Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Posts Tagged ‘Jon Stewart

David Letterman is the bridge between Johnny Carson and the current late night crop

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Johnny Carson asked David Letterman on the “Tonight Show” in 1991, “Can you envision yourself 20 years from now doing your late night show?”

Letterman laughed, making it clear that he had no interest in lasting as long as Johnny Carson’s 30 years in late night.

The fact that Letterman lasted 33 years in late night speaks to two things about David Letterman. He would have been embarassed to say in front of Carson that he had that level of ambition. And Letterman wanted to outlast Carson in general and Jay Leno in the 11:30 pm Eastern time slot.

So if you are a Millennial and wonder if Letterman has gone past his prime, go back to that Johnny Carson episode in 1991. It’s not that Carson is bad, but that the talk show world was different from when Carson started.

David Letterman was that world for that generation. When “Late Night” started in 1982, the TV world centered around Baby Boomers. Late night TV had made a few pushes such as “Saturday Night Live” (thought the original cast had left), “Fridays” on ABC, and SCTV reruns on NBC. Monday-Thursday was the “Tomorrow” show territory but that show had an intellectual audience and had peaked a few years back.

In 1982, David Letterman was late night. Stupid Pet Tricks, The World’s Most Dangerous Band, Viewer Mail, velcro, legendary appearances (sometimes for the wrong reasons) from Andy Kaufman and Jerry Lawler as well as Crispin Glover.

Letterman would go outside the studio to dispute other NBC shows, national and WNBC-TV, New York. He would drop various items from a rooftop. This was not Carson by a long shot.

Letterman came up with a late night show that emulated Carson and also gave us something new. Letterman had a monologue and a band, but Carson had a longer monologue and a band that was more interested in old music than new music. Ironically, the shorter monologue and smaller band were demands from Carson to differentiate his show from Letterman’s. Turns out that helped Letterman greatly.

Then again, when Letterman had the opportunity to expand the monologue and band at CBS, he did both.

Letterman’s humor might have been too old for Millennials, but his music taste expanded instead of being held back. Carson would never have dreamed about having on what would have been the 1991 equivalent of First Aid Kit.

If Letterman is missing a beat these days, it’s that his style has lost some of its anger, its edge. Unlike the Incredible Hulk, we did like Dave when he was a little angry.

Letterman challenged his guests. Cher, Madonna, and Oprah had issues with that. Bill O’Reilly as well, but for different reasons.

Letterman might not voted for John McCain, but Dave had the presidential candidate on quite often, asking him better questions than his news counterparts. When John McCain blew Letterman off in 2008, and his people discovered the CBS News feed where McCain was on the Evening News, his feisty nature made for beautiful TV.

Letterman was sincerely hurt but recognized in the moment, and this happened while the show was going, that this was comedic gold. When Letterman shouts at the TV monitor, asking McCain if he needs a ride to the airport, the audience bursts into laughter and applause. The situation was legitimately awkward: pinch hit guest Keith Olbermann, in the height of his MSNBC run, looks shaken at what is going on.

In subsequent nights, Letterman went after the joke about being abandoned. Letterman’s efforts were rewarded as McCain went back on the show and admitted to a national audience that he had “screwed up.”

Jon Stewart had McCain on a lot, but after McCain turned the page, the presidential candidate never went on “The Daily Show” ever again. McCain did go back to Letterman.

That exchange with McCain was less than 7 years ago. Carson never had anywhere near that kind of moment in his last 15 years.

During the Jay Leno vs. Conan O’Brien battles, you wanted to watch for Letterman’s reaction. Watching Letterman’s take on Leno made you forget that they used to be friends and that Letterman helped Leno get famous during the Late Night era. But that anger made Letterman funny.

Letterman’s take on General Electric when the company bought NBC was amazing television. That is the major reason why Letterman didn’t get the Tonight Show. But the idea of taking on your bosses spoke to a generation that couldn’t do that in real life but could on TV through Dave.

Letterman’s comedy was about release. Throwing items off a roof to see what would happen when they hit the ground. Full disclosure: we did that in college though inside down the center stairwell in the process of emptying out our refrigerators at the end of the year. We felt the euphoria that Letterman and his audience did on TV.

So as Letterman does his last show tonight on CBS, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, James Corden, Conan O’Brien, and in September, Stephen Colbert will be some of the many choices the current young generation will have to mourn their retirement years down the road.

David Letterman is the bridge between the old time talk shows and the current crop. In Letterman’s NBC show, he would often give credit to Steve Allen — the first “Tonight” show host — for borrowing some of his old bits. Every single major late night talk show host has Letterman to thank and credit for their success.

video credit: YouTube/Johnny Carson


Restaurants, open carry guns not a good mix

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This column courtesy of runs here with complete permission.

