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Thiessen Vs. Stewart: Was Stewart Any More Rude Than Normal?

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Posted on March 10 2010 12:11 am

So I just watched Marc Thiessen’s appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, if for no other reason than to watch some bloodshed. Thiessen, as the author of Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama is Inviting the Next Attack had to have taken some major doses of xanax before entering the studio.

The big talk about the segment will be how Thiessen repeatedly told Stewart to let him make his point and complained at the end of the interview that Stewart “talked right through” the entire segment. Stewart replied by apologizing and said the entire interview would be posted online so viewers could see if he was mistreated and he’d be able to make his point more fully. Thiessen, still aggravated, said, “So I can’t make my point on the air?”

Personally, I think Thiessen was given enough time to effectively make his points and I think that once video is posted, if we time how much each side spoke, you’ll see Thiessen probably had more, although he deserved more as a guest. I can still fully understand Thiessen’s frustration in not being able to fully flush out his points—but that’s the style of The Daily Show, extremely quick and brief (and no, I don’t think I could have done any better).

For example, I have no idea how I’d briefly make the rebuttal to one of Stewart’s points that I think should be addressed. When Thiessen points out that there was no attack on the U.S. since 9/11, Stewart points out that there was no attack on the U.S. for a similar time period following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Thiessen responds by noting that Al-Qaeda attacked overseas, and Stewart equates that with the attacks on London, Madrid, and elsewhere following 9/11.

The difference is that it was much, much harder to stop attacks in 2001 and thereafter. Al-Qaeda’s strength had grown. The fact that 9/11 occurred less than a year after Clinton left office indicates that the attacks prior reflected this building up of power that culminated in that horrid day and reflects a failure of policy for the prior decade. If an attack of that scale occurred within a year of Obama of taking office, you can bet that Bush’s critics would (accurately) attribute it to his failure to address a growing threat that materialized on Obama’s watch, unless they could prove that someone with knowledge of the attack was apprehended and did not break because of the tighter interrogation rules.

I personally can’t wait for the full interview to be posted. It was a very good debate, and was the best one on The Daily Show since Cliff May’s appearance.

But, I should stop discussing Stewart’s program now. It reminds me of when I was 17 or 18, and a producer from the show emailed me and set up a loose appointment to send one of their correspondents to my home to interview me (and probably make a fool of me) regarding my national security work.  They didn’t show up, and the producer kept insisting that it was definitely going to happen. As a teenager, you can imagine how excited I was.

As it turns out, the producer didn’t know how to tell me that they canned the idea and kept leading me on. What happened? Jon Stewart vetoed the segment after it was given the green light by the producers because there “wasn’t enough conflict in the storyline.”

Yeah, that was a rough day. And now I’m getting depressed just thinking about it. Why have I been single for three years? Will I ever find a secure job that I love doing? Am I destined to a life of financial struggle? God, are you there? Ah, lucky for me there is still a six-pack in my refrigerator from the St. Patrick Day’s parade this weekend. Damn you Jon Stewart, damn you for what you have done to me!

24 Responses leave one →
  1. March 10, 2010

    stewart ate him alive

  2. March 10, 2010

    I took a stop watch the interview, Stewart spoke about 18-20 more seconds than Marc. Marc was just pouting like a baby because he lost the Jon argument Jon and Jon he Jon decided Jon to Jon use Jon textbook Jon right Jon wing Jon tactics Jon to Jon make Jon it Jon appear Jon that Jon the Jon left Jon is Jon unfair.

    • March 10, 2010

      Glad I'm not the only one that noticed, not only did Marc get the same amount of time to discuss his points, but he also interrupted Jon's point every single time like a child asking for his mom's attention while she's on the phone.

  3. March 10, 2010

    Stewart was such a weasel during this interview. He kept trying to smash Thiessen's points at every turn instead of allowing his guest a fair chance to respond to the counter point.

    • March 10, 2010

      I don't like interviewers taking over — except when the interviewee is ttrying to get away with bald-faced lies. I had never heard of Thiessen before this interview, and I was truly shocked at his intellectual dishonesty.

      He claimed the work pro-bono lawyers had done on the Guantanamo captives' habeas petitions had caused dangerous captives to be set free who subsequently engaged in hostile acts. This is a bald-faced lie.

      None of the habeas petitions had run to completion before the Military Commission Act of 2006 shelved them. The Scotus ruling in Boumediene v. Bush reanimated them in June 2008. 44 have run to completion since then. 33 captives have been cleared for release. About 2/3 of them have been released. Not one of those men released due to a habeas petition stands accused of terrorism, or even a traffic violation.

    • March 10, 2010

      Thiessen made the highly misleading claim that the USA had never allowed lawyers access to "enemy combatants" in any previous war. This is a highly misleading statement.

      The USA is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions. In all previous wars the USA has complied with the Geneva Conventions, and accorded its captives the special protections and limitations of POW status. The protections for POWs include humane treatment, no torture, stress positions, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation. The limitation for the POWs include that they can be held, without charge, until the war is over.

      Of course the USA's captives didn't need lawyers, and weren't given access to lawyers in earlier wars, because they were under the protections and limitations of POW status.

