Jon Stewart’s Walter Cronkite moment 

Lyndon Johnson is famous for saying that if he had lost the favorable opinion of liberal former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite that he had lost that of most of America.

President Barack Obama may be at a similar juncture now. With his poll numbers continuing a downward trend in light of the Gulf oil leak, his unpopular health care bill, and deficit spending, liberal comedian Jon Stewart asked a question Monday that is now beginning to emerge even in the minds of stalwart Democrats: Is government capable of doing anything large and expansive ?

As chronicled by Noel Sheppard at NewsBusters, Stewart challenged top Obama adviser David Axelrod on whether or not the administration is capable of doing any of the big things it’s promised, an argument long made by conservatives and libertarians wary of government encroachment.

“It’s clear that this administration believes that government can have a stronger hand in regulating Wall Street, in regulating energy, in doing these things. But has government during this time proved itself competent?” Stewart asked.

Axelrod defended his colleagues and argued, as pointed out here by David Freddoso, that the administration’s response to the H1N1 flu is proof that it is up to the task of big government. It was a striking remark that illustrated perhaps the chief reason why President Obama is similar to Jimmy Carter: big government in practice is actually the best argument against big government in theory.

It’s a lesson that appears to have been forgotten by the generations that came of age during the Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush years. Now, it seems, the nation is being educated again on the point. Stewart encapsulated the lesson later on in the interview thusly: “Are our only two choices sort of an incompetent bureaucracy that doesn’t quite regulate properly or free market anarchy?”

The answer, for the most part, is yes. Not because President Obama and his administration are uniquely incompetent or that former president George W. Bush was either, but because we live in the real world where no one person (or group of people) can make the best decisions or actions in every instance. A world in which some things simply will always exist no matter what efforts we may take to eliminate them, one in which some of us will always be intent upon harming others.

It’s a truth that some liberals who came of age during the Johnson-Nixon-Carter years were able to learn after the repeated failures and corruptions of that era. Now it seems that Mickey Kaus is going to have some well-deserved company. Welcome to reality, Jon. Feel free to bring a friend or two.

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Matthew Sheffield

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