Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly filled the partisan divide with sass and snarky quips Saturday at Lisner Auditorium, sticking mostly in their political corners while jousting on the national debt and government spending.
Though the media titans sometimes reach for a common ground in their appearances together, Stewart and O’Reilly found little agreement in highly publicized debate they dubbed The Rumble 2012.
“I’ve come tonight to plead to the mayor of bullshit mountain. Talk to your people,” Stewart said, standing in front of an elaborate red, white and blue backdrop. “On bullshit mountain, our problems are amplified and our solutions are simplified.”
On national debt and entitlement spending, the duo wrestled over how much to blame former President George W. Bush.
Stewart said talking about the $10 trillion of debt amassed under the Bush presidency put the issue in context, and couldn’t be blamed on Obama.
But O’Reilly snapped back: “C’mon, it’s ridiculous. It doesn’t matter what Bush did. It’s the job of the president now to bring the debt under control. You have to cut stuff!”
Mirroring the Wednesday’s debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, talk of domestic issues anchored the hour-long debate.
CNN news anchor E.D. Hill, who moderated what she called a “fight between two teenage boys,” stuck with questions centered around the role of government in the early rounds.
“We’re an entitlement nation. We were born that way,” said Stewart, who stood on an electric lift to make up the vast height difference between the two personalities. “Have you ever seen Oprah’s favorite things episode?”
But while Stewart said the most applause-riling lines (“The first sentence of the constitution mentions ‘union’ and ‘welfare’”), O’Reilly brushed him off. The Fox News pundit even pointed out the Comedy Central star’s mix-up of the national debt and deficit.
The two found the most in common on foreign policy, with both men blasting the way Obama handled the murder of American diplomats in Libya.
O’Reilly, though, said Obama’s greatest weakness on foreign policy was his failure to woo Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
“All Obama has to do is go on a double date with Netanyahu,” O’Reilly said. “But instead he says, ‘Sorry Netanyahu, I can’t meet with you because I have to go on ‘The View.’”
In a press conference after the debate, Stewart and O’Reilly said even though nothing in the debate changed their minds on the issues, the discussion was an example of constructive discourse.
But O’Reilly said Stewart had a natural advantage debating at GW.
“I knew coming into a university would be favorable to Stewart, but I also knew the man needs every advantage he could get,” O’Reilly said.
The Rumble offered a “limited number” of $25 student tickets, which sold out in just hours, as did general admissions tickets in the 1,500 seat auditorium.
It also offered a live-stream version on their website for $4.95, but technical difficulties prevented many from tuning in. Dozens of students took to Twitter and Facebook griping that they could not access the livestream.
The profits generated by ticket sales and online sales will be donated to charities chosen by Stewart and O’Reilly.