I really enjoyed watching Bill Clinton on Jon Stewart’s interview segment for Comedy Central last night. Usually this is a very funny part of the show, when a guest comes on and there is some undertone of seriousness, but always Jon Stewart reserves the right to poke fun at anything his guest says.
Last night it was as though all gratuitous humour had been suspended, because Bill Clinton went into an explanation of the economic crisis, and there was a hush in the audience- even Jon Stewart refrained from his usual wisecracks. I think it was because everyone has been feeling very confused about the whole economic crisis. Apart from a few people who are financially savvy, there is a general feeling among Americans of wandering about in the dark, not knowing how they got there in the first place.
So when Bill Clinton started his explanation- which was thorough and yet accessible- people realised that this was their chance to get the real picture. There was no fudging and no agenda. Just facts and a reasonable analysis that any layperson could understand. The closest comparison I can find is from Harry Potter.
Hang on- Harry Potter? That’s right. In the second book, the students are all worried about the heir of Slytherin opening the Chamber of Secrets and don’t know how to sort fact from rumour as both fly fast and furious around the school. So when Professor McGonagall is asked in class (I think it is Hermione who asks her) about the issue, she realises that everyone really needs to know what is going on. So she suspends the lesson and gives a clear and complete explanation, which everyone- Gryffindor and Slytherin alike- pays close attention to. Just for that moment, learning is taking place not because it is a classroom and people are supposed to listen to the teacher, but because the students have a vested interest in gaining the knowledge- their lives depend upon it.
At the end of the Daily Show, it was as though Bill and Jon were father and son. Never have I seen Stewart look so respectful. I must say that while I enjoy his satire and sarcasm, this was a nice change. And Bill Clinton completely deserved the respect.