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Watch Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly solve the government shutdown
The cable news frenemies face off again on The Daily Show, and they have a remarkably productive fight over ObamaCare
 

Slate's Joshua Keating has an interesting article imagining how farcical the U.S. government shutdown would look if American journalists were reporting on it happening in another country. But Americans already think the shutdown is ridiculous: A new CNN/ORC International poll has Congress' approval rating at an all-time low of 10 percent, and record-high disapproval ratings for both parties.

The Daily Show's Jon Stewart shares America's disdain for the dysfunctional Congress, but he's not willing to declare a pox on both houses. On Monday night's show, with the shutdown an all-but-foregone conclusion, Stewart placed the blame for the shutdown squarely on House Republicans.

Trying to undo ObamaCare, passed lawfully by Congress and upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court, he said, is like the New York Giants losing their Sunday football game by three touchdowns, then demanding: "If you don't give us 25 more points by midnight on Monday, we will shut down the f--king NFL." He breaks out the Schoolhouse Rock! bill-to-law primer to prove his point.

Then, to rub it in, Stewart played a clip of Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka yelling: "You get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir!"

Stewart then turned one of the GOP's talking points — Obama will negotiate with Iran but not with Republicans — on its head. If Obama can make a deal with "the most intransigent, hard-line, unreasonable, totalitarian mullahs in the world, but not with Republicans, maybe he's not the problem," Stewart argued.

So far, this is prime Stewart doing what he does best: Throwing very persuasive spitballs, and using humor to hammer home his points, uncontested. But serendipitously, Stewart's guest Monday night was frequent sparring partner and Fox News star Bill O'Reilly, on to promote his new book, Killing Jesus. Stewart and O'Reilly discussed the book for a bit, but then the conversation turned to the government shutdown. Fireworks, right?

Not exactly. O'Reilly was more sympathetic than Stewart to the push to at least delay ObamaCare, but he agreed that the government shutdown is pretty asinine. "They're all pinheads," O'Reilly said. Then he pitched what he called a commonsense compromise for solving the ObamaCare standoff. Stewart agreed it's better than what House Republicans are demanding:

The second part of their interview was on President Obama's handling of Syria, and here we got some real disagreement. As often happens in Stewart's conversations with O'Reilly, the Fox News host tried to play the reasonable adult in the room. The main point of contention was style over substance: Both men agreed that the diplomatic solution the U.S. has happened upon is the best outcome, but O'Reilly was more concerned that the whole showdown makes Obama look weak.

"That's a high school mentality for running a country," Stewart countered. "I don't care if [Obama] put on a dress and lipstick and sashayed his pretty little ass around the White House," he added, in one of the few memorable exchanges of the night. The point was that America avoided a military confrontation. Then O'Reilly insulted John Oliver. Watch:

As a bonus, here's Stewart's introduction of O'Reilly, sort of explaining to his audience why he has his Fox News frenemy on his show so often:

 
Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian, and plays in an Austin rock band.

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