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Stewart vs. Santorum: "Not Bad Dudes"?


Last night The Daily Show with Jon Stewart hosted homophobe U.S. Senator Rick Santorum as he made the rounds publicizing his new book It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good.

Stewart seemed stymied by Santorum's family values talking points. I don't think I've ever seen Stewart having such difficulty coming up with rebuttals. By the end of their interview it seemed to be turning into a virtual lovefest, with the two of them agreeing to disagree. Here's a partial transcript of the first half of the show which dealt with homosexuality and same-sex families:

Stewart: Can you confuse virtue with heterosexuality? Because I live in New York City. I'm literally - we're in a sea of homosexuality here. (Santorum giggles) It is - and also evangelism and Jewish and Muslim — it's New York. There's 8 million people. You've got more of everything. My experience has been virtue is unrelated to sexuality. APPLAUSE. And by the way on the other side of that...unrelated to religion. I think that's why the argument and concern in that vein is so confusing.

Santorum: I would say that certainly people who are homosexuals can be virtuous and very often are. The problem is that when you talk about he institution of marriage as the foundation and building block of society which I say the family is, and the marriage is the glue that holds the family together. We need to do things to make sure that that institution stays stable for the benefit of children.

Stewart: Children are best raised in male/female is what you're...

Santorum: Yeah, one man one woman.

Stewart: One man, one woman, good job...

Santorum: Absolutely...I mean I talked about all those aspects of society...

Stewart: But if you don't have the ideal? Cause you know they say you go to war with the army that you have...

Santorum: But government should be for the ideal [note: This is straight out of Bush's rhetoric - remember this interview?] — that doesn't mean that a single mom can't and in most cases will raise great children. That [doesn't] mean that other forms can't and won't raise good children. What government should be for is what's best because a lot's at stake - the future of our country. And so we should have a system that builds around what's best, and that's the traditional, what I call natural family. It's not to say that other people are bad.

Stewart: Isn't even the natural family evolving? All the way up until the 60's and 70's there were those head of household laws that a family could decide to move but it was basically the man who had final say, you know, and before that marriage was more a property arrangement. You know, love marriage only came in the 1700's and moved on from there. Is it possible that, through an examination or as we go along, or is this just a basic difference of opinion about what the nature of sexuality is and what the nature of virtue is?

Santorum: No I think it's the nature of what's best for society. From four thousand years of history we've decided and determined that marriage awas so important, having a mother and father who had children who were together for the purpose of children. Remember, the reason societies elevate marriage to a special status is not because they want to affirm the relationship between two adults. That's important. A love relationship is important.

Stewart: But isn't that more a religious paradigm than..

Santorum: No, no. Again, what's society's purpose in marriage? Society's purpose - the reasons civilizations have held up marriage is because they want to establish and support and secure the relationship that is in the best interest of the future of the society, which is, a man and a woman having children and providing the stability for those children to be raised in the future.

Stewart: Wouldn't you say though and with that same thing and I completely agree, although I always thought the purpose of marriage was a bachelor party but that's beside the point. (laughter) But wouldn't you say that society has an interest in understanding that the homosexual community also wants to form those same bonds and raise children and wouldn't a monogamous, good-hearted, virtuous homosexual couple be in society's best interest raising a child rather than a heterosexual couple with adultery, with alcohol issues, with other things, and by the way, I don't even need to make that sound as though a gay couple can only raise a child given failures in other couples.

Santorum: You're matching up best case vs worst case.

Stewart: I'm talking best case because...

Santorum: If it's best case best case, the best case everywhere is one man, one woman, their child, raising that child.

Stewart: Can you legislate an ideal? [next words inaudible]

Santorum: We have to. We owe it to children. Children need a mom and a dad. There are differences between mothers and fathers. And young girls and young boys need both.

Stewart: I would, okay. (pause - laughter)

Stewart: Ultimately you get to this point where it's this crazy stopping point where literally we can't get any further. I don't think you're a bad dude. I don't think I'm a bad dude. But I don't think I can convince you of the idea that I think it's doing society a disservice to dismiss the potential of all these really...

