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The thoughts and theories of a guy who basically should have gone to bed hours ago.

I know, I know - what's the point? But look at it this way - I stayed up late writing it, but you're reading it...

Let's call ourselves even & move on, OK?

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

John Stewart and Bill Clinton: Good Questions and Good Answers

I'm a relative late comer to the juggernaut that is The Daily Show with John Stewart, having only watched it regularly for the last few months. So when I heard that Monday night's guest was going to be Bill Clinton, my reaction was, and I'm paraphrasing here, "Seriously?!?!?" You can only imagine my surprise when Stewart introduced him by saying, "Please welcome back to the program..."

A couple of thoughts on the Stewart/Clinton interview, if I may (and heck, it's my blog, so yeah - I may):

-- Kudos to John Stewart. After Clinton touted the success of his current project, the Clinton Global Initiative, Stewart asked the former President three exceptional questions. First, given all of the initiative's apparent success, he asked Clinton where he thought he did more good & had more fun: private life or public life. And then second, after discussing his good relationship with George H.W. Bush (Tsunami & Katrina relief) and Rupert Murdoch (a CGI sponsor), Stewart pointed out that it seemed easier to work across party lines when politics were removed from the equation, and asked if knowing this now made Clinton wish he had done things differently when he was in politics. Finally, in what Stewart is now calling "The Daily Show Seat of Heat," he suggested that Hillary Clinton could very well run for President, and asked Bill Clinton what the key was to defeating her. Probing questions with no personal agenda and a touch of humor. Katie Couric, are you listening?!?

-- Kudos to Bill Clinton, who gave three excellent answers. At first, he dodged the first question - saying he was having more fun as a private citizen, making a quick joke, and leaving it at that. Later, though, in the midst of discussing something else, he found the thought he was looking for, stopped, and said to Stewart, "you asked me another question before" and then answered it. He said that he is doing more across a narrower scope of influence as a private citizen, but had a larger impact on the entire country as President. He reasoned that as a private citizen, he didn't have to be distracted by the day's headlines, but as President, he had the full force of the government behind him to affect change across a broader spectrum on a daily basis. Regarding the question about politics, he mentioned his disagreements with the current administration, but resisted the cheap applause from the liberal crowd, quickly adding that he has always been committed to having a good relationship with the current President (not just his father), and while he makes it clear when he disagrees with him, he always seeks to work with him constructively. He also praised some of the "rich, white males" that liberals often rile against, saying that the world owes Gates and Buffett a huge debt of gratitude for their extreme generosity. On the Hillary question, he gave a pretty lame answer ("get more votes than she does"), but then struck the right tone by saying he didn't know if she'd run, or if she'd win if she did run, but that he thought she'd be a great President if given the chance. Can't ask for more than that...

-- Clinton comes off even smarter today than he did as President. After listening to Bush stumble through speech after speech for six years, just the fact that Clinton speaks in complete sentences is a welcome relief. And the fact that he's willing to chain more than two thoughts together at a time (as he did when contrasting public and private life) is completely and utterly refreshing. The man is a deep thinker, he doesn't need to hide behind soundbites or talking points, he's well versed in the subjects he's discussing, and he's blessed with the ability to communicate his thoughts clearly without talking down to people.

-- Given his raw abilities, it is such a shame that he could never control his private life as well as he controls his public persona, and that this failing will forever taint his Presidential legacy. But it's gratifying to see him applying his strengths so well today. He seems poised to be the best ex-President since Jimmy Carter, and that's a very good thing.

posted by Brian at 5:15 PM


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