Some important insights on the quality of our public political discourse in the US were shared by Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly in their debate on Saturday night. These quotes are from a CNN report on the debate:
“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.