One thing this debate had going for the “candidates": It was definitely more interesting that the real one last week in Denver. But in all fairness, it wasn’t held to the same lofty standards as the presidential debate. In fact, we knew what to expect when one of the participants had Stephen Colbert as a coach and prepped for the debate with a chicken.
Cable titans of starkly opposing views faced each other in the name of charity for a 90-minute debate about the “issues” plaguing America today—like defunding PBS, taxes, health care, the national debt, immigration, foreign policy, the economy and the “47 percent” mooching comment made by Mitt Romney. So with those and a few others added on for humor, the host of “The Daily Show,” funnyman, squared off with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly in the as-advertised “rumble in the air-conditioned auditorium” at George Washington University in Washington to duke it out.
The clearly liberal Stewart, who is a comic by profession, dabbles in politics from time to time on his 30-minute show aired on weeknights on Comedy Central, while O’Reilly chews guests up and spit them out on his Fox gig, “The O’Reilly Factor.”
The men couldn’t be more different. I said earlier Stewart dabbles in politics—well, that’s not quite accurate—he goes after politicians, corruption and the absurdity masquerading as real issues out there and rips them to shreds with his fiery brand of satire. His cast of “reporters” are hilarious, and they push every kind of racial and sexist stereotype to the limit. The liberal-leaning comic especially likes to slam conservatives, and "Fox & Friends" usually fall in that line of fire. Many tune in to his very popular show to see the “news,” for they claim he does a better job at informing than does the real media. (A sad testimony to mainstream media’s declining standards and rising partisan coverage?)
Both men are outspoken, but that is where the similarities end. O’Reilly sees himself as a serious journalist, or at least an intellectual whose ego may be the largest on the F-Network. Am I being too harsh? Okay, let’s just say humility is a foreign word to the conservative host, who boasts about his bestsellers and his height over Stewart and his network ratings—not necessarily in that order.
The debate created so much buzz that the servers streaming the live showdown on Saturday night crashed, leaving many dissatisfied customers demanding a refund of their $4.95, the cost of viewing the show. All proceeds will reportedly go to charity.
Reviews of the show run the gamut. Some say it was hilarious, others say there were serious moments, which made their attempts at humor—namely O’Reilly’s—painful. One critic said both men shouldn’t give up their day jobs, for venturing out of their natural habitat was uncomfortable to watch at times.
The opening was definitely side-slappingly funny, when the much shorter in stature Stewart had a contraption rigged behind his podium to lift him taller than the 6-feet-plus O’Reilly. I think Stewart is 5-foot-7, and O’Reilly loves poking fun at the height advantage he has.
Some memorable quotes of the night were Stewart’s rebuttal to O’Reilly’s demanding his tax dollars not go to fund things like PBS: “Then give me my money back—the $800 billion for the Iraq war—and children’s television is on the house.”
He followed that up with, “Why is it that if you take advantage of a tax break and you’re a corporation, that you’re a smart businessman, but if you take advantage of something that you need to not be hungry, you’re a moocher?” to thundering audience applause. He was responding to a tax question and O’Reilly saying Romney was off by 27 percent—for not 47 but 20 percent of Americans were “slackers,” who only want to take.
On foreign policy, the moderator said it appeared as if the modus operandi for America was to go into the Middle East in an attempt “to buy friends,” then asked if purchasing friends was a viable policy. O’Reilly answered, “Yeah, we could buy friends—I bought Stewart.”
But my absolutely favorite quote of the night came from Stewart, when he said, “Bill O’Reilly was full of sh*t.” Sums the Fox giant up nicely, but I’m biased when it comes to those two so you’ll have to excuse me or sue me.
The entire video was available on YouTube for a short period of time before it was taken down for alleged copyright infringement reasons. Click the video above for a few highlights of “The Rumble.”
Did you log on to watch and if you did, what is your analysis of the debate? Who do you think won?
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