Jon Stewart and other liberals have long accused Republicans of waving the bloody shirt of 9/11 for political gain. "There's only three things he can mention in a sentence: a noun, a verb, and 9/11," said Joe Biden in his memorable attack on Rudy Giuliani.
So last week, Jon Stewart devoted his final Daily Show episode of the year to attack Republicans' alleged 9/11 hypocrisy. He railed against the "Republican-led filibuster" that was blocking the Zadroga Act—a bill that would spend over $11 billion to provide health care and compensation to those affected by the attack on the World Trade Center. "Apparently, the party that turned 9/11 into a catchphrase [is] now moving suspiciously into a convenient pre-9/11 mentality when it comes to this bill," said Stewart. “This is an outrageous abdication of our responsibility to those who were most heroic on 9/11.”
Stewart went on to attack the mainstream media for failing to cover the bill: "What's more, none of the 3 broadcast networks have mentioned any of this on their evening newscasts for two and a half months."
While Stewart’s show that day may have been a triumph of advocacy, it was a failure of journalism. He gave time to four 9/11 responders who all suffered from various diseases and were advocates for the bill, but he didn't really try to understand why Republicans objected to the bill or why the Democratic leadership waited until now to bring it up for a vote. “This is insane,” was all Stewart had to say about Republican opposition.
Today, the bill unanimously passed the Senate on a voice vote after Harry Reid agreed to a compromise with Okalahoma Republican Tom Coburn. The bill now costs $4.2 billion, establishes a hard 10 percent cap on trial lawyers’ fees, and puts in place other provisions to prevent fraud, abuse, and waste. Does Stewart think Coburn’s objections were really “insane”? And more importantly, why didn’t he have Coburn on the show to explain why he objected to the bill?
Stewart wasn't alone in his effort to demonize those who would dare oppose the bill--Fox's Shepard Smith and others were just as self-righteous and incurious. But at least Shepard Smith hasn't been lauded as the only real journalist left in America and appointed himself the arbiter of what political beliefs are "insane." It would be nice if the next time Stewart launches a crusade for a particular piece of legislation, he'd at least give its opponents a chance to air their objections.