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Jon Stewart and Bill O’Reilly: More compatible than you think?

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Jon Stewart versus Bill O’Reilly: Who won the great policy smackdown?

Comedian Stewart (we loved him in “Elmopalooza!”) appeared on Fox’s “O’Reilly Factor” in a two-part interview broadcast Wednesday and Thursday nights. And he sparred with his host about national governance in a manner that would not have been out of place at a Brookings Institution seminar.

“This was pretty intellectual. I’m very, very pleased,” Mr. O’Reilly said when it was over.

The tone was not always, um, decorous. (“You have become the most reasonable voice on Fox,” Stewart told his host at one point. “Which in some ways is like being the thinnest kid at fat camp.”)

But the pair started off with a fairly lengthy discussion about the nature of executive power, in which Stewart opined that President Obama had ceded too much by allowing Congress to draw up healthcare legislation on its own.

“Once you allow a vacuum of power, what will assume power in Washington is special interests,” Stewart said. “If you allow too much nitpicking on the edge of legislation, it will be necessarily turned into a type of lobbyist gruel.”

Then they moved to whether Mr. Obama is, or is not, a socialist.

“If he’s a tyrant, he’s a pretty tame tyrant,” Stewart said. “How many tyrants do you know of that suffer because they can’t get cloture?”

(He’s referring to the fact that Obama no longer has the votes to overcome a unified GOP filibuster in the Senate.)

Then O’Reilly said he was thinking of running for president in 2012, and he wanted to pick Stewart as his running mate, if they were compatible. The pair went issue by issue:


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