It happened. Despite many people’s disbelief and shock, Jon Stewart, the host of that bastion of comic liberalism The Daily Show, finally thanked President George W. Bush for being president. What could possibly have prompted such a change of heart? All it took was a combination of the CIA torture report and Vice-President Dick Cheney.
That powerful cocktail was the subject of last night’s first segment as Stewart addressed the debate about the CIA torture report. Former CIA directors and current CIA directors have been cagey and have avoided saying that the CIA tortured people or even that what was described in the report was torture. Michael Hayden, the director under Bush’s administration, reminded people that three out of four attorney generals did not define what was in the report as torture. The Daily Show host noted, however, that those three people were all Bush appointees, so really, he concluded, three out of four attorney generals said what they were told to say by the people who were doing the torture.
Speaking of the Bush administration, Dick Cheney has been vocal in his defense of what the CIA did and even spoke with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press to make his stance known. His definition of torture was not only radically different from anyone else’s definition that Stewart tried to look in Cheney’s mind to figure out what was going on in there. The cavalcade of My Little Pony characters was enough to convince him that it is a scary place. If he needed any more convincing, the next clip of Cheney saying he did not care about wrongly incarcerated detainees who were tortured might have done the trick. As Stewart pointed out, Cheney seems like the vice-president in a Cormac McCarthy novel, which usually feature scary characters without remorse, compassion, empathy or morals.
After discussing just how bitter and angry Dick Cheney is, Stewart tried to salvage the segment by finding the bright side of the whole situation. At this point, he addressed former President George W. Bush directly, saying, “Thank you for not dying in office.” All that stood between Cheney and the leadership of the free world was Bush and Stewart and probably many others are thanking God, pagan deities or the universe that he did.
The CIA torture report is a difficult topic because it is the antithesis of funny. The atrocities recorded in that report which were undertaken by American operatives are a blot on our record and a serious blow to our stance of morality. America has been revealed as a hypocrite when it comes to human rights and it is something that will take time to repair. But the people who are defending America’s actions have descended into farce and that is what Stewart is brilliantly pointing out. Their personal hypocrisy which has led the country to this point is on full display while Stewart cracks enema and chewing gum jokes. But the real brilliance in his outrage and critique is that he is able to point out that the situation could have been much worse. Thus, Jon Stewart finally had to thank President Bush for being president because he was the only thing that stood between a remorseless Dick Cheney and leading America into something worse.
Review By Lydia Bradbury