      President Bush decided to violate the Geneva Conventions, so the USA could use "extended interrogation methods".

      Civilized countries, that honor the rule of law, don't usually hold captives indefinitely, without laying charges on them. One of the exceptions is combatants, in wartime, when a signatory to the Geneva Conventions can hold the citizens of another country without charge, until the war is over.

      When President Bush was talked into stripping the captives of the protections of the Geneva Conventions, he stripped the USA of the Geneva Conventions justification for holding POWs until hostilities cease. Those pesky lawyers were able to use the courts to seek to file habeas petitions precisely because President Bush chose to strip them of POW status.

      • March 12, 2010

        Three flaws in your analysis:

        The Geneva Convention defines POW status, and terrorists don't fit it. They are illegal combatants. It is the Convention that strips them of POW status.

        Indefinite wartime detention is obviously required if the war itself is indefinite. This is true whether those detained are POWs or illegal combatants.

        The extended interrogation methods are legally not torture under US law, because the law prohibits the torture of US military personnel undergoing training, but extended interrogation methods are allowed in training. This legal fact is why these methods were adopted. If you want to pass a law tomorrow that says these methods are torture, fine, but you can't say it is legally torture today/

        • March 12, 2010

          Sorry Tom, but you need to do more homework.

          There have been FOUR Geneva Conventions. GC3 defines "lawful combatants". GC4 defines "protected persons" — basically anyone found in a war zone. It is mainly aimed at civilian bystanders, protecting them of beingcollateral victims of indiscriminate bombardment. But it protects them from torture, abuse and sexual and other humiliation. And the definition of "protected person" would include terrorists or other war criminals. They are protected from torture, abuse and sexual or other humiliation.

          Second, please don't label all the Guantanamo captives "terrorists". Many of the Guantanamo captives — including those subjected to "extended interrogation techniques" were innocent civilian bystanders. Check the public record for yourself.

          Third, please review Army Regulation 190-8. BOTH the Geneva Conventions, and the DoD's own regulations require a "competent tribunal" before a captive can be reclassified from being considered, and treated as, a POW. Army Regulation 190-8 lays out how the US military should conduct those "competent tribunals". Under the Bush administration the DoD didn't hold any.

          The Combatant Status Review Tribunals weren't substitutes for the AR-190-8 Tribunals.
          AR-190-8 were authorized to determine that a captive was (1) a lawful combatant, after all, who should continue to be treated as a POW; (2) an innocent civilian bystander, who should be set free ASAP; or (3) someone who might be a war criminal, who can be stripped of the protections of POW status.

          However, as I noted above the suspected war criminal would remain a "protected person" — protected from torture, abuse and humiliation.

          Yes, I acknowledge that President Bush may have had advisors who told him the extended methods weren't, technically, torture. It is highly questionable advice. When the courts rule on the techniques I predict they will refute that advice, and confirm these methods were torture.

          And, as I noted above GC3 and GC4 don't just protect captives from torture, they protect them from other kinds of abuse, like sexual humiliation — which interrogators at Bagram and Guantanamo made extensive use of.

          WRT the use of waterboarding during SERE training — the DoD has half a dozen centers that offer SERE training. Only one of those centers has waterboarding on the curriculum. Recently memos wriitten several years ago have emerged that challenged both the wisdom and legality of waterboarding GIs during training. And we now know that the technique the CIA used for waterboarding was far more brutal thant the single session that those who experienced waterboarding experienced during SERE training.
          They weren't authorized to determine that

  4. March 10, 2010

    The Daily Show interviews are generally discussions, I never got the impression that guests are owed the majority of the time — especially when they're saying something Stewart disagrees with or (more frequently) thinks is factually incorrect.

    Theissen came across badly, I thought. He tried to speak over Stewart constantly, and when he realized he wasn't dominating the debate, he tried a combo of working the refs/taking his ball and going home. He appeared dishonest, unable to flatly state something that was true (like not interviewing all of the guards) and instead shouting until he could reframe the question.

    I don't find that style of "debate" at all impressive. It's based on establishing a bulkhead and then refusing to budge (and shouting and never shutting up). It doesn't require intelligence or thought, just obstinance. I'll watch the extended interview when it goes up on the site, but between the "Jon – Jon – Jon – Jon" thing and the hissy fit about not getting the last word, I'm not at all sold on Theissen as a considered thinker, versus an ideologue.

  5. March 10, 2010

    I actually think Thiessen did pretty well considering he was on the daily show, he made a great point with the “mob lawyer” analogy and eventually Stewart had to move on. But he looked foolish at the end, of course Jon Stewart is going to be obnoxious and constantly cut him off. He wasn’t getting interviewed by Jim Lehrer…… Jon Stewart may take himself pretty seriously, but he makes dick jokes for a living. Hasn’t he watched the daily show before?

  6. March 10, 2010

    Oh Ryan, I'm soo sorry! what a douche. someday youll be happy

  7. March 10, 2010

    Why would anyone want to be interviewed by a pseudo comedian-journalist anyway?

  8. March 10, 2010

    Poor lil marc is a lying fool, just trying to sell his book. I'm sure he's use to getting beat down by now.
    Lawrence ODonnell spacked him around pretty good too until Morning JOE! came to his rescue.

