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Stewart Bombs Out

Generally, I like Jon Stewart and the Daily Show.  But last night, he said something so dumb, my jaw dropped.  It’s about five minutes into this clip.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Cliff May Unedited Interview Pt. 2
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He says that Harry Truman was a war criminal for dropping the A-bomb on Japan.  According to Stewart, we should have dropped one off the shore of Japan to demonstrate it.

Just to explain my bias: I am loathe to apply retroactive judgement to historical decisions.  I force myself to remember that hindsight is 20/20 and that people usually don’t make bad decisions because they’re evil or stupid.  They often don’t have complete information.  In this case, let’s punt for the moment on the wisdom of the A-bomb.  Truman had no way of knowing about long-term radiological effects.  The devastation did not seem particularly worse than what fire-bombing had inflicted on Tokyo.  We were in a brutal war that had dragged out for four years.  Truman knew an invading army would face thousands of kamikaze planes and millions of armed civilians.  It’s possible to argue that Truman did the wrong thing.  But it’s not possible to say it was an indefensible decision.  And war criminal?  Truman didn’t vaporize two cities because he hated Japanese people.  He did it because he thought it would end the war.  And, while there’s controversy aplenty, there are solid reasons to believe that the bombing did end the war.

Moreover, Stewart is also specifically ignorant about the situation.  Jon, we only had two bombs.  Would Japan have surrendered after an offshore test? Are you willing to expend half your nuclear arsenal trying out that theory? There’s very good reason to doubt they would have surrendered even after Hiroshima.

People are praising Stewart for the interview in general, but I wasn’t terribly impressed—I’m usually not when he tries to play serious pundit.  He muddles the arguments against torture and can’t really respond to much of what Cliff May is saying.  I tuned out before I could hear if Stewart pointed out that MacArthur was insistent on humane treatment of Japanese prisoners—even after the horrors of Bataan.

Stewart is a funny guy and a good talk show host.  He’s good at satire and getting in the occasional good point.  But put him in a serious debate and he’s out of his element, Donnie.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 04/30/09 at 06:53 PM in Celebrity Idiots • Permalink

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