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8 Ways Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Show More Leadership Than Our "Leaders"

Why are two comedians stronger beacons for the American people than our elected officials?

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6. Jon Stewart on John Kyl on Planned Parenthood

Not to be outdone, Stewart—whose coverage of abortion has been exceptional thanks to correspondent Kristin Schaal—mostly laid out the facts, while getting in a few toilet-humor jabs about percentages of Kyl’s time in office.

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This is one of the best examples of how Colbert and Stewart are acting almost as a fourth branch of government. Not to be too overblown and hyperbolic about it, but they act as their own set of checks and balances, a filter for the people—keeping journalistic integrity that most mainstream media outlets long ago gave up.

7. Jon Stewart vs. Bill O’Reilly

In May, the rapper Common was invited to the White House for Michelle Obama’s poetry night. To most people in the know, this was a non-issue, but right-wingers aren’t exactly known as the biggest hip-hop fans, so they immediately freaked out. Common is considered more of a poet than 90 percent (heh) of rappers, and their outrage was quite absurd. Stewart pointed this out deftly on his show... and then was invited to discuss the fracas with Bill O’Reilly:

Stewart is always fantastic on other media shows—his spot with Maddow when she called him out on the Rally to Restore Sanity was one of the best bits of television last year. But his appearance with O’Reilly was exceptionally mature and grave, showing not only how he would be a great leader, but that he understands pop culture as well as Obama—which, frankly, is another important aspect of being part of the people.

8. Jon Stewart on Ron Paul

Even when he disagrees with the candidate, he manages to stand up for the underdog. Right after the Ames straw poll, he questioned why the media wasn’t taking libertarian Ron Paul seriously, even though he came within 200 votes of beating Michele Bachmann for first place. Certainly media analysis is what he does best—calling out all the ridiculous pundits who skew the truth to support their particular leanings. But it's his political analysis of Paul that is the most telling: "He's the one guy in the field, agree with him or don't agree with him, who doesn't go out of his way to regurgitate talking points or change what he believes to fit the audience he's in front of," said Stewart. He could have been describing himself.  

 



 

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd is an associate editor at AlterNet and a Brooklyn-based freelance writer and editor. Formerly the executive editor of The FADER, her work has appeared in VIBE, SPIN, New York Times and various other magazines and websites.