  9. March 10, 2010

    Marc spent about 15% of his on-air time complaining about not being able to make his point. He also complained that he didn't get the last word before commercial … does he never listen to the radio or see TV interviews? Interviewees NEVER get the last word, it's not their show.

    I thought Thiessen did a terrible job, realize it, and tried to game the system at the end. He could not have undermined his credibility more. Valid points stand up to to debate, something he was trying to squelch.

  10. March 10, 2010

    An allegory – If John Stewart invited someone on The Daily show as a guest to discuss history and this guest started talking about how cavemen used to hunt dinosaurs, wouldn't Stewart have the responsibility, while on the air, to make sure people viewing the program know this is innacureate even if it meant interrupting his guest??? Well, as far as I'm concerned that is basically what he did. Thiessen 's arguments were so skewed and opinionated that Stewart had the responsibility to set the record straight while on the air. Stewart hit the nail on the head when he said that what is offensive is when people make arguments like thiessen did that claim that those who disagree with him are intentionally trying to harm America. It should be called "republicanspeak".

    • March 10, 2010

      Most of Jon's interruptions are either factual or an attempt at drawing parallels. Very seldom does he outright contradict a guest.

      It's a type of interview I'd like to see on more cable news shows. What we've got now, with talking heads lined up to shout things unchallenged, is making us really, really dumb.

  11. March 10, 2010

    What the hell was Thiessen talking about? Stewart let him speak. Thiessen on the other hand tried to interrupt Stewart whenever he tried to make a point.

  12. March 10, 2010

    Thank you all (well, most of you) for the validation. I was fairly certain Thiessen had played the victim card with his insufferable whining about not getting as much time as “Jon…Jon…Jon…Jon!” And, YES, he most definitely tried to work the refs, but his pandering to the audience seemed to fall flat and uneasy. I felt exceedingly uncomfortable for him. Jon’s points were clear, concise, and intellectually honest, the latter of which Thiessen has an inherently tough time being (see his entire justification of torture based on SERE training vs. actual CIA enhanced interrogation.)

  13. March 10, 2010

    With regard to the claim that Bush policies kept the USA safe from al Qaeda attack… I don't know why this assertion goes essentially unchallenged.

    It is a basic principle of Strategy — when you face a coalition, and you are deciding which partner to attack, it is almost always best to hold off on attacking the largest, most dangerous enemy. It is almost always better to attack the weaker and more vulnerable and less committed partners.

    The Madrid bombing being a case in point. Those bombing knocked Spain out of the coalition.

    To the extent Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, the original al Qaeda, remains in control, the USA can expect to be free of attacks at home so long as there are less committed coalition partners to try to knock out.

    Note: The Christmas bomber, Najibullah Zazi, was not trained by the original al Qaeda. He was trained by "Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula", a different outfit, with no overlap in leadership.

  14. March 10, 2010

    Thiessen is a newbie on the talk-show circuit. He still has conversational courtesy and is not up to speed on the talking points over-speak of those like John Stewart that want control of the content and practice manipulation of the topic and dialog to meet the expectations of the lefties. Next time, he should practice not surrendering the air time to the host before he makes all of his ideas and points known in a concise and articulate way. He does need to hire a coach to instruct him in presentation and delivery.The key to believability is to actually believe and be able to convey your own thoughts without whining and stammering on and on without a clue as how to rescue your own points from being destoyed by your own ineptness. Sorry, but, I have seen 6th graders present a more coherant topic.

    • March 15, 2010

      "Practice not surrendering air time to the host"? So, just talk talk talk, like all the other conservatives who end up coming across as so terminally stupid that they are literally UNABLE to handle conversation? That's not the way to do this. It boggles me that you appear to think that Stewart was spouting "lefty" talking points, while totally ignoring that Thiessen was fundamentally incapable of answering simple questions directly related to his work.

      The key to believability is to have your arguments stand up to questioning and intellectual rigor. Reading off a list of talking points won't do it, and talking over the host won't do it either. That's why Yoo was impressive in exactly this same format — he responded to all of Stewart's questions, but did so in such a convoluted, detailed way that it was clear he was answering SOMETHING, but also that he was a black-belt lawyer who would never crack even a little in a 20-minute interview. I do not like Yoo, I think he was a hugely destructive force in our system, but damn if I didn't come away from his TDS interview with a certain amount of respect. I think the man's wrong, down to the ground, but I'm pretty sure he believes in his convictions and has solidly built up a case that he truly thinks explains his work.

      I've got absolutely no respect for any public figure, right or left, who thinks that shouting talking points over your questioner is a show of intelligence or strength. It's not. It's a clear sign that either you or your argument are too weak to handle examination of any sort.

  15. March 11, 2010

    Theissen came across as a pontificating self righteous know-it-all with abject inability to see alternative points of view. Stewart was not rude. Challenging somebody on point is what is exactly what is lacking in journalism today. It's sad that Stewart (a comedian) is heads above most media hacks. Theissen should just go on Meet the Press. You can bet David Gregory would let his claptrap go unchallenged.

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