Even before “The Daily Show” aired Thursday night, conservative pundits were already up in arms over two words uttered by President Obama during his conversation with Jon Stewart: Not optimal.
For those of you unfamiliar with the brouhaha, Obama said that it was “not optimal” that four Americans were killed in Libya – a detail many conservatives seized upon as evidence of his apparent indifference to the attack. Of course, this conveniently ignored the fact that Obama was rephrasing a question posed by Stewart, but hey – who needs context?
On Monday, Stewart devoted a lengthy portion of his show to the manufactured outrage over the quote. He started with Sen. John McCain, who appeared on Fox News’ “On the Record” Thursday night, to condemn the president for an interview that hadn’t even aired yet.
“To see the senator commit to something without first properly vetting it was really, uh, yeah …,” Stewart said, as a photo of McCain and his 2008 running mate, Sarah Palin, flashed onscreen.
“I thought the tone and the context of the conversation in no way reflected a president dismissive of the gravity of what happened in Libya,” Stewart continued, pointing to Obama’s description of the attack as a “tragic event” in his Thursday interview.
From there, Stewart argued that “Not Optimal Gate” is merely the latest in a long line of controversies manufactured by various figures on the right, who occupy a political space we’ll politely refer to as Bull Mountain. (Stewart used a more colorful turn of phrase.)
“It’s clear now that the right over time has developed Barack-tose intolerance. It seems like it began in 2008,” he said.
From there, Stewart played a series of the devastating montages that “The Daily Show” does so well. First up were clips of various conservative personalities making dire if far-fetched predictions about what would happen under an Obama administration (banning cars), then freaking out over things Obama wasn’t actually trying to do as president (instituting Sharia law, death panels), and then finally calling him lots of names (“racist,” “European socialist,” “Stalin without the bloodshed”).
As ridiculous as many of these non-troversies are, Stewart marveled at the extent to which they have dictated the political conversation in this country for the last four years.
“As ridiculous and hyperbolic and unfounded as the pronouncements from [Bull] Mountain are, for some reason, other news networks can't resist its siren song,” he said. “That’s the thing about [Bull] Mountain. You may not live on it. But whenever it rains, you get the mudslide."
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