Would you be more likely to eat at a restaurant where you wouldn’t run into someone visibly carrying a gun?

If confronted with large guns in a Chipotle, my instinct would be to get my food to go.

We’ve seen several chains — Chili’s, Chipotle, Sonic, Jack in the Box — express concern over open carry demonstrations, most notably in Texas.

Restaurants try to not get involved in political discussions. After all, restaurants are all about customers and food. They want left-wing and right-wing people to come eat there.

We’ve written about Chick-Fil-A from the other side of the political spectrum. Will gun enthusiasts react similarly to chains that discourage open carry?

The good news for those chains is that they may not have to pay a high price for their actions. Those on the left are more about boycotts than those on the right. Also, the restaurants are concerned with open carry vs. concealed carry.

To be honest, I’m still learning about concealed carry since I live in the last state to switch to concealed carry (and we didn’t even vote on this) and next to the 49th state to go to concealed carry.

We see the tiny signs banning guns from property, reminders that guns would otherwise be allowed in the building. Still getting used to this new world.

Police officers eat a lot in restaurants, and they are armed. Open carry but not in a way that the open carry protesters are doing. They don’t bother me in the slightest. First of all, you should eat where cops eat because they know the best places to eat. But if something were to happen, then I would feel safer.

The eating environment is preached on both sides of the political spectrum. Conservatives talk about family values and eating together as a family; liberals do too but conservatives are louder on this topic. The eating environment should be about comfort, whether dining at home or in a booth in a restaurant.

For most people, seeing heavily armed private citizens while eating in a restaurant is not a comfortable environment for digestion.

Drive-thrus, when available, offer a compromise. Those carrying serious guns can keep them in the car while ordering their food.

Open carry vs. concealed carry might be splitting hairs, but in a restaurant environment, this can make a huge difference. May never get used to the idea of concealed carry, but that looks smarter compared to open carry.

We mentioning the police. They are armed and everyone knows it. But the police do so in a way that isn’t, well, obnoxious.

People need to respect guns. And people respect people who respect guns. Police really respect their weapons. These open carry protesters aren’t respecting their weapons.

The eating experience doesn’t always have to sacred, but it should be enjoyable. And ideally gun-free.

Paul Ryan school lunch lie showcases GOP irrationality

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This column originally ran on The column appears here with complete permission.

What they’re offering people is a full stomach and an empty soul.—power-of-love

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), the man who wanted to be vice president of the United States, told a story about a child who didn’t want a free school lunch. He wanted a lunch in a brown paper bag “because he knew a kid with a brown-paper bag had someone who cared for him.”

That story would be emotionally telling … if it were true.

Ryan heard the story from Wisconsin Department of Children and Families Secretary Eloise Anderson at a 2013 Congressional hearing. The story Anderson told was actually based off a TV interview with the boy in the book, “An Invisible Thread.”

Anderson inserted the school lunch program, not mentioned in the book, into the anecdote. And the story in the book is an executive who offers the child money to buy lunch for the week or to make a lunch for the child. The child chooses the brown paper bag lunch because that means “somebody cares” about him.

The representative from Wisconsin later regretted “failing to verify the original source of the story.”

That was 1 of about 8 things Ryan did wrong: the most important thing was telling that story at CPAC knowing that the story was incorrect.

This implies that we are calling Rep. Ryan a liar. Yes, that is true. This speaks to an issue that we have had with some politicians, mostly conservative, on these topics.

Just because someone says something you like or falls in your comfort zone doesn’t mean it’s true. You have a responsibility to find out whether the third-hand story you are telling has a kernel of truth.

The false story that Rep. Paul Ryan told at CPAC literally has no truth to be found.

The damage has been done, of course, which is the point. If you like Ryan, you will believe the story he told, even if the “liberal press” told you otherwise. And someone in a conversation will overhear someone tell that story, as if it were true, and the story will spread.

I could write a column every day for a year filled with criticisms of the school lunch program. But not having a program would never be one of those criticisms.

Ryan spoke of a “full stomach and an empty soul,” the one part of the story that came from him. The implication is that a “free lunch” hurts a child when accepted.

“Full stomach means a full brain” is a slogan we like a lot better. That “free education” the child receives goes a lot better when the stomach is full, making things easier for the child to learn. This is especially true when that school lunch is healthy.

Yes, a number of conservatives don’t like the idea of a “free education,” but “free lunch” is an easier target.

As adults, we can argue the issues of child poverty and the impact of smart children on a society. And we can even discuss the impact of healthy food for school children.

We need two ground rules for this to work: 1) children need to be protected from being literally in the argument (e.g., Salt Lake City taking school lunches from kids), and 2) we need to work from the truth.

