Comic Jon Stewart provided some of the clearest thinking of this bizarre election season about the militant ignorism abroad in the land, speaking near the end of the fervently non-partisan Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington on Saturday.
“We live in hard times not end times,” he said, as Calbuzz couch potatoes (waiting for the first pitch in game three of the World Series) bestirred ourselves to take copious notes on Stewart’s implicit critique of the apocalypse-now voices of religious evangelism who argue that God’s wrath is the cause of AIDS, hurricanes and earthquakes.
“If we amplify everything we hear nothing . . . The press is our immune system: if it overreacts to everything we get sicker — and perhaps eczema,” he said, a knock at the 24/7 news cycle fear mongers whose quest for ratings renders them unable to modulate how seriously to treat any story, whether it’s a missing co-ed in Aruba, trapped miners in Chile or the war in Afghanistan.
“Most Americans don’t live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives,” Stewart said, arguing for civility in our political discourse. “Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do. Often something they do not want to do. But they do it.”
And he warned those who expect too much too soon that real change takes time: “Sometimes, the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the promised land. Sometimes, it’s just New Jersey .”
Here’s an on-the-scene report from Calbuzz Washington Correspondent Mackenzie Weinger:
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear brought thousands of people to Washington, D.C.’s Mall – but did it bring the funny?
With just days before the election, the comedians’ three-hour rally aimed to infuse a bit of “reasonableness” back into political discourse, without ever mentioning the midterms or encouraging people to go out and vote. Rally attendee estimates ranged from Comedy Central’s 250,000 to Stewart’s reasonable guess of 10 million, and the event featured a variety of musical acts and comedic bits. But it also featured poorly placed jumbo screens, an ineffective sound system and some seriously dull moments from the stage.
The biggest entertainment of the day came from the crowd, many of whom dressed up and hoisted signs declaring themselves for “Team Fear” or calling for politicians to “Man-ner Up.”
Following a far-too long opening set featuring The Roots and John Legend, Mythbusters stars Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage took the stage. The bit was a total dud, with the crowd lackadaisically participating in their “experiments,” including jumping and laughing on cue.
Things picked up once Stewart rolled onto the stage and introduced one of the more impressive moments of the afternoon, a group of four U.S. troops singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Colbert arrived in typically ridiculous fashion, emulating the Chilean miners as he was pulled up from his “fear bunker.”
The rest of the rally featured a mishmash of comedy and music, as Ozzy Osbbourne and Yusuf Islam played their competing songs, “Crazy Train” and “Peace Train” before The O’Jays brought the two together with their classic, “Love Train.”
The rally’s mishmash wasn’t always successful, however, and the poor sound system didn’t help matters. Rally-goers frequently broke up the event by yelling “Louder! Louder!” to no avail. Stewart and Colbert’s mock-debate went on too long, but a delightful moment came when Lakers legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar waltzed on the stage while the two were talking about fearing Muslims. Stewart: “There are a lot of Muslim people you might like.”
After handing out Medals for Reasonableness and Fear and hearing from a smattering of musical acts, including Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, Stewart wrapped up the event by turning serious. “The truth is, we work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don’t is here, or on cable TV — but Americans don’t live here or on cable TV.”
Stewart and Colbert also used the event to critique the media and played multiple clips of pundits sniping at each other. “The country’s 24-hour politico-pundit-perpetual-panic conflictinator did not cause our problems,” Stewart said. “but its existence makes solving them that much harder.”
The rally ended right on cue, and people trailed off the Mall at 3 p.m. to crowd the streets, bars and metro stops of D.C. -30-
Meanwhile, out on the campaign trail, Jerry Brown kicked off a three-day flyaround at his headquarters in Oakland where SacBMinus reporter David Siders reported that Brown lost his train of thought while talking about jobs and the economy.
“I don’t like to say the same old, same old,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons I’m always getting off script. Some candidates feel very secure with messaged discipline. I get very bored with that, because to me life is a continuing discovery.”
Later, he said, “OK, I think I’ll stop there because I might say something I might regret.”
The Armies of eMeg quickly jumped on the item and sent it out to reporters with delight, suggesting that Old Man Brown had lost his marbles even before his campaign drive had even begun.
Meg Whitman Herself started off her own barnstorm in Costa Mesa asking Orange County supporters, “We’ve got the chance to make some history here don’t we?” after driving up the the event in her green “Take Back Sacramento Express” bus.
“We have the chance to put a proven job creator in office for the first time in many, many years. We have the chance to create real change in Sacramento,” Seema Mehta of the ByGodLATimes reported. “We’re going to take back California for our children and our grandchildren. You know what else we have a chance to do? Put the first woman governor in California in office.”
Unless the polls that say she’s way behind Brown among women, Latinos and independents turn out to be correct. In which case, the only history she’ll make is having run the most expensive losing campaign for governor of all time.
After Oakland, Brown was scheduled to rally the troops in Stockton, Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield; on Sunday he planned stops in Eureka, Chico, Sacramento and Riverside; and on Monday rallies in San Diego, Los Angeles, Salinas and Oakland.
Whitman’s Saturday schedule took in Costa Mesa, Vista, Sacramento and Cupertino; on Sunday she was scheduled for Burbank and Santa Barbara, and on Monday she’s due to visit Woodland Hills, Santa Ana, San Diego and Temecula.