I’ve just around to watching this, which is one of three clips into which Jon Stewart’s interview with Mitch Daniels is condensed. The embed is weird right now, and doesn’t give the full video, so just click the link. Parts I and III are also listed at the site.
The part of the interview that I found most fascinating, after Jon stops beating around the bush, occurs a little past the 7:30 part. Stewart lays out his worldview and asks where he’s gone wrong. Daniels responds by… well… let’s call it “filibustering.” Daniels does his best to deflect and change the subject because he must. He has no answer. And he has no answer because the policies that he’s defending (in this instance, tax cuts for our Galtian Overlords) aren’t defensible, at least not on the terms of this argument.
This goes to the heart of another PR issue, namely that you can’t defend something that’s indefensible. I know that sounds idiotic and self-evident, not profound, but given the sort of instruction we get in class, that’s something that I think about pretty often. Our teachers like to stress that PR people must be part of a dominant coalition, so that they can stop the company from doing indefensible stuff in the first place, but the professors know as well as we do, that this doesn’t always happen.
It’s simultaneously astounding and unsurprising to see how Daniels, when faced with a reasonable, necessary question from a “progressive” stance, just has absolutely nothing to say. I don’t presume to know what makes Jon Stewart popular among my age group, but for me, it’s the fact that he’s the only one who asks these questions and demands a real discussion. Because he’s not on CNN, he doesn’t have to leave it there. The “progressive” view demands a conversation, which is the main reason that this view is scant in mainstream media (well, that and the fact that most of our media is now owned by the moneyed interests that benefit from the exclusion of a “progressive” view point). Because Daniels’ talking points, which are the same as Ryan’s and Cain’s and Romney’s and all of the rest of them (except for Buddy Roemer), are so incredibly easy to deconstruct. Stewart isn’t some super-informed expert; he’s someone who read a study or two on income inequality and has a general knowledge of the Bush tax cuts. And he leaves Daniels without a leg to stand on.
Daniels is probably a smart guy. But his argument is untenable, unless you genuinely have no problem with skyrocketing income inequality or refuse to acknowledge a wealth of information that renders your argument moot. Ideally, in a discussion, you survey the available info and come to a conclusion about what makes sense. Republican politicians, with few exceptions, come into the economic conversation with their minds already decided. That’s the reason they can’t win an argument against a minimally-informed and not-entirely-pliant adversary. Because they aren’t arguing by conventional standards.