In this case it was an interview with Senator John McCain (R-AZ). While Sen. McCain, now a staunch Bush backer, was talking about steps the government was allegedly taking to protect the homeland, Stewart interjected, "How much safer can we afford to be, Senator?"
In fact, the reality seems to be that for five years since the 9-11 attacks, the Bush administration has been putting the U.S. increasingly at risk.
The attack on Al Qaeda, which morphed into a full-scale war of "regime change" in the country of Afghanistan, and which ended up dropping its purported raison d'etre--the capture or killing of Osama bin Ladin--was a fraud and a sideshow from the outset. The country was ravaged by aerial attacks, and then the same warlords who had been pillaging and terrorizing that country for years, and running a massive opium operation, were left in power or even aided in assuming power. Bin Ladin was allowed to escape, and the ousted Taliban organization was allowed to reorganize and rebuild its forces.
The invasion of Iraq, on manifestly false grounds, has destroyed a country and left it exactly the kind of "failed state" that Afghanistan was said to have been in 2001--a lawless and violent region open to all kinds of terrorist activities that can be directed against the U.S. and against Americans.
The blank check and unlimited provision of weapons of war, including cluster bombs and phosphorus bombs, by the U.S. to Israel in its ruthless, bloody invasion of Lebanon, has linked America and Americans to the criminal slaughter of hundreds of innocent Lebanese, including children and babies, as has the Bush administration's obstruction of efforts to engineer a cease-fire in that conflict.
Indeed, Bush foreign policy seems over this period to have been calculated to alienate as many countries and people as possible. It is a policy characterized by supreme arrogance, a focus on military activity over negotiation, and support of dictators large and small, while at the same time conducting what from the start was characterized as a "crusade" against Islam.
At home, the strategy has been to bankrupt local communities by cutting federal support for everything from police and fire departments to roads and schools, while failing to fund the most basic elements of national defense--port facilities, airports--and refusing to insist on safety reforms at vulnerable facilities like refineries and chemical plants. (The National Guard, which was conceived and established as a kind of lineal descendant of the colonial era militias, has been shipped off to fight in Iraq, leaving the country largely undefended, whether against natural disaster or foreign attack.)
Meanwhile, the public and Congress have been cowed into frightened silence by the administration's initiation of what it calls a "war on terror," a permanent state of "war" that it has used as a justification for canceling or weakening traditional Constitutionally protected liberties and rights, and for intimidating would-be political opponents from speaking out, for fear of their being called unpatriotic or even treasonous. The American public, uniquely united after 9-11, has been sharply divided into bitter warring camps--those who support the administration and its many wars, and those who oppose it.
If some diabolical anti-American mastermind had been trying, behind the scenes, to destroy this nation by secretly installing in the White House and Pentagon agents who would deliberately sink the ship of state, he or she couldn't have come up with a subversive wrecking crew more adept at the job than the Bush administration. The nation is being bankrupted by tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy and by a pointless, and endless trillion-dollar war. At the same time blood enemies are being produced with every bomb dropped, every innocent victim kidnapped and locked away in America's gulag, every child shot at a roadblock.
Clearly, though, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice et al, are not the secret agents of some malevolent foreign enemy of America. Nor is their vile reign of terror around the globe and their gutting of the Constitution here at home, simply a matter of stupid policy-making. They are, rather, home-grown enemies of American democracy, bent on subverting the country to their own ends of unbridled power.
Their goal in all this is not the stated one of "spreading democracy" at the point of a gun--a clearly ridiculous notion in any case. Rather, the goal is destroying democracy here at home, in order to establish a one-party dictatorship.
From this perspective, it is clear that far from trying to "protect the homeland," the Bush administration is happy to weaken American defenses, as it has been doing, and to manufacture enemies--whether states like Iran and Syria, or stateless organizations like Al Qaeda and Hezzbolah. The more the better. Far from trying to prevent another 9-11, one senses that this administration would like nothing better than for there to be another strike against Americans before the coming congressional elections--a second "new Pearl Harbor" as it were--to justify a full-scale crackdown on dissent, opposition, and independent thought.
George Orwell long ago imagined a world deliberately kept in a perpetual state of war, where the citizenry would accept totalitarian rule in the name of patriotism and security. We are now entering such a state. The yellow "support the troops" ribbons mindlessly pasted on the trunks and rear doors of half the cars, vans and SUVs in America are testimony to a sheep-like acceptance of the official administration line that war is good and in America's interest. I saw one such ribbon today that was particularly credulous. It read: "Remember 9-11. Support our Troops." This despite the fact that our troops are not fighting anyone who remotely had anything to do with 9-11.
We are not far from that Orwellian condition.
The answer to John Stewart's question is clear: We can't afford to be any "safer."