Santorum: I don't think it's dismissing the potential. I think we should honor every person in America - that every person has worth and dignity. There's a difference though, when it comes to changing the laws of the country, that could harm children.

[end of partial transcript]

I was hoping for a few more fireworks from this match-up. I did, however, like the cutaway to the gay wedding when the show went to break.

Video at Crooks and Liars.


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  1. As a soon-to-be psychologist, Santorum and his ilk need to be called out right away when spouting this "children need to be raised with one man, one woman" bullshit. Where's the literature to support that? Myths like that get repeated and then just taken as truth, when quite the opposite takes place. Psychological research, albeit scant, supports the notion that the emotional development of children raised by gay parents mirros that of their heterosexual counterparts. Stewart played right into Santorum's hand, and was played for a fool.

    Posted by: Anthony | Jul 26, 2005 9:52:26 AM

  2. While I love Jon, he's always taken the easy road with difficult guests. He's had plenty of chances to rattle cages and he always lets his "foes" off easy. Considering this is a comedy show and not a real new show, you'd think Stewart would have the balls, and the material, to rage against the machine...what troubles me here is that I believe The Daily Show has become just another cog in the "man's" machine.

    Posted by: Wayne | Jul 26, 2005 9:56:49 AM

  3. It's unfortunate that he didn't go a little harder at the whole issue of hetero marriage and its connection to children -- i.e., grill him on why we allow non-procreative straight couples to marry, or the fact that gays CAN have children and raise them, but he is against any legal recognition that would strengthen or protect those extant families.

    I thought he did OK, such as bringing up the historical evolution of marriage, but he could made it more relevant to today.

    Posted by: Matt | Jul 26, 2005 10:18:16 AM

  4. I'm not sure it's Stewart's role to ask his guests hardball questions, it's his role to be entertaining.

    What WE need to ask Rick Santorum and his ilk is how are we going to be sure that gay families get integrated into society. According to the 2000 census, there are 500,000 children in this country with same sex parents.

    How are we going to ensure that these children get access to the legal system in a way that benefits them? Right now, for example, if one of their parents (the birth parent) dies, they could be sent into the foster system rather than stay with their other parent.

    We need to ask Santorum for laws that help the status quo, not for rhetorical blather about some shangri-la where all the families are Dad, Mom, and two above-average kids.

    Posted by: alan | Jul 26, 2005 10:28:23 AM

  5. It's hard to believe how focused he is on children. See below. You can take this issue in several pieces: (1) Gay couples can't have children together. End of problem. (2) If the issue is gay people adopting children, then it has nothing to do with married people. Gay adoption is already a separate issue today. (3) If the issue is a gay person having a child with someone of opposite sex, then the child does in fact have a mother and father, which is what Santorum wants. (4) So what it really comes down to is a gay person having a child with someone of opposite sex and then one parent leaves the picture. That's basically surrogacy. So in the end Santorum is against surrogate parents? I doubt it.

    >make sure that that institution
    >stays stable for the benefit of children.

    >Children are best raised in
    >male/female is what you're...

    >that doesn't mean that a single
    >mom can't and in most cases will
    >raise great children. That [doesn't]
    >mean that other forms can't and
    >won't raise good children.

    >a mother and father who had
    >children who were together for
    >the purpose of children

    Posted by: | Jul 26, 2005 10:50:52 AM

  6. Actually, I thought he gave Santorum rope and allowed him to hang himself...

    Posted by: Tyler Green | Jul 26, 2005 11:13:05 AM

  7. Time to out Santorum -- NOW!

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jul 26, 2005 12:06:13 PM

  8. Oh Jon... you even stooped to using "homosexuals" I think it's a cool word we need to reclaim, but you fell for Santorum's semantics... why didn't you call him out like tucker carlson?

