Jon Stewart has long portrayed himself as "a comedian with opinions," not "an activist who happens to make jokes," says Christopher Beam at Slate. But last week on "The Daily Show," Stewart inserted himself directly into the political debate when he harshly criticized Senate Republicans who had stalled a bill providing health funds for 9/11 first responders. Stewart's efforts did not go unnoticed by the White House, which credited him with drawing attention to the issue, and the bill now appears likely to pass. But while Stewart's cause was justified, says Beam, his days as "just a comic" are over. By pushing so hard for the 9/11 bill, Stewart has entered the political arena. Here, an excerpt:
Stewart would probably argue that pushing for 9/11 workers comp — 9/11 workers comp, for Chrissake! — isn't taking a political stance. It's taking a stance for decency, heroism, and the American people. Indeed, he called it "the Least-We-Can-Do-No-Brainer Act of 2010." But stripped of the funny, that sounds a lot like what a politician would say. So did Stewart's cheap shot about Mitch McConnell crying over the departure of his friend Sen. Judd Gregg — but not, Stewart seemed to suggest, about 9/11. Republicans may have had a flimsy case for blocking the bill, and Stewart rightly mocked the GOP for failing to help 9/11 workers after milking the tragedy all these years, but by shaming them in the name of 9/11 workers, he was engaging in demagoguery himself. It may have been for a good cause, but it was political demagoguery all the same.