White House extends well-deserved praise to Jon Stewart

WHITE HOUSE EXTENDS WELL-DESERVED PRAISE TO JON STEWART…. It’s too soon to say for sure whether Republican obstructionism will kill the Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. The supermajority appears to be coming together, and Senate Democrats are keeping the pressure on — this new video is worth watching — but time is running out, and a leading conservative senator and his allies aren’t budging.

While we wait and see, it’s heartening to see the White House give some credit to a certain comedian who kept this issue on the political world’s radar screen, and helped make progress possible.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs praised television host Jon Stewart on Tuesday for talking about legislation stalled in the Senate that would provide health benefits for 9/11 first responders.

“I think he has put the awareness around this legislation, and that’s good,” Gibbs said of the “Daily Show” host. During his press briefing, Gibbs said he hoped Stewart could convince two GOP senators to vote to break a filibuster of the bill.

I’m glad Stewart’s efforts are garnering attention, because it’s really not an exaggeration to say the bill would have no chance without his coverage. Indeed, major media outlets — at least in broadcast media — almost completely ignored the Zadroga bill every step of the way. When a GOP filibuster blocked the most recent attempt at passage, despite 58 votes in support of the proposal, it looked like Republicans had killed the bill.

But then “The Daily Show” ran a bunch of segments on this, noting not only the legislation’s merit and the inanity of Republican talking points against the bill, but also calling out news organizations for blowing off an important story regarding 9/11 heroes who need a hand.

And sure enough, Stewart’s public shaming paid off — news shows that couldn’t be bothered to even mention the bill in passing started talking about it. The visibility took a story that was entirely overlooked by the mainstream and made it a national issue, which in turn prompted Republican senators to begin talking to Democratic sponsors again.

The New York Daily News noted this morning, “Thanks in large part to relentless television advocacy by Jon Stewart of ‘The Daily Show,’ the 9/11 bill has risen up the agenda.”

It’d be an exaggeration to say Stewart was solely responsible. Other voices in media (including, ahem, the one you’re reading now) were reporting on the importance of the bill several weeks ago, and as soon as the tax deal was settled, Republicans who were at least open to the Zadroga bill were willing to start talking again.

But as Christopher Beam noted last night, Stewart “shined a light on the issue at the right moment,” which in turn generated some momentum where none existed. With that in mind, the White House shout-out is entirely warranted, and if this manages to somehow pass, “The Daily Show” will have played a key role in making that happen.

As for the bigger picture, Stewart told Rachel Maddow last month that he’s not “in the game,” but rather, is “in the stands yelling things, criticizing.”

Due respect, Jon, but the progress on the Zadroga bill suggests this self-analysis may need some revision.