Face the Nation had George W. Bush on today as its primary guest, so the show’s lead in, CBS This Morning, asked its guest, “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, what question he would ask the man who preceded President Obama in the Oval Office. Stewart’s smirking reply,
“ ‘Tell me about umber and how it helps you in painting cats.’ Jimmy Carter’s like 108? He’s out in Africa pulling guinea worms out of children’s feet, trying to cure them. Bush is at home. ‘Bring me my fruit bowl. Doin’ a still life!”
The technical term for this is, I believe,“being a dick.” Yes, it’s vulgar, but the usual terms don’t quite do Stewart’s gratuitous and unfair nastiness justice in trhis instance.
I recognize that Stewart, who eschewed a flood of well-deserved Democrat jokes over the past five days because he could not get around his massive anti-Republican biases, is in mourning over the GOP electoral avalanche that turned the nation red at all levels of government in all regions. Poor baby. Nonetheless, mocking one President of the United States for his activities in retirement because they do not measure up, in Stewart’s value system, to what Presidents are supposed to do is evidence of a stunning lack of grace, decency,proportion, self-awareness and common sense.
When George Bush was President, he was fair game for any comic to mock for his performance in his job. Attacking him as a private citizen almost completely out of the public eye is personal, however, and simply evidence of meanness. The nature of this specific attack, which is the inverse of the rationalization “It’s not the worst thing,” is the idiotic standard for judging any human being, famous or otherwise, that I would call “it’s not the best thing.” After a full life of public service and private sector accomplishments, President Bush, at the age of 68, has as much right or more than any American to enjoy retirement.
His lifetime legacy, by objective assessment, will include more tangible service to his country and society than Jon Stewart is likely to approach even if he hosts the “Daily Show” until he is 108. George W. Bush led the United States for eight full years, grappling with real problems, making life-and-death decisions, and accepting responsibility for them while snotty pygmies like Stewart called him names and threw fecal matter from the sidelines. Every President deserves respect and gratitude for devoting part of his life to such an enormous, killing job (It is called an impossible job when a Democrat can’t do it—like Carter or Obama). What ex-Presidents do not deserve is to be held inferior to some arbitrary template, cherry-picked for no reason other than to diminish them. Stewart didn’t say of Carter,
“He’s out in Africa fighting guinea worms, while Bush saved millions from AIDS there. Yeah, impress us, Jimmy!”
…because he would have been called out for his dickishness by the wrong crowd, but it would have been equally detestable.
Presidents are not in competition for who can impress Jon Stewart the most in retirement. Jimmy Carter’s built houses and has done good work in Africa; he’s also been an international diplomacy menace and easily the most graceless and bitter ex-President in memory, recently carping that Obama never called him for advice (The best news about the President’s foreign relations acumen I’ve heard.) It’s easy to find someone who will make nearly anyone’s accomplishments look paltry by comparison. How much of Carter’s work in Africa wouldn’t be performed by others if not by him? I’m not aware of Jimmy’s advance training in pulling out guinea worms. His senior exploits may be more impressive than “painting cats” ( and what a hypocrite Stewart is to mock the value of art!), but they pale by comparison to, for example, nanotechnologist Mildred Dresselhaus, 82, who authored 39 papers in 2012 and begins her day at MIT by 6:30 a.m. Her research is more technical than either Stewart or Jimmy could probably understand, and involves the physics and properties of carbon nanomaterials, including nanotubes and graphene. Among her accomplishments, Dresselhaus was “the first scientist to exploit the thermoelectric effect at the nanoscale, which could allow for devices that harvest energy from temperature differences in materials that conduct electricity.”
Though Carter himself has claimed to be the most successful former President, he’s not even close. Let’s mock Jimmy for not equaling the lofty post-Presidential achievements of John Quincy Adams, who served in the House of Representatives until he died, fighting slavery, or William Howard Taft, who became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. I’d rank Carter fourth, at best, in post-White House exploits among failed one-term Presidents, #1 being Herbert Hoover.
In late May 1945, only six weeks after FDR’s death, the much-hated Hoover met with President Harry Truman and helped planned the recovery of postwar Europe.Truman gave Hoover the assignment of traveling the world to assess post war world food needs, which were dire. Hoover also assisted Truman as part of a 1947 commission to reorganize the executive branch of the federal government, generating recommendations that led to a streamlined, more efficient post-war government. Hoover chaired a second Hoover commission under Eisenhower. He then devoted his post-presidential years to developing the Boys Clubs of America and expanding the Hoover Institution, the policy center he had established on the Stanford campus in 1919. Hoover also wrote more than forty books.
Boy, Jimmy Carter’s sure no Herbert Hoover. Go ahead and mock him for it, Jon!
And let’s see the tally of Stewart’s positive accomplishments when it’s all said and done. Has he heard, I wonder, of the Golden Rule? Do you think the New York Times obituary of the once popular and influential cable personality who is likely to be no more remembered in 2050 than Stan Freberg or Al Capp are today would be fair to conclude its appreciation by saying, “He was great at mugging for the camera, but compared to the innovation, objectivity and versatility of David Frost or the talent and productivity of Mel Brooks, he was nothing”?
Of course the Times, if it is around then, will be fairer than that….unlike Stewart himself.
Pointer and Source: Mediaite