It hasn’t been a good week for one Jon Stewart.
First, on Tuesday, he told CNN that he hadn’t voted in the midterm elections, an odd revelation for the Complainer-in-Chief of comedy. Later that day, the Daily Show host walked back the comment by equally-oddly stating he was just being “flip.” But if you watch the discussion with Christiane Amanpour, there was nothing that remotely resembled Stewart making a funny. Only later, after serious social media pushback, did the 51-year-old clarify a joke nobody seemed to get in the first place.
Then there was Stewart on Sunday morning, sans his writing staff to feed him the perfect punchline, talking to CBS This Morning‘s Mo Rocca about former President George W. Bush and his apparent apathy (in Stewart’s eyes) towards helping the less fortunate. How? By mocking him for taking up painting as a hobby instead of being as active on the charity front as Jimmy Carter. Per Mediaite’s piece yesterday:
“Tell me about umber and how it helps you in painting cats,” Stewart said, with what one might call derision. “Jimmy Carter’s like 108? He’s out in Africa pulling guinea worms out of children’s feet, trying to cure them. Bush is at home. ‘Bring me my fruit bowl. Doin’ a still life. Heh heh heh.’”
But when looking at Bush’s charity work from a factual level, the picture Stewart paints (pun intended) is indeed vastly different. Take, for example, his exemplary and underreported efforts to combat AIDS in Africa, an effort that began in the first term of his presidency and has included four trips to the continent post-White House. Here’s how one or the planet’s leading humanitarians in the form of Bono described Bush’s efforts to David Letterman in 2011:
“This week, we just hit the five million mark, the United States saving five million lives, people who are suffering from AIDS and now have anti-retroviral drugs because of the United States, because that’s who you are, and you’ve done an amazing thing. And so, when people get organized, get busy, things change, and that is an amazing – five million lives have been saved over the last, in eight years, in eight years…But it was an interesting, it was an unusual combination of people on the left and the right got together, organization’s called One because it’s the one thing people on the left and the right can agree with. And President Bush, whom, you know, you might have arguments with on various levels, he actually led this and he deserves some credit for this.”
Whether it’s in Africa or back here at home via his active support of the Wounded Warriors Foundation (as well as nine other charities), for Stewart to call into question Bush, or any president in this regard just looks and sounds petty. Fact is, all of our former living presidents do tremendous charity work. All make efforts to make the world a better place through their power and influence.
And oftentimes, they even team up. For example, after his tenure in the White House, Mr. Bush also traveled to Haiti following a devastating earthquake that killed up to 160,000 people. Joining Bush was former President Clinton, who similarly has made a huge impact via his massive Clinton Global Initiative, a mega-charity started from scratch at the turn of the century. Before Bush 43, Mr. Clinton also worked for over a decade with the man he defeated in 1992, former President George H.W. Bush, most recently launching the Presidential Leadership Scholars program in September. Then there’s the aforementioned Mr. Carter–who even at age 90–continues to work tirelessly both at home (Habitat for Humanity, The Carter Center, among others) and overseas for those in need, which is something he’s always done since leaving office a scant 33 years ago.
Add it all up, and any American who sees and reads about these good deeds being carried out by the 39th, 41st, 42nd and 43rd presidents should feel proud these guys are using their influence, determination and inherent instinct to serve to help make millions of lives better while saving millions more in the process.
Jon Stewart earns $30 million annually. And he donates to various charities. Good for him.
But for him to create some kind of contest between former presidents in portraying one as aloof and uncaring illustrates just how divisive Mr. Stewart can get, perhaps when a teleprompter is no longer at his disposal.
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