The Corner

John Yoo Wipes the Smirk off Jon Stewart’s Face

Update: On his show last night, Stewart fessed up to having been bested by Yoo, likening the experience to “interviewing sand.”

The reaction from the liberal blogosphere to “torture memo” author John Yoo’s Daily Show appearance last week has been decidedly muted. That’s because Yoo badly (but politely) outclassed Stewart in a subtle, thoughtful conversation the latter clearly wasn’t prepared to have.

While deftly summing up the liberal case against Bush administration interrogation polices, Adam Serwer at The American Prospect blog also offered up a thoroughly damning assessment of Stewart’s performance with Yoo:

Put simply, Stewart failed to make Yoo look like he had done anything wrong, and in fact made him look entirely reasonable. Stewart fares slightly better in the extended interview–but on the whole he was visibly out of his weight class. . . .

It was a sobering reminder that for years, a mostly pliant press has allowed a comedian to do a reporters’ job. Yesterday, we were reminded how inadequate a solution that really is.

The best Stewart could muster was towards the end, when he shrugged, “you are the most charming torture author I have ever met.” It’s too bad Yoo had already thrown the haymaker several minutes earlier when he assured Stewart, “I don’t find talking with you frustrating.”

No, no he didn’t.

Unfortunate that the popular left is just beginning to cognize the perils of having a jokester as one of its prime disseminators of political information.

There are legitimate reasons to find the “enhanced interrogation techniques” Yoo’s legal opinions underwrote troubling, and good-faith debates on the subject have long animated The Corner. But what Yoo’s victory indicates is that Bush’s interrogation policies — right or wrong — were soberly and sincerely crafted responses to a difficult problem, not slapdash sadism.

Daniel FosterDaniel Foster is a former news editor of National Review Online.

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