Washington (CNN) – Saturday’s debate between conservative commentator Bill O’Reilly and liberal funnyman Jon Stewart was nothing like the televised presidential debates: After all, the prize for winning was a wrestling belt.
But nonetheless, the two television personalities stood behind lecterns and took their chances at questions from the moderator and audience.
– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker
– Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.
“What do you think is the most fundamental problem with the public political discourse?” the moderator asked.
“Stewart,” O’Reilly snapped back.
Between their laughs and shenanigans, references to Big Bird and Clint Eastwood, O’Reilly and Stewart fit in something besides talking points.
“Honestly, I think we’ve lost our ability to problem-solve. We’re having the wrong conversation in this country,” Stewart said in response to the discourse question. “The conversation we’re having in this country is about a fundamental clash of civilizations when I think we have basically agreed that we’re a social democracy. Whether you want to get around it or not, this isn’t a conversation between freedom and tyranny and capitalism and socialism.”
O'Reilly followed, “The problem with the discourse deal is capitalism.”
“You can make a lot of money by being an assassin,” he said. “It doesn’t matter: right wing or left wing. You go in and you’re a hater – radio, cable, in print, whatever – you can get paid. And there’s a people who do that. And they go in, they don’t even believe half the stuff they say. … Capitalism drives that. There are people - Americans - who want to hear hate.”
He noted that “we have to live with it, freedom of speech.”
O’Reilly, who hosts “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News, and Stewart, who hosts “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, are natural sparring partners based on their ideology and have faced off before on each other’s shows.
But on Saturday, they took their differences onstage in what they billed as “The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium” at Washington’s George Washington University. Former Fox News host E.D. Hill moderated the discussion, though at times O’Reilly and Stewart largely cast her aside, dominating the show with their back and forth.
Stewart accused his rival of living on “b--- mountain,” which he described as a conservative alternate reality where “our problems [are] amplified and our solutions simplified, and that’s why they won’t work.
“We face a debt crisis that we’ve never faced before. We are merely weeks from being a failed state or even worse, Greece,” Stewart continued. “And the way to solve it is to kill Big Bird.”
O’Reilly criticized Stewart for skirting the issues, and criticized President Barack Obama for feeding an “entitlement society.”
“This is not how the Founding Fathers envisioned us,” he said.
“We have a president here who believe in social justice, he wants to take your money, my money, the money of the 1%, and he wants to give it to Bill Moyers,” O’Reilly continued, questioning why federal funds were going to causes such as PBS.
The two speckled the show with references to moments from recent political discourse, such as Big Bird – another PBS reference which GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney raised at Wednesday’s presidential debate - and movie star Clint Eastwood, who took the stage at the Republican National Convention earlier this summer.
Their jousting topics ranged from health care to entitlement spending; from Christmas to government counting of calories.
The solutions ranged from conventional to unconventional, such as O’Reilly’s suggestion that Obama should send a stronger signal to Iran, one of Israel’s foes, by aligning himself closer with the Israeli prime minister.
“All Barack Obama has to do is go on a double date with Bibi, with Netanyahu,” O’Reilly said. “Just double date with him, go anywhere with him, that sends a little message to Tehran: They might be making up some stuff.”
And the two used their newly developed debating experience to offer Obama and Romney something for their next debates: Do away with the town hall meeting style, and go at it over the issues.
“I would rather have them like Stewart and me, right up here,” O’Reilly suggested, to applause. “That’s how to do it.”
And in a moment of agreement, Stewart went along with the idea. “Yeah, fine.”
Stewart hit it on the target when he mentioned people who get rich on hate speech. That's Bill O'Reilly in a nut shell. I loved his analysis of conservatives as living in an "alternate reality where “our problems are amplified and our solutions simplified, and that’s why they won’t work." Perfect!
I wish this debate were televised.
Obama needs to tell MITT he's not a flip floper just a flat out lier when it come to the 47% he doesn't care,and he ment what he said !
What hell does big bird have to do with the debt crisis? Leave him out of this....OK!
After hearing O'Reilly, I have decided I we cannot afford any more national debt. Obama has had his chance. We need Romney to help us salvage what is left of an ailing nation.
the abilaty to solve problems? people have built in sensors to detect BS! YOU WILL NEVER DIVIDE THE PEOPLE OF THE USA WE ARE AS THICK AS THE TREES.
Compared to Hannity, Rush, Ann, Beck, Palin etc..., Bill actually comes off as the most coherent at the asylum.
Bill O has others do the dirty work for him on his show. But does he believe what he spews or is it strictly about his paycheck? If msnbc flashed enough coin, he'd be chris matthew's drinking buddy.
Why does everyone on the right believe that a few percentage points in revenue increases equate to the govt stripping people of every dollar they make? Also, if you think this election is about obamabucks, freebies or phones, you're wayyyy missing the point...
It's about car elevators and jet fighters vs. an American child that may go to bed hungry or an elderly person with no hvac in a deteriorated home. It's about the level playing field. It's about the rising tide lifting all boats.
It was definitely a great debate. Stewart won it hands down IMO.
Obama's debt will crush and destroy our nation–economically, socially, and militarily. We will become weak and vulnerable–evidence of a carefully orchestrated "self-fulfilling prophecy" that capitalism and the American way didn't work very well after all.
CNN, Stewart kicked OReilly's butt. It is ok to mention that.
So was this a debate where issues are argued, or just another opportunity for the two sides to ignore the other and deliver their messages? I haven't seen it yet, but if nothing else it was probably entertaining.
Saw the debate. It was spectacular, informative, and FAR more interesting than whatever it was we got this past Wednesday.
I want to thank both men for a fair debate. And, thanks for the money they raised for the vets. It was nice.
O'Reilly and Stewart has too much time on their hands. Best wishes for Big Bird!
As expected, Jon Stewart dominated Bill once again.
O'Reilly and Stewart... What a pair! Sorry I missed it!
Glad you could see it – I couldn't log in to the live stream.
When penguins mate we end up with more penguins. And so it is with politicians and show hosts.
“You can make a lot of money by being an assassin,” O'Reilly said. “It doesn’t matter: right wing or left wing. You go in and you’re a hater – radio, cable, in print, whatever – you can get paid. And there’s a people who do that. And they go in, they don’t even believe half the stuff they say. … Capitalism drives that. There are people – Americans – who want to hear hate.”
Wow. That could be used as the dictionary definition of hypocrisy.
Romney, being a businessman, should know that the focus on PBS is absurd. You do not, when trying to solve a budget problem, focus on those issues that make up a minute portion of the budget.
PBS accounts for .01% of the budget. That is peanuts, especially when compared to Medicare's 38%. Medicare, our Military budget, the social safety net, these are areas where small cuts would matter. You could cut the entire PBS budget (which I take it Romney feels would do) and it would sove exactly nothing.
There's that democrat hubris. No, Mr Stewart, we have not all agreed that we are a social democracy. Some of us know that social democracies lead to social tyrannies which lead to social horror as in the Soviet Union. If you were as good a listener as you are a talker, you might have realized that.
You know, come to think of it, Jon Stewart would make a pretty good president. He's one of the few realists left in the public eye.
Not too bad . . . but Abbott and Costello were funnier and SMARTER !
Wish I didn't miss this. O'Reily is a smart man and to hear him say that about capitalism is shocking in how simple and, probably, sincere he was. Bravo.