The only thing better than watching Jon Stewart’s satirical spin on the world of politics on the “The Daily Show” is watching the sharp-tongued Stewart being outwitted by one of his guests. Such was the case last night when Stewart invited Senator John McCain on the show to explain why he accepted fundamentalist activist Jerry Falwell’s invitation to give the commencement address at the college Falwell founded, Liberty University.

Stewart started the segment by chastising McCain’s decision as a move to pander to the religious right–to which McCain replied, “I’m going to invite you down (to the ceremony) because I want you sitting next to Reverend Falwell when I give it.” Stewart shot back with his own barb by asking, “Is that so if the rapture happens during the speech someone could be there to clean up all the clothes?” Round one to Stewart.

But as Stewart continued to rephrase the same question over and over again (“Don’t you think it’s condoning Falwell’s crazymaking by going down there?” “You don’t think this helps reassert Falwell as a leader?” “Are you freaking out?”), McCain calmly explained that he will deliver the same message at Liberty University that he gives at other universities–choose a life of public service, fight for a cause greater than yourself, live with character. When Stewart continued to badger McCain, McCain went on to explain that he has spoken at Ivy League universities even though he disagrees with their policy of not letting the military recruit on campus so there is no hypocrisy in speaking at Liberty University even if he doesn’t agree with Falwell on everything. Round two: McCain.

Stewart tried one more time to get McCain to take a shot at Falwell by asking if meeting Falwell brought about nerves or “vomit in the back of your throat.” McCain simply answered, “No, but I’ll give him your love.” Clearly, McCain is capable of teaching both Stewart and Falwell a thing or two about engaging in respectful public discourse about politics–while still getting the last laugh.

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