On Wednesday, we learned that 2015 would be Jon Stewart's last year as the host of the Daily Show.
Whatever he does next, one of Stewart's most famous clips — his utter demolition of CNN Crossfire hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson on their own show — shows why he has had such an impact on the American conversation.
Crossfire's whole premise was a debate between left and right, one that at times degenerated into a shouting match. Stewart often criticized the show as dumbing down American public discourse. And, when Crossfire's hosts invited him on to debate, he embarrassed them.
"You're partisan — what do you call it — hacks," Stewart said, to a stunned Carlson and Begala. "Stop hurting America." Here's the clip:
Next year, CNN president Jonathan Klein announced Crossfire's cancellation. "I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Stewart's overall premise," Klein said in the announcement.
You might not agree with Stewart's criticism of cable news. You may not like what happened to Crossfire. But the above clip demonstrates Stewart's particular ability as a public figure: an ability to use satire as a means of expressing criticisms a lot of people agreed with in a deeply persuasive way.
As the Crossfire appearance shows, this facility isn't just an artifact of The Daily Show's talented writing staff. Stewart has a gift for putting his finger on a particular national pulse, and expressing in a way people find incredibly compelling. If Stewart wants to keep working after The Daily Show, that ability will help him stay relevant.