Stewart, O’Reilly shake up politics

I watched former Massachussetts Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama try to earn our votes last week. Like most, including fellow State Press columnist Kharli Mandeville, what I saw redefined disappointment.

After the dull and uninspired performance by Obama and the arrogant rudeness of Romney, the idea that that was more to stomach seemed nauseating.

And then, this past Saturday, Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly in their annual “The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium” debate, shook the proverbial ground beneath me. It was the debate we’ve all been waiting for, one we deserved.

Their debate embodied the need to bridge the gap between the ever-budding divide between the old and new ways of addressing the problems that lay before us. What took place in the George Washington University Lisner Auditorium in Washington, D.C., was more than just two cable television show hosts going head-to-head for various charities.

Alhough they differ on a number of issues, they have always been able — and willing — to engage and promote some level of constructive discourse.

While Romney and Obama did their best to appeal only to their base (regardless of the inaccuracies embedded in each others’ talking points), Stewart and O’Reilly were free from fearing polls or party affiliations. In their world, Stewart and O’Reilly have only ratings to concern with.

“The Daily Show” and “The O’Reilly Factor” couldn’t have more of a difference in demographics. Rumble 2012 was an exercise for each to hear an educated and well-articulated figurehead make sound points on a variety of issues, that more often than not, get lost in rhetoric and distorted truths.

CNN’s E.D. Hill moderated the candid dialogue and moments of humor throughout the roughly 90-minute exchange. Questions came from pre-approved subjects, the audience and the Internet with issues ranging from the economy, health care and foreign policy.

In the end, each had time to answer and interrupt. For those who were able to watch live, it would be hard to argue that something wasn’t gained from the other side.

Both agreed that there are two sides to every issue. If we are truly meant to move forward as a united country, then conversations must be had where each side not only speaks, but also listens.

Once Rumble 2012 was announced in mid-September, each encouraged their audiences to tune-in and to see for themselves what the other had to say.

This was the brilliance of the event.

Being the bleeding-heart liberal that I am, and having covered “The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” back in 2010, I can attest to the fact that this balanced approach was far more engaging than the usual finger-pointing that goes on when only one group gets together to hash out the topics of the day.

Even if individual opinions weren’t swayed, those from the O’Reilly camp should have noticed the care, passion and intelligence of Stewart. Conversely, those from team Stewart should have been reminded that the desire for a more perfect union is one we all share, young and old.

Whether or not I’m reading more into it than I should, I was proud to be an American. The only thing missing was Stephen Colbert.

 

Reach the columnist at jbfortne@asu.edu or follow him at @JOMOFO40.

 

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