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.
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“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.”
They both promote this thing like it is a humor festival/zinger joust and await their big paychecks for "entertaining" us with trainloads of self-promoting nonsense.
I do so very much wish that the politicians and the pundits would cease all reference to what "the Founding Fathers envisioned." None of us has a frickin' clue what the Founding Fathers envisioned. The Founders couldn't even imagine rifling a musket barrel; how the heck do we know how they would've reacted to the idea of ordinary people being able to buy a gun that could spray 600 bullets a minute on any street corner.
The Founders lived in their time and had to deal with the issues of their time with the means at their disposal. We live two centuries later in a world so complex, so advanced, and sometimes so terrifying, most people of today can't even wrap their minds around it. It's entirely reasonable to wonder if the Founders could wrap their 18th Century minds around it, either.
We aren't going to take our world back to the 18th Century any more than the Founders could take their world back to the 15th Century. Let's revere the Founders for making the best of their times, and set about making the best of our time. They did it by looking to their immediate future, and we need to do the same.
By the way, the Founders, for all their wisdom and vision, weren't able to resolve the most pressing and divisive issue of their time ... slavery. They had to leave that for those who followed them, and ultimately it took the bloody deaths of tens of thousands of Americans to resolve it.
If there is ANY lesson we ought to take from our Founding Fathers, it is that we betray the promise of America when we allow our politicians to "kick the can down the road" on the REALLY BIG ISSUES that confront us here and now, and the ultimate cost of that kind of cowardly indecision may be too much for our country to survive the next time.
I'm voting for Stewart!
The President's party got a "shellacking" in Nov. 2010, because THEY rammed through Obamacare.
Since then, what has the President or his party accomplished? NOTHING.
A real leader would have realized the circumstances post Nov 2010 and worked within that new reality.
That reality will most likely remain even if the President is re-elected. What will he do differently?
Definition of INSANITY.......Doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.
Thought the Rumble was pretty good. Perhaps the tech crew needs to do more homework before next time comes around, as many seemed to have trouble getting connected in time to watch.
Stewart's adjustable platform was a great shtick! Both had many strong points, does make you think a bit harder about the dilemmas we face as a nation. Tough Issues – Nice to buttress some of the discussion with such great humour!
Jon Stewart is brilliant, Bill O'Reilly leaves a lot to be desired & yes He does live on BS mountain along with the rest of the GOP. Mitt Romney is a dishonest man. Jon knows it & feels it, Bill doesn't want to admit it. All Mitt did in the debate was to attach Obama & skirt the issues especially the ones he might be held accountable for such as the 5 trillion remark. Bill, don't insult those of us not voting for Mitt, because guess what we can read & do listen to what Mr.flip flop has to say & its all BS. You know it also Bill, time to fess up.
Man – Good stuff. It IS how it should be done.
Now – figure out a way to let a "regular" American address Congress!
This hit the nail on the head, We are a Nation of Haters. We dont like each other at all. I can see Big Bird singing it now.......... "I Hate You....You Hate Me"
if all 5$ would have gone to charity instead of just 50% I might have bought it. I am sure it was very entertaining. both are the best at their craft. both seem to have more brains than coolaid in their bodies. I hope it was enjoyed by all
Both of these guys are correct...and we are having the wrong conversations. We have become a nation of haters and there are those who just love to go on TV and hate the "other guy"....and get paid for it. We have indeed lost our ability to problem solve. I, being a member of the media, also think much of the fault is in the media. We fuel the problem. We have leaders who refuse to govern for us but they govern for themselves and their own advancement.
O ‘Riley made a good point about capitalism. This Nation was not formed as a Capitalist Nation – it was meant to be a free republic. No pure economic/political system seems to work. Pure capitalism shuns patriotism, social values, etc. The extremes in government are both bad – Fascism (Corporate rule of government) vs. Communism (party rule of government). Today, I submit that our Government is Fascist – no matter which party is in power. What President Eisenhower warned us about (the military/industrial complex), had taken control of Government through money and lobbyist!!
We need a mixture of systems. Corporations need to be what they are, government allowed methods of business operation. They should not be given the rights of people. When we allow them to contribute to political campaigns, we are allowing non-U.S. Citizens and governments to influence our politicians (how many corporations have a large percentage of their stock owned by China). We need to be a democratic republic – not a pure democracy where the rights of the minority are not protected. We need to have enough socialism to make sure our truly less fortunate are taken care of.
We need to first fully understand what our country is supposed to be, and then to take steps to apply the right amount of capitalism, tempered by socialism, with the right amount of government regulation, tempered with our guaranteed freedoms. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone in high office can give us that – they have too many conflicts of interest. We need someone with the characteristics of both O ‘Riley and Stewart!!
Watching these two engaging in political banter makes me chuckle, it's good clean fun.
Obama ought to see if Stewart could sub for him at the next 2 debates...aside from making a mistake about the debt and the budget deficit he was very sharp. And O'Reilly made fun of his own audience when talking about the up coming town hall debate...it's a good thing most of them aren't smart enough to realize that though.
Orielly, Fox and the GOP are so concerned about government spending they would never free money to big oil, but children shows. No problem. Grow the government with a bigger Military. No problem. If you cut, you cut them all. Cut money to Pakistan and all the other money for country plans.
If only the candidates could have the conversations these guys have. I always respect O'Reilly more after he does stuff with Stewart. These two do understand it's not personal, it's politics. And they seem to genuinly like each other
Bill and Jon together are awesome. They respect each other as individuals, even though they disagree on most issues. They set an example that much of our media could learn from.