What if you happen to be the president (of the United States) and Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly think you're doing a lousy job? This can't be good, right?
O'Reilly and Stewart - together again last night on "The Factor" for the first time in six years, and quite possibly the least likely personalities on the planet to get together over anything - established that they're ideologically closer together on one subject than perhaps either might care to admit: The president.
Asked Bill, is he doing a good job?
Said Jon, verging on professorial: "'How's he doing doesn't lend itself to an easy answer."
Then realizing that he had entered the no-spin zone, declared: "He has decided Congress is an equal branch of government. HUGE MISTAKE!"
Once, long ago (in a galaxy far away), "The Factor" - four million viewers and by far the giant of cable news - and "The Daily Show" (about half that number) were considered polar opposites, and for good reason. But Stewart has hammered the president in recent months (over many issues, though to condense, a failure on campaign rhetoric follow-through, and health care, and…) He arrived last night on "The Factor" as a welcome guest.
In was fascinating and - role reversal alert! - Bill was funny and Stewart, less so. O’Reilly pulled up the old taunt from last decade; isn’t it true “stoned slackers” watch his show? The term “stoned slackers,” by the way, was mothballed about a fifteen years ago, or ever since “Clerks” was a hit.
"Do you understand the implications of your being important in any political context," pursued O'Reilly, laughing.
But Stewart had nice things to say about Fox News, which under different circumstances (specifically, during the show Stewart anchors every night) would be a big headline, or massive let-down to his fans.
"Fox News is the most passionate and sells the clearest narrative of any news organization,” he said.
Stewart caught himself, however: "Fox has taken reasonable concerns about this president," he harrumphed, "and turned it into a full-fledged panic attack [akin] to the coming of Chairman Mao."
Bill laughed. Stewart snickered.
The culture wars must be over.
Part two of this encounter, tonight.