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Jon Stewart's Swing and Miss

POSTED:

You'd be hard-pressed to find a greater Jon Stewart enthusiast than myself, but last night's interview with John McCain left me a little disappointed with the convivially caustic pundit.

About halfway through the interview -- after signaling the end of 'pleasantries' -- Stewart invoked the unsinkable "Reverend Wright issue' and its accompanied queasiness among voters.

As Frank Rich wrote in the Sunday Times this week, McCain's courting of maladjusted televangelist Rev. John Hagee's endorsement should be no less vexing than Barack Obama's relationship with Wright. Hagee, who speaks of the Catholic Church as 'the Great Whore,' suggested Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for scheduling a gay parade through the streets of New Orleans.

After setting up the Wright segue, it looked like Stewart was going down that trail. 'You have your own religious person endorsing your campaign that Americans have expressed greater concern over,' he told McCain. 'Will you take the opportunity right now to repudiate and denounce

President Bush?'

The line roused the audience yet proved a wasted opportunity in the end. McCain jokingly walked off the set, but there's no doubt he was inwardly wiping his brow in relief.

Stewart's friendship with the candidate is no secret; McCain, after all, has now appeared a whopping 13 times on the Daily Show, more than any other guest since Stewart took the helm in 1999. Though it's unfair and unwise to expect a Russert-style grilling between buds on a faux news show, Stewart still could have — and should have — asked the Republican nominee about an issue that could potentially plague him as much as his competition.

You be the judge.

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