Rep. Ryan and any other politician who wants to take on the school lunch program: we want you to be a part of the discussion, but only if you are willing to work with the truth.

Rob Ford retrospective pre-crack and post-crack

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Rob Ford, the crack-smoking mayor of Toronto, has received a lot of publicity for, well, smoking crack. From the time he danced around whether he had smoked crack, Ford became more apparent outside Toronto and Canada. And of course, when the police discovered the video, suddenly Ford was a lot more open.

But the folks at have had their eyes on Ford for some time. We thought you should read about Rob Ford pre-crack as well as post-crack. So enjoy these columns courtesy of our friends at


Toronto Mayor Rob Ford wins Keith Olbermann’s ‘Worst Person in the World’ (11/1/2011)

Toronto has more than usual number of gun deaths, but still safer than U.S. (7/25/2012)

How Rob Ford spent (part of) my summer vacation (8/21/2012)

Battle of intense mayors: Toronto’s Rob Ford visits Chicago’s Rahm Emanuel (9/19/2012)

Toronto highs and lows: Argos way up, Rob Ford down and out (11/28/2012)


Canadian politics notebook: Rob Ford’s alleged crack use (5/19/2013)

Daily Show pokes fun at Rob Ford’s (alleged) crack (5/22/2013)

Rob Ford (finally) admits smoking crack cocaine, but lies continue (11/6/2013)

Rob Ford: Liability to Toronto Argonauts (11/15/2013)

Rob Ford makes negative impact on Toronto’s Grey Cup quest (11/18/2013)

Rob Ford looks better in the eyes of the U.S. media (11/20/2013)

850 calories school lunch argument is right-wing political talking point

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If you’ve paid attention to the coverage of videos from high school students, you would think that most kids are starving at school, thanks to Michelle Obama.

Unfortunately for them, when you break down the numbers, the kids aren’t getting a significant difference in calories. They may not like the new food, but that complaint would sound bad from a PR standpoint.

The 850 calories approach has a simple PR-friendly take. Too bad the facts don’t back up the hype.

For more on the right-wing attack on school lunch reform, check out this column from our sister blog,

RNC 2012: Speeches of love, respect, lies, and still no jobs plan

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For Sarah Palin in 2008, the VP nomination acceptance speech was the high point of her run. If Paul Ryan’s speech turns out to be his high point, the GOP is in more serious trouble than we ever would have considered.

Ryan’s speech was filled with lies, distortions, criticism of Obama for the same thing he proposed (cuts in Medicare). We can’t wrap this up in a cute little “bridge to nowhere” synopsis, but delusion was the theme of both speeches.

Both speeches were eaten up by the base, but will likely prove to be an overall negative by everyone else.

Ryan was sold as being the intellectual part of the GOP. This is a party that does not believe in climate change and thinks women can protect themselves from rape sperm. His budget plan is spend on defense and very little else. This plan isn’t so much intellectual but a version of what Republicans want that sounds smart.

Few outside political circles know of Ryan, and in their eyes, starting out with lies hurt the VP candidate in 2008 and won’t help the VP candidate in 2012.

“Mitt Romney and I know the difference between protecting a program and raiding it (Medicare),” said Ryan in a truthful note. The problem is that Ryan thinks he’s protecting Medicare and the rest of us know he is raiding it.

Heck, Paul Ryan was more than a hour off when he said he ran a marathon under 3 hours. If you can easily lie about something that has nothing to do with politics and is easily verifiable, this feels like Sarah Palin, part deux.

Ann Romney gave us a speech about love. Chris Christie told us this was about respect, not love (thanks to the Colbert Report for noticing that theme). The speeches ran back to back in the same night. If we were to judge a party based on the convention was run, the GOP would lose in a landslide.

When the networks came into the 10 pm Eastern time slot, Clint Eastwood was on stage with an empty chair. The Mitt Romney video had already aired. Given that about 22% fewer people saw Romney’s speech than John McCain in 2008, Romney lost a huge opportunity to show who he is now.

The fact that more people were talking about Eastwood than Romney on Friday morning is either an embarassment or genius, if you wanted to hide how well Romney gave his speech.

Romney violated the cardinal rule of giving a speech on TV; the people in the audience aren’t your target, the people at home need your attention. And Romney fell short of that way too often.

Chris Christie was running for president in his keynote speech. His speech had a nasty tone, one that wouldn’t seem presidential but more egotistical. Christie hit on the GOP theme that Romney started about being “scaring and dividing.” Has Christie met Karl Rove or heard of Lee Atwater.