    Posted by: ryan | Jul 26, 2005 12:38:36 PM

  9. Ryan cut right to the chase: Steward HAS nailed at least one of these troglodyte's dicks to a chair before, and there is no excuse for his not doing the same to one of their princes. His repeated failure to do this is a manifestation of the Achilles' heel of 99% of moderates/liberals: The Fear of Not Being Nice--even as the other side verbally eviscerates us. But why expect more of our alleged straight allies when our own "leaders" have the same handicap. They, and those same alleged allies, have got to start playing the same hardball that thugs like Santorum are. How about: "What you're saying about families is theory not fact. What you're saying about gays is propaganda not fact. You're hypocritical crap about believing everyone has worth and dignity makes me want to throw up on your cheap suit. As someone who makes his living telling jokes, I'd like to say you ARE a joke, but when jokes become office holders they stop being funny. You are a religious extremist hurling rhetorical bombs that are no less dangerous to our democracy than Al Qeda's literal bombs. You are a stain on America and have stunk up my set long enough. The laundry called and your sheets are ready. Get out." Instead we got: "I don't think you're a bad dude"--WHAT THE FUCK? Hey, Jon, if had said the same kinds of things about Jews as he has gays, said on your program that Christian families are the most stable, healthy, best for children, ad nauseum, would you be quite so blase then? So willing to treat him as no more serious a threat than if he were claiming the Phillies are better than the Yankees? Santorum didn't "hang himself" except in the minds of those already convinced--and Stewart let him get away with intellectual/historical/moral/political murder. Flashing pictures from a gay wedding did nothing to counteract the fact that no minds were changed by the discussion that went before. Fascists: 1. Love Me I'm A Liberals: 0.

    Posted by: Leland | Jul 26, 2005 1:49:49 PM

  10. I love Jon too, but I also think he dropped the ball. This is the conservative who a year ago equated our being/lifetsyle to "beastiality" and now is saying that there are "virtuous homosexuals." He is trying to sell books, Stewart and Co. are just helping the ideology of hate by not calling out the hyposcrisy. He is just another rich, white, Republican, holding back the bile while he says the word "homosexual." I love the Daily Show and its very pro-gay stance, but this man needed to be debated, by the usual wit and genius that Stewart obviously saved for the openning story on the Tour De France.

    Posted by: Brian | Jul 26, 2005 2:04:13 PM

  11. What in the world makes Santorum an expert on the "historic evolution of marriage"? Are you kidding me? Saying that marriage for 4,000 years has been about children is complete bullshit. Marriage exists and holds a special place in our society because of the children that MAY be born into it? What about couples that decide NOT to have children? Are they somehow dismantling society?

    The most telling line was when Stewart "can you legislate an ideal", to which Santorum answered yes, and that is scary. I can't wait to see what other "ideals" that come up with.

    If people like Santorum truly were interested in "saving the children" and marriage as an institution, then they would outlaw divorce or at least make it difficult. Maybe they will. The social engineering this guy wants should come through loud and clear for anyone even thinking he ain't such a bad guy after all.

    Oh yeah, isn't it interesting that he mentioned that he's in the middle of a tough campaign? A book and television appearances? Makes sense to me.

    Posted by: bmw | Jul 26, 2005 2:13:02 PM

  12. Well, I'm not going to comment on the show because I did not watch it, but I can make one general observation:

    Jon Stewart does not have subpoena power.

    That means he has to solicit guests. And those guests have to agree, voluntarily, to go on.

    Which means, if Jon starts "nailing dicks to a chair" with everyone with which he disagrees, he's gonna find his pool of guests evaporating. Except of course for those in lock step agreement with Stewart, which would then make the interview section of the Daily Show about as exciting as watching grass grow.

    Just some practical realities to keep in mind.

    Posted by: Cassius | Jul 26, 2005 2:41:40 PM

  13. BMW,

    Outlawing divorce is most certainly on their agenda. That's not speculation. I got it straight from a Conservative Caucus staffer. To be precise, they hope to eliminate "no-fault" divorce. Only adultery or physical abuse, in their estimation, should be sufficient grounds for divorce.

    "If people like Santorum truly were interested in "saving the children" and marriage as an institution, then they would outlaw divorce or at least make it difficult."

    I couldn't disagree more. Which do you think is a better environment for a child, a single parent household, or a home where Mom and Dad are forced by law to remain together despite the mutual disdain they feel for eachother?

    The flip-side to an increased divorce rate is the increased percentage of marriages that could reasonably be considered happy and healthy.

