Has Obama lost Jon Stewart — and his millennial base?
Alex Seitz-Wald wonders whether Barack Obama has suffered the equivalent of Lyndon Johnson’s CRONKITE MOMENT:
If President Obama has lost Jon Stewart, has he lost his base? It’s a question worth considering after “The Daily Show” host tore into the president Monday night for a series of scandals and controversies that seem to be piling up by the hour this week. In a shouty, expletive-laden segment, Stewart said the IRS scandal will be fodder to the right-wing conspiracy theories he’s been battling for years and that it single-handedly ”shifted the burden of proof from the tin foil-behatted to the government.”
Stewart, more than any other broadcaster or political figure, has become a voice for the millennial generation and a conduit for its political awakening in the Obama era. Stewart has never withheld criticism for the president, but the tone is usually like that of a comedic roast, ribbing but generous, or the kind of sober, but compassionate warning a friend may give about the need to shape up. But Stewart’s performance last night suggests the host is losing his patience with the president. Could his viewers and a core constituency of the Obama base be not far behind him?
It calls to mind one of the most famed moments in broadcasting, when CBS News legend Walter Cronkite delivered an editorial opinion after the Tet Offensive in February 1968 saying, “It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.”
Apparently watching at the White House, President Johnson, who had lost the left long ago, reportedly turned to an aide and said, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”