Charles Krauthammer squares off against Jon Stewart on the merits of conservatism
On Wednesday’s edition of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer faced off against left-leaning show anchor Jon Stewart on conservative ideology and the way it is presented.
In this rare appearance on Stewart’s program, Krauthammer was promoting his new book, “Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes, and Politics,” and explained how in working on the book he realized when he had made the transformation from liberal to conservative.
STEWART: Thirty years — do you ever look back on some of these writings and think, ‘What was I thinking?’
KRAUTHAMMER: It’s worse than that. The worst part of writing the book was going all the way back and reading the million words I’d written. By the end of this process I was near suicidal. I couldn’t believe I had written some of that stuff.
STEWART: So, what has the growth process been like? KRAUTHAMMER: The growth process? Well, I was once a liberal.
STEWART: So the early writings showed hope?
KRAUTHAMMER: And then came change.
Stewart went on to challenge Krauthammer on conservative ideology. According to “The Daily Show” anchor, conservatives can easily prove their arguments against government by being impediments to successful government, which he suggested was going on now with the likes of Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz
Krauthammer countered that argument by pointing to some of the ideas presented by Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and what he believed to be the motivations of Ryan’s efforts.
STEWART: Your politics have shifted from liberal to conservative. Here is my issue with conservative politics as they stand right now. It’s too easy. It doesn’t have any of the responsibility of governance. If your mantra is government cannot help, then any chaos or lethargy that you sow in the government helps to prove your point. You have no incentive to be responsible in creating solutions to many of the problems that face us.
KRAUTHAMMER: That would be true but unfortunately, the assumption is a caricature. The conservative idea is not that government has no role. You might have argued that in the thirties when conservatives opposed the New Deal. There’s no question of accepting the great achievements of liberalism — the achievements of the New Deal, of Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare. The idea that you rescue the elderly and don’t allow the elderly to enter into destitution is a consensual idea that conservatives, at least the mainstream of conservatives —
STEWART: I would say that the rhetoric is the same. If you lock at the rhetoric when conservatives opposed the New Deal, opposed Social Security, opposed Medicare — it is identical. Ted Cruz quotes Ronald Reagan’s Medicare speech in 1960 as he opposed Obamacare.
KRAUTHAMMER: Ted Cruz is not the official spokesman for American conservatism. If you want somebody who has been out there, who has offered an alternative — the person who offered an alternative for example is … Paul Ryan. But, let me start with his assumption. His assumption is not that government doesn’t have a role. His assumption is that the welfare state as established with great success by liberals has now reached a point where it no longer fits. With the new demographics and with the higher technology and medicine, we will simply become insolvent unless we radically reform. I’ll give you one fact. When Social Security was instituted, the age of longevity was 62. Today life expectancy is 80. So what you have is a huge change in the demographics and when you look to Europe, which is the social democratic state where we’re headed which has all the entitlements of the government activities which a liberal would want and — to with which American liberalism is headed — it became insolvent because it never adapted to the change in demographics and the change in technology. And it has had a rude awakening.
STEWART: If it was ever presented in that fashion, the way you just presented it, I think the conversation we would be having in this country would be very different.