Hoo boy! Wednesday night's Daily Show took us back to Jason Jones' quasi-Olympic odyssey in "Sochi-ish" (i.e. Moscow), and this time he brought modern Russia's politics and culture home to America. Or, rather, Jones suggested that Russia has become "the ultimate red state," the land that today's Republicans say they are pining for.
Jon Stewart started out the segment by noting that — despite the spectacle of fur-behatted Cossacks horse-whipping members of Pussy Riot in Sochi, marring Russia's Olympic aspirations to be seen as a 21st century superpower — "for some, Russia is clearly the nation of the future."
Jones soon made clear that those Russophiles are, in fact, American conservatives. After six years of President Obama, Republicans are convinced America is headed in the wrong direction, he added. They may want to look toward the "conservative paradise" of Mother Russia. Long gone are the days where conservatives could yell for leftists to "go back to Russia," Jones said: Today, "the Red Scare has become the ultimate red state."
Jones' thesis is pretty obvious: Vladimir Putin's Russia is a deficit-free, low-tax, pro-gun, anti-Muslim-immigration, anti-feminist, anti-gay fantasyland. His examples are what make the segment work — and his interviews, with previously featured politicos like parliament member Vyacheslav Niconov, Putin spokesman Sergey Markov, and anti-Putin candidate Alexi Navalny (the "liberal" who favors Russians carrying guns).
In just 25 years, Russia has "figured out the free market and institutionalized xenophobia," Jones marveled.
Then he turned to the last item on the conservative wish list: Publicly celebrating Christian values. Here, Jones interviewed Vasily Boiko-Veliky, a self-made dairy millionaire who makes his employees participate in Bible study and has a private church in his company headquarters. In asking about employees who don't want to study the Bible at work (they're fired), Jones broke out his Jewish accent — which is fine, whatever — then made the translator do the accent, too, which is kind of fascinating.
Jones ended the segment with a montage of conservatives griping about America interspersed with Homer Simpson saying "If you don't like it, go to Russia." Cheap shot? Perhaps. But well done.
The rest of the program was Stewart's earnest look at America's drone program, especially Obama's role as "all-time leader in outside battlefield sky-killing." He's like "Barry Bombs," Stewart quipped, before rolling tape of Obama saying he doesn't believe it would be constitutional for the U.S. government to order the killing of a U.S. citizen with a drone (or shotgun) "without due process."
The thing is, Stewart said, that statement from last May is looking a little shaky nine months later, when the Obama administration is trying to decide if it has the legal authority to launch a drone strike against an American citizen working with al Qaeda. He then compared Obama's way of trying to arrive at a legal way to kill that American with George W. Bush's legal and euphemistic acrobatics to approve torture — for Team Bush, "torture wasn't a moral issue, it was a branding issue," Stewart said. Team Obama considers itself "above that sort of simplistic chicanery."
But Obama will get there — he will "kill that dude," Stewart added, because that's how presidents work: They just have different ways of arriving where they want to go.
In Obama's case, his administration is taking a "rabbinical" tack, by redefining "imminent" threats and aiming for "near" certainty that civilians won't be killed in U.S. drone strikes. The sour-tasting icing on the cake is that Obama told Stewart in October 2012 that he wanted Congress to rein in his power to conduct drone strikes — but then last week, the White House refused to let CIA officials to attend a hearing by Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) on the topic, or allow the Senate Armed Services Committee to be briefed on drones. "Apparently the first step in getting help," Stewart concluded, "is making sure no one shows up to the intervention." Watch:
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