aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Salon & TNR wrong on Stewart & Santorum
There is no nice way to describe Santorum; he’s a homophobe, he’s a demagogue, he’s a legislative extremist, and he’s got bad hair. Consequently Santorum is the most vulnerable incumbent in the Senate, trailing his Democratic opponent, Bob Casey Jr., in current polls. Yet in Stewart’s soft hands Santorum came out looking reasonable, just a normal conservative guy who, even if you disagree with him, will respect your point of view.
The truth, as Stewart knows, is that “The Daily Show” isn’t just comedy. What gives his show heft--what makes it true satire--is that the program brings actual conviction to the stories it covers. Sure, it’s willing to digress into sheer silliness, but it just as often finds an ingenious way to make a serious point. The mystery, then, is why the sharpness vanishes as soon as a guest arrives on the set… With most political guests, Stewart sticks to harmless questions and gentle quips, and he seems unable to pursue an argument. Rarely have such flaws been more pronounced than last night, when Senator Rick Santorum appeared on the set.
I gather all of us would have preferred had Santorum experienced something similar to what Ed Klein went through on the Al Franken Show last month. But would it have changed any minds? Or just made partisans on both sides happy to post transcripts?
Apparently what we liked was the fight. Because last night, with Santorum, he was true to the message he espoused then. I went back and read the transcript. It’s worth another look. This is how it starts:
TUCKER CARLSON: Well, he’s been called the most trusted name in fake news. Next, we’re joined by Jon Stewart for his one-of-a-kind take on politics, the press and America.
PAUL BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.
STEWART: Thank you very much. That was very kind of you to say. Can I say something very quickly? Why do we have to fight?
STEWART: The two of you? Can’t we just—say something nice about John Kerry right now.
CARLSON: I like John. I care about John Kerry.
STEWART: And something about President Bush.
BEGALA: He’ll be unemployed soon?
STEWART: Why do you argue, the two of you?
STEWART: I hate to see it.
I stand by my post, and Jon Stewart, for a better America.
Daylight Savings Time
I’m glad to have it, but I don’t buy it:
Congress is on the verge of passing a new energy bill this week that would make daylight-saving time last from mid-March to early November. (It now runs from April through October.) The sponsors of the daylight amendment say it will save the country at least $180 million in energy costs.
Springing forward has its trade-offs. When you set your clocks forward, you exchange morning daylight for a later sunset. Later sunsets tend to get people out of the house more in the evenings, which could lead to an increase in driving (and gasoline use) and a reduction in the use of household appliances. And if daylight time extended too far into the winter, more people would wake up before sunrise and turn on the lights. Government research from the 1970s suggests that extended daylight-saving time produces a modest but significant energy savings of about 1 percent. A British experiment with extended daylight time in the late 1960s failed to produce much corroborating evidence.
It’s good for business:
Under Reagan, an extra month was added again at the urging of business groups (like sports equipment and barbecue grill manufacturers) who expected increased profits with longer days.
Santorum on gay marriage, his take and mine
Rick Santorum was on The Daily Show last night. With no cable, we eagerly awaited the Crooks and Liars posting today:
Many people have emailed about this segment. They think Jon was too soft on Santorum. You decide. Usually Jon does goes after these intellectual midgets, but not tonight.
I liked the way Jon approached Santorum. He allowed him to articulate his argument; he did question it; he was not antagonistic.
Stewart: Isn’t even the natural family evolving? All the way up until the 60’s and 70’s there were those head of household laws that a family could decide to move but it was basically the man who had final say, you know, and before that marriage was more a property arrangement. You know, love marriage only came in the 1700’s and moved on from there. Is it possible that, through an examination or as we go along, or is this just a basic difference of opinion about what the nature of sexuality is and what the nature of virtue is?
Santorum: No I think it’s the nature of what’s best for society. From four thousand years of history we’ve decided and determined that marriage awas so important, having a mother and father who had children who were together for the purpose of children. Remember, the reason societies elevate marriage to a special status is not because they want to affirm the relationship between two adults. That’s important. A love relationship is important.
Stewart: But isn’t that more a religious paradigm than..
Santorum: No, no. Again, what’s society’s purpose in marriage? Society’s purpose - the reasons civilizations have held up marriage is because they want to establish and support and secure the relationship that is in the best interest of the future of the society, which is, a man and a woman having children and providing the stability for those children to be raised in the future.
My belief is that we can win the debate, we don’t have to denigrate. So that’s what Sanotrum believes and I don’t agree. I don’t believe that good parenting requires one man and one woman and I find that the studies back me up.
I also don’t agree that the only societal interest in marriage is children. It’s one interest, even a primary interest, not the only interest. Stable relationships are themselves an interest. They foster a stable society, public health and safety, and better economics, which are all in our societal interest.
Finally, I believe that same sex marriage is good for all marriage. Santorum’s is the road to undermining marriage by setting up alternatives to marriage. In the absence of same sex marriage, domestic partnership is being set up as an alternative. The separate but equal argument is obvious to me. That aside, domestic partner benefits are open to all, so they set up a culturally sanctioned alternative to marriage:
Getting people to marry is hard. Just having sex is more fun. Just shacking up, as it was once called, is easier. Marriage is under threat, all right. The threat, however, comes not from gay couples who want to get married but from straight couples who either do not get married or do not stay married. A third of American children are born to unmarried parents. The divorce rate has doubled since 1960, and the marriage rate fell 40 percent from 1970 to 2000. Cohabitation rose 72 percent in the 1990s. Twenty-eight percent of young couples aged 18-29 are unmarried. “The future of marriage may depend,” as an analysis of that last figure by the Gallup Organization remarks, “on whether young people simply delay marriage or sidestep it altogether.” Society generally and children especially have an interest in encouraging these couples to get and stay married.
One way to do that is to signal, legally and culturally, that marriage is not just one of many interchangeable “lifestyles,” but the gold standard for committed relationships. For generations, both law and culture signaled that marriage is the ultimate commitment, uniquely binding and uniquely honored; that everyone could and should aspire to marry; and that marriage is especially important for couples with children. Same-sex marriage may be the first opportunity the country has had in decades to climb back up the slippery slope and say, quite dramatically, that marriage--not co-habitation, not partnership, not civil union, but marriage--is society’s first choice. An American gay couple in their eighties got married in Canada in 2003 after 58 years together. Asked why they bothered, one of them replied, “The maximum is getting married.” That is a good pro-marriage signal to send.
Almost immediately after same sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts, alternatives to marriage, primarily manifested in domestic partner benefits, were eliminated leaving marriage stronger as the only state sanctioned relationship structure.
The anti-gay marriage argument is an anti-gay argument. I’m glad to have it dressed up in civilized discourse, because the way I want to win is on the merits. And I believe we will win, it’s only a matter of time.
SEE ALSO: Salon & TNR wrong on Stewart & Santorum.