Friday, February 18, 2011

Jon Stewart’s Frustration About Politics Trumping Assistance to 9/11 First Responders

I rarely watch the Daily Show. I think Jon Stewart is very funny, but I just don’t have time to watch much television. Over the Christmas holiday break, however, I did watch an episode. In the last episode of 2010, Mr. Stewart railed against Republican obstruction of a bill that he thought was a non-partisan no-brainer: the Zagroda Bill.

The bill was aimed at assisting 9/11 first responders who are now suffering debilitating and often fatal illnesses brought on by their exposure to all kinds of toxins while working at Ground Zero for prolonged periods. At the time of the Daily Show episode in question, the bill had passed the House, but Republicans were blocking the bill’s passage in the Senate.

In an episode with very little humor and a lot of moral outrage, Mr. Stewart interviewed a diverse group of first responders to get their reactions to the partisan politics impeding the bill’s passage. It was a really heart-breaking discussion. These men were on the front lines and selflessly gave of themselves at a very bleak time in our nation’s history. They had been moved by patriotism and by the agony of the families of 9/11 victims to do the grueling and frankly disgusting work of clearing the debris after the Twin Towers fell. As they indicated in the interview with Mr. Stewart, their motivation was to try to bring closure to people who had lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks. These first responders ruined their own health in the process, and were getting bureaucratic run-around preventing them from getting compensation for these injuries. At the end of the interview, Mr. Stewart thanked the first responders and expressed that he felt he ought to apologize to them for some reason because of the country’s inability to take care of them in their hour of need.

In the next segment of the show, Mr. Stewart interviewed Governor Mike Huckabee. I personally have a lot of respect for Governor Huckabee. In the past, I have perceived him to have better values and priorities than most Republican politicians. However, his interview with Mr. Stewart was quite disappointing. He was ignorant about the Zagroda Bill, and essentially played the role of a GOP apologist. Governor Huckabee tried to deflect Mr. Stewart’s concerns about recent partisan obstructionism by sharing anecdotes about a first responder he knew and his own father who had been a fire fighter.

In the Daily Show episode in question, Mr. Stewart noted that Fox News focused a lot of attention on 9/11 outrage with respect to the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy, but they had paid very little attention to the Zagroda Bill obstructionism. Mr. Stewart was very critical of that selective approach to 9/11 outrage.

Mr. Stewart was also quite critical of the Democrats handling of the Zagroda Bill obstructionism. He expressed that the Democrats had essentially dropped the ball in not exploiting for political gain the Republican opposition and stalling over the bill. Mr. Stewart indicated that the Republicans’ approach to the Zagroda Bill was appalling and that approach would have been helpful to exploit. Basically, Mr. Stewart insinuated the Democrats had been too nice, too naïve and/or too inept politically.

In the Daily Show episode, Mr. Stewart also expressed that he was so angry about the partisan obstructionism surrounding the Zagroda Bill that he could barely verbalize his thoughts. I can understand how he felt. I too sometimes get so frustrated at the injustices in this world that I cannot express myself as coherently as I might otherwise. All of us who are passionate about justice get that way at times. However, it is important for us to get a handle on our emotions and persevere. If we let our emotions get the better of us, it gives others an opportunity to discount our position.

The Daily Show episode in question can be viewed in full at the following link:

The episode in question was aired on December 16th. Subsequently, the Zagroda Bill did pass the Senate with some major changes (including cutting the total funding almost in half). The process also left a bad taste in many people’s mouth. It was deeply disillusioning that political gain was put ahead of helping people who had made great personal sacrifices for their fellow Americans. The link below includes some details about the bill’s passage:

John 15:13

"Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”


  1. I thoroughly enjoy watching "The Daily Show." A few of my friends attended the DC Rally to Restore Sanity holding signs that read "I watch Jon Stewart and Comedy Central for my politics; I watch Fox Network for my comedy."

    I was hoping you would share thoughts/commentary on the recent events in Wisconsin. I know that you are a former elementary school teacher, and current professor.

  2. Dear Student,

    Thank you for your feedback and your interest in my opinion. I'm actually rather cautious about sharing my opinion unless I've had the opportunity to research and reflect on a given topic. The situation in Wisconsin is complex for a variety of reasons. If you have some thoughts on the situation there, I invite you to draft a guest blogger essay and e-mail it to me. I'm glad you are engaged in what is going on around you!