    Posted by: pickabone | Jul 26, 2005 2:41:50 PM

  14. pickabone- No, no- I agree, having a Mom and Dad who hate each other but stay together for the sake of the children is not a healthy enviroment, I wasn't saying that at all. I myself grew up in a single parent household, for better or worse. I have issues when them constantly focusing on gay people and their want to be a family as a reason marriage is in such peril.

    It's too bad politicians can't get out of the marriage/relationship business. But it's no surprise, look at how everyone jumped into the Schiavo case. It's not like we have other societal problems that politicians should be looking to fix.

    Posted by: bmw | Jul 26, 2005 3:18:34 PM

  15. There were certainly times when I wished Stewart would have rebutted one of Santorum's talking points with shall we say, harder logic.

    But at the same time, one of the things I think Stewart does best is something 98% of the other talk show hosts don't do: Try to engage his guests in conversation; making clear where he disagrees, which I think he did, but not hitting them with pepper spray a la Hardball.

    Posted by: Ben | Jul 26, 2005 3:25:03 PM

  16. I think Jon did well with Ricky. Of course, if it were me I would have called Santorum out but then it's not my show. While I love it when we can get down and dirty, it's not always appropriate. I think Jon gave him enough rope to look like the raving fool he is.

    Posted by: beachgirl | Jul 26, 2005 3:47:22 PM

  17. After last week's interview with Bernie Sullivan, I had hoped that with the Daily Show's new set would come a new harder-hitting interview style, but apparently, that was an abberration.

    It would have been nice if Stewart could have once asked why the child of two gay parents deserved to be a bastard, or how keeping that child's family legally inferior to straight-parented households helped straight parents' children. Perhaps that will be part of tonight's monologue now that the writers have had a little more time to think.

    Vive l'esprit d'escailler.

    Posted by: Berge | Jul 26, 2005 3:51:20 PM

  18. Cassius, Ben: Would each of you please take one of Herr Santorum's hands and lead us all in a chorus of "Kumbaya"? What fucking planet do you live on? Obviously not this one:

    Calif. Anti-Gay Amendment Moves Forward
    Third Case Of Arson Against Gays In Month
    Violence Erupts At Latvia Gay Pride
    Gay-friendly Wisconsin attorney general under fire
    Falwell: Forcing kids into ex-gay camps OK
    Oregon GOP Makes Good On Threat, Guts Gay Unions Bill
    Lesbian Couple Beaten By Woman Wielding Bat
    Chicago GOP Disavows Gay Games
    Iran Gay Teens Executed
    Accused Admits Burying Transgendered Teen
    SpongeBob Too Hot For Ft Lauderdale
    Los Angeles Street Named For Gay Foe
    Senate Backs Scouts Use Of Federal Land In Gay Dispute

    Posted by: Leland | Jul 26, 2005 4:02:29 PM

  19. So Leland, how does my making a rather ordinary practical observation about the workings of The Daily Show render me a denizen of another planet?

    Posted by: Cassius | Jul 26, 2005 4:59:23 PM

  20. BMW at 2:13pm, I could not agree more! I am one half of a couple who have decided NOT to have children and really resent people like Santorum telling me that marriage is for reproduction only.

    Posted by: Helga Fremlin | Jul 26, 2005 5:43:06 PM

  21. Cassius: because, even were we not in a fight for our civil liberties, most everything is relative, and people in positions of power/influence have responsibilities. For instance, if I found out that the manager of the restaurant next to my apartment building saw someone trying to set fire to my building but didn't call the police and fire department, saying, "I run a restaurant. I'm not the police. I'm not a fireman. I'm not Neighborhood Watch. I have customers waiting. I have orders to serve. Wouldn't be practical." I think I'd have a right to, at least, call him an irresponsible asshole. What he might think is only be practical would no more excuse him than it does Stewart, who, more to the point, has accepted the mantle of, if nothing else, "Bullshit Caller." Here, he did little more than hold Santorum's tail up while he once again shit on us. "Laugh In" once had slimy Richard Nixon on. I didn't expect them to take him on because it wasn't that type of show (though the sheets line is from their George Wallace joke). Granted Stewart tried a little, as he has with random others--a little--so he's certainly better than that tub of lard, fake saint Oprah. But he threw the fight--just like just about every other Safe Straight Rich White Male who talks one line and walks another when it comes to gay rights (or women's rights, or people of color, or....).

