explained that America was leading a coalition of nations in the fight and was investing in its Middle Eastern allies. It is from the Iraqis and Syrians that the work on the ground must come because they are the pillars in the region and will be involved in its day-by-day developments. But The Daily Show host was not finished with his observations on ISIS. The sending in of troops as advisors seemed a little “Vietnam-ish” to Stewart. Power was quick to reassure him that it was necessary and not at all an indication of fighting intent.
Then came the best part of the interview. Stewart asked about Congress’ seeming reticence to be involved in the effort to fight ISIS. For the most part, Congress had been out of session and on vacation, leaving it thoroughly uninvolved in the whole affair. “How much do you hate those guys?” he asked Power. If President Obama needed any reassurance that Power was the right woman for the job, this interview would have done the trick. She told Stewart that America’s efforts abroad were always more powerful when they carried Congressional support. She avoided saying anything disparaging about Congress in a move that Jon Stewart called “ambassador-ific.”
All in all, Jon Stewart’s interview of Samantha Power about the troops being sent to combat ISIS was not a substantive interview. There was no information and a modicum of comedy, but it was interesting to see an ambassador out of her element. Still, her diplomatic chops were needed and more was perhaps revealed in what she did not say than what she did. Congress had better watch out when she comes to talk to them again. Her “ambassador-ific” talents could cause them more actual action than they are used to in their increasingly part-time jobs.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury