Stewart on McCain, the Whiny Broken Record

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Just like how it's odd to see middle-aged people angrily protesting the government they've been voting for for 40 years, it's surprising to hear McCain rail against the Capitol in which he's served since the first Reagan administration. But for anyone who's been listening to McCain over the past few decades, his sentiment should come as no shock at all. The Daily Show's tenacious researchers found that McCain's been whining that "Washington is broken" for more than 20 years, and helpfully strung a dozen examples together in a brutal montage.

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Is this a sign of a Stewart-McCain feud? Through much of the 2000s, the comedian and the senator had a chummy relationship, based in part on McCain's willingness to criticize conservatives and make jokes at his colleagues' expense--he once ventured that perhaps John Kerry had shot Zell Miller's dog. From 1999 through 2008, McCain was a frequent guest, appearing three times in 2007 alone and 15 times total. But the senator hasn't been back in two and a half years. Why? Likely because, for Stewart, McCain has lost his mavericky sheen.

In 2006, Stewart earned praise for asking pointed questions about why McCain was giving the commencement address at Liberty University, the school founded by Jerry Falwell, whom McCain famously described as an "agent of intolerance." But the exchange was friendly, and Stewart prefaced is tougher-than-usual questions with much praise for McCain, reminding the audience that, "People who watch this show know, we love John McCain," and calling him "one of our favorite figures in Washington."

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The next year, Stewart interviewed McCain about the Iraq war, and their exchange was more heated, with the comedian pressing McCain on why he would imply that people who question the surge are not supporting the troops. But Stewart still clearly felt much McCain-love. "And you know I love you and respect your service and would never question any of that--this is not about questioning the troops and their ability to fight and their ability to be supported." Stewart said.

Stewart's satire during the 2008 race probably didn't do him any favors with McCain, but it was this year, as McCain shifted rightward in a tough primary battle, that it became clear Stewart was far less enamored of the senator. When McCain said he'd never considered himself a maverick, Stewart responded, "It's like I Can't Believe It's Not Butter saying 'I never believed I was butter!'" In a blow that must have stung a man obsessed with honor, Stewart suggested McCain's slogan should be, “Just tell me what to say and I’ll say it.”

This fall, McCain's daughter Meghan appeared on The Daily Show, and through giggles read a note from Stewart to McCain. "'I miss you so much, baby, please. I promise things will be different. -- Jon.'" Stewart explained, "I just miss him so much... suddenly he got nominated for president, and then he thought, 'I don't like Jon Stewart anymore.'"  But perhaps this is one breakup that no love note can undo.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.