In one of the few times Christie mentioned someone other than himself, he said Mitt Romney will “end the debacle of putting the world’s greatest healthcare system in the hands of federal bureaucrats and putting those bureaucrats between an American citizen and her doctor.” As we’ve learned in the last two years, Republicans think that’s the government’s job. Forced invasive transvaginal ultrasounds. Christie ought to meet Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Watching Ryan bash Obamacare as something that “has no place in a free country,” the Republicans don’t seem to get that they are bashing something created by their presidential nominee. Even if Republicans outside of Andrea Saul aren’t allowed to mention that Romneycare was the inspiration for Obamacare.

Mitt Romney pointed out that after 2008, “Americans always come together after an election.” The Republicans didn’t. As Jon Stewart noted, “Bull-F*cking-Sh*t.”

Ryan noted that with the stimulus “he (Obama) got everything he wanted under one-party rule.” Except for the tax cuts in the first stimulus, or how the country needed a second stimulus.

The Daily Show, which did another outstanding job in Tampa, coined its coverage of the Road to Jeb Bush 2016. Still can’t quite seeing that happen, but if Romney loses, the GOP has a lot of directions to go in to find a contender. The formula of a moderate turned conservative picking a much younger, lying running mate isn’t a winning formula for the GOP.

“Unlike the president, I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs.” — Mitt Romney’s speech

Finally, Romney will tell you how he plans to create these jobs, this magical plan that he hasn’t felt like disclosing until now.

1) by 2020, North America will be energy-independent (including nuclear)
2) “the skills they need for the jobs of today and the careers of tomorrow” by vouchers for private or charter schools
3) new trade agreements “when nations cheat, there will be unmistakable consequences”
4) job creators investments — “cut the deficit and put America on track to a balanced budget”
5) champion small businesses — reducing taxes, simplifying modernizing regulations that hurt small business the most, reign in health care costs by repealing Obamacare.

1) Doesn’t Obama have a similar plan? Obama’s job plan calls for alternative energy jobs, including solar and wind. Romney seems to think that the Keystone XL pipeline will account for several million jobs. Canada will lose jobs in the deal, but even the plus effect still isn’t much. And Obama will support the pipeline once TransCanada comes up with a better plan for Nebraska.

2) Vouchers for charter schools or private schools has nothing to do with skills or job gains.

3) Obama has chartered new trade agreements, but these agreements haven’t helped job growth in the United States going back to the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement in 1989. More agreements won’t help.

4) Cutting the deficit and debt would help job growth. Starving everything but defense won’t help job growth.

5) Obama has reduced taxes, and simplified regulations. Republicans forget that responsible capitalism helped job growth from post World War II until Ronald Reagan took over. Besides, we tried this under George W. Bush and the job growth in that time was horrible.

If you are a Republican or you like Romney, you might like his 5-step program. But don’t think this would lead to any job growth much less 12 million jobs. Realize that to get to 12 million jobs, you have to average 250,000 jobs per month every month. Those are Clintonesque numbers. That won’t happen in 2013 regardless of who is in office. Even if Romney got all his rich corporation friends that are sitting on their money to use that dough to hire people, you still won’t get close to 12 million.

President Obama needs to stay strong on ideas of community and infrastructure

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President Obama finally gave the speech on infrastructure that the United States needed to hear in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Since the speech came in the heat of the presidential race, and thanks to the “unbiased” take from Fox News, the president’s words were taken out of context and severely distorted.

What has been missing from the context of the heated back-and-forth is why the distortion worries conservatives and teabaggers, and how the idea of infrastructure has slipped into an exclusively Democratic talking point.

Back when I covered politics for a living, I noted that the president-elect had a great opportunity to convince Republicans that infrastructure was a great way to spend needed government stimulus.

Obama had the ideal mix of individualism and community that Americans are supposed to have, and had when building what was a great country.

Liberals and Democratic people like individualism, but wrapped in a community. E.J. Dionne keeps pointing out that William F. Buckley believed in community, but the modern teabaggers thrive on individualism without that lack of community.

When you hear conservatives claim that a single private citizen could have thwarted the Aurora mass shooting, you know that they have no trust in a community function. We may have settled the West with individualism, but people couldn’t have survived out there without community.

The media’s coverage of Fox News’ distortion and Mitt Romney’s hypocrisy was along the lines of “these things happen.” Attention, MSM: Fox “News” is not in the same business you are. Never has been. Never will be. If you did what they did, you would be fired. At Fox “News,” you get a raise.

Since the MSM needs a lesson in covering lies and distortion, they should learn a lesson from The Daily Show and its resident crank, Lewis Black. You find more truth in Black’s rant than in the MSM coverage, and more balanced, too.

You shouldn’t get your news from The Daily Show or the sister show, Colbert Report. On occasion, you should listen to what they have to say, when the MSM (once again) drops the ball.