Bit Parade

Duke Magazine asked Adam Chodikoff '93, senior producer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, to recall his favorite segments and how they evolved.
Writer: 
April 1, 2009

Bush Legacy Watch

When President Bush gave his first "exit interview" to Charles Gibson, he claimed that he was unprepared for war and that he never said, "Vote for me. I'll be able to handle an attack." That set off an alarm for me. Whenever Bush or a member of his administration says, "I never said...," I've found it pays to check the archives to see if that's true. You know, those guys tended to slightly exaggerate things every once in a while. Sure enough, going back to 2000, I found a couple of examples of then-candidate Bush claiming that he'd be able to protect the country from attack. It was worth it to wade through eight years of speeches to find that.

I also paid attention to the round of speeches Bush made at think tanks bolstering his legacy and tried to read as many articles as possible. In his Middle East legacy speech, he said that he may not have gotten a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians—as he had repeatedly promised—however, he insisted there was a "foundation of trust for the future." That's a quote that I kept in my quiver, filing it away for just the right time, which turned out to be when Israel invaded Gaza this past December.

Wolfowitz and the World Bank

I like holding on to quotes, sometimes for years, to use at just the perfect moment. When Paul Wolfowitz was named head of the World Bank, I was able to use two of my favorite Iraq quotes: Wolfowitz pooh-poohing General Eric Shinseki's [A.M. '76] warning that more troops would be needed after the invasion than before, and Wolfowitz saying oil revenue would pay for the costs of the war. We used those examples to show the World Bank what type of leader they were getting. As every Duke graduate is told upon being handed their diploma, "Whatever you do in life, for the love of all that's holy, strive to maintain the integrity of the office of the presidency of the World Bank." I hope this segment helped fulfill that goal.

Gender Card

I found a few of the examples we used on a big hypocrisy roundup during the Republican National Convention. Jon and the producers had seen [political commentator] Dick Morris complain about sexism [in] media treatment of Sarah Palin, so they wanted me to find Dick Morris dismissing the sexism charge in the past as it related to Hillary Clinton. I found a great example of Morris blasting Clinton for hiding behind the sexism charge. I also had read John McCain spokesperson Nancy Pfotenhauer's op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that morning complaining about sexism toward Palin. When Pfotenhauer went on TV to push that charge, I found a clip of her on MSNBC from 2007 going after the Hillary campaign for invoking sexism.

McCain the Socialist

When McCain was hitting the "Obama's a socialist" angle hard, I remembered back in 2001 when he was attacking the Bush tax cuts as being weighted toward the rich. I was curious whether there was the off-chance that someone in the physical universe had ever used the socialism argument against him, and, sure enough, I found a clip from Hardball from 2000 of some student from Michigan State asking McCain why her doctor father had to pay more in taxes just because he's successful—and she explicitly compared it to socialism. McCain responded that he didn't mind those who were [better off] having to pay more in taxes. [That] became ammo for Jon and the writers to use to show how bogus the "Obama's a socialist" argument was.