Comedy Central's Jon Stewart pulled off a masterful performance on CNN's "Crossfire" this afternoon, in which he was the most sober and lucid person on stage. In the process, he left former Clinton strategist Paul Begala at a seeming loss for words and conservative darling Tucker "Butt Boy" Carlson probably wishing he had been so lucky.

Stewart made a heartfelt plea for honest debate of the issues and a greater responsibility to the public discourse than "partisan hackery." All this, of course, fell on deaf ears.

Highlights from Stewart's skewering of the bow tie-wearing fool include the following:

STEWART: Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America. ... See, the thing is, we need your help. Right now, you're helping the politicians and the corporations. And we're left out there to mow our lawns.

BEGALA: By beating up on them? You just said we're too rough on them when they make mistakes.

STEWART: No, no, no, you're not too rough on them. You're part of their strategies. You are partisan, what do you call it, hacks.


CARLSON: Jon, Jon, Jon, I'm sorry. I think you're a good comedian. I think your lectures are boring.


CARLSON: Let me ask you a question on the news.

STEWART: Now, this is theater. It's obvious. How old are you?

CARLSON: Thirty-five.

STEWART: And you wear a bow tie. ...


CARLSON: You had John Kerry on your show and you sniff his throne and you're accusing us of partisan hackery?

STEWART: Absolutely.

CARLSON: You've got to be kidding me. He comes on and you...

STEWART: You're on CNN. The show that leads into me is puppets making crank phone calls. What is wrong with you?


BEGALA: Which candidate do you suppose would provide you better material if he won? ...

STEWART: I don't really know. That's kind of not how we look at it. We look at, the absurdity of the system provides us the most material. And that is best served by sort of the theater of it all, you know, which, by the way, thank you both, because it's been helpful.

CARLSON: But, if Kerry gets elected, is it going to -- you have said you're voting for him. You obviously support him. It's clear. Will it be harder for you to mock his administration if he becomes president?

STEWART: The only way it would be harder is if his administration is less absurd than this one. So, in that case, if it's less absurd, then, yes, I think it would be harder. But, I mean, it would be hard to top this group, quite frankly.



I'd laugh harder if the crying didn't also get in the way.

Stewart did get in one good jab, for whick Carlson had no real reply.

CARLSON: I do think you're more fun on your show. Just my opinion. ...

STEWART: You know what's interesting, though? You're as big a dick on your show as you are on any show.


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