    Posted by: Leland | Jul 26, 2005 8:08:22 PM

  22. I quote Mr. Santorum "From four thousand years of history we've decided and determined that marriage awas so important, having a mother and father who had children who were together for the purpose of children."
    For the majority of that time period, marriage included one man and multiple women. Children were cheaper than mules as used much in the same way.

    He goes on to use hollow words about all people being of value, but children needing a traditional heterosexual pair bond to thrive.

    Children love naturally.

    The children of Gay people can only be hurt by the bigotry and hatred of others. A society that continues to treat Gays as "other, different and wrong" will continue to breed hatred regardless of clever "spin".
    Working against same sex marriage reafirms the message that Gay people and their relationships are of less value than heterosexuals.

    Mr. Santorum is, regardless of his platitudes, a hatemonger of the first order.

    The good news is that we have a pretty smart and savvy generation coming up now that will view all of his rhetoric and hate with the same disdain that we now view the windless gibbering of Lester Maddox and all of his ilk.

    Posted by: Patrick | Jul 27, 2005 12:29:47 AM

  23. Well Leland, your not really asking your restraunteur to just pick up a phone here. Your asking him to get his shotgun and go blow the arsonist's head off. OR to go charging into the burning building with an axe and a fire extinguisher. Both acts would be rather frowned on by the proper authorities today.

    Stewart's a comedian, not an attack journalist. At least that's my impression. He may have acted as a "Bullshit Caller" a few times in the past, but I have to imagine he has limited PR capital to do that sort of thing show after show, especially if it causes the show to stop being funny.

    I remember "Politically Correct," back in the day when it used to be funny. As the show began to gain in ratings and popularity, pundits began to speculate whether the show was actually having a serious effect on political opinion in the country. At that point, host Bill Maher, IMO, began to take himself too seriously... and the show ceased to be funny. As a result, ratings tanked, and the show was cancelled.

    Do you want that fate to happen to Stewart and "The Daily Show?"

    Posted by: Cassius | Jul 27, 2005 9:44:42 AM

  24. This is a perfect example of attacking our friends rather than our enemies because it's convenient. Stewart is obviously on the "right" side of the issues, but he's just as obviously a comedian doing a comedy show. Slamming him because he doesn't always do the job real journalists should be doing shows an incredible lack of understanding of what comedy is all about (if some of you had the Daily Show you want, nobody would have it - because it wouldn't exist; a Daily Show without interesting guests and full of Crossfire screaming matches would be quickly cancelled). Direct your anger where it belongs: towards the journalists who are not doing their jobs.

    Posted by: Bob | Jul 27, 2005 11:58:18 AM

  25. To Bob:
    Looking back to Stewart's appearance on Crossfire, that's exactly what he was saying. On the other hand, his interview with Santorum was boring. If he fell down on the job, it was making the interview funny. If he can't make an interview with a particular guest funny, or at least make fun of the guest, he shouldn't have the guest on. Especially if the guest is an ignorant bigot.

    To Helga Fremlin:
    As a married person with children, I'd have to agree entirely. My wife and I decided to get married only as a public statement of our already standing dedication to each other. We could have lived together out of wedlock for the rest of our lives just as happy (except for the governmental headaches associated with being an unwed couple). We decided to have children, because, uh, we decided to. That was well after we married. We didn't have to marry to have children or have children to be married. But then again I've been known to have apple pie without ice cream. I'm sure that makes me unfit to be a father.

    From a non-governmental standpoint, marriage and child-rearing are two entirely separate issues. It's only when the government gets involved that they become erroneously conflated.

    To Mr. Santorum:
    Society depends on strong bonds "like a family" but anyone who has lived in the real world knows that those bonds are sometimes even stronger in social settings outside of traditional family arrangements. I still fail to see why the nuclear family must be singled out, simply because it has some long history. Slavery and prostitution have a long, world-wide history, too. Are you going to defend those in your next books? We humans as a species are maturing all the time. Join us! It's fun!

    Posted by: SAHD | Jul 27, 2005 2:08:01 PM

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