Late Night: Jon Stewart clarifies his support for ‘socialism’


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After two seemingly interminable weeks off the air, “The Daily Show” returned last night with a bang. First Lady Michelle Obama stopped by to promote her new book, “American Grown,” and was her usual charming self, gracefully deflecting Jon Stewart’s questions about Joe Biden and her husband’s approval ratings.

But, no offense to Ms. Obama, the real highlight of the episode was a segment Stewart did about the rather elastic definition of the word “socialism.” The bit was prompted by recent statements from Fox News chief Roger Ailes, who claimed “The Daily Show” host once admitted to being a socialist during a barroom conversation between the two men.


Stewart didn’t recall the meeting, but he did play a tape from a 2000 appearance on “Larry King Live” in which he confessed to having some “socialist” political leanings. So was Ailes right? Not exactly, according to Stewart, who spent the next 7 minutes or so clarifying his definition of the word.

“I don’t believe in state control of industry or collectivizing farms, but I do believe that there is value in some policies that derive from a more socialist ethos, like, uh, um …” he trailed off, then cut to debate footage of Mitt Romney describing Social Security as “an essential program.” Next up was a clip of Sarah Palin defending Medicare.

“See you at the meeting, Sister Sarah!” Stewart quipped, but his joke had a point: Like him, plenty of conservatives support programs with a socialist bent.

Stewart wondered why, if some conservatives are fine with Medicare and Social Security, then why do they get so bent out of shape about “Obamacare.”

He argued it’s ironic that Republicans have called Obama’s healthcare overhaul, which would require citizens to buy health insurance from private companies in a competitive marketplace, the equivalent of “unadulterated socialism.” “It’s a Marxist dream,” Stewart said sarcastically, then continued, “Some would say, isn’t our current system of healthcare more like socialized medicine because we’re all currently subsidizing the millions of citizens without health insurance?”

Stewart reserved his harshest criticism for Romney, who recently took credit for the government bailout that helped revive the American auto industry and who has attacked the president’s financial support for solar energy but who himself is a staunch backer of ethanol subsidies.

“Can’t we just admit a socialist is someone who wants to spend government money on things you don’t like? And then we can dispense with the name-calling and find an industry we can all agree is great,” Stewart concluded.

So is there any industry we can all agree on? How about that most American of sports, professional football? As Stewart discovered last night, it turns out the NFL already uses a profit-sharing model that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has described as “a form of socialism.”

Off with his head!

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