The Problem with War
Jon Talks About the Passing of the PACT Act
Jon is joined by staff writers Kasaun Wilson and Rob Christensen to talk about his fight to get the PACT Act—which gives urgently needed healthcare to sick veterans—passed in the Senate. He discusses battling Republican misinformation and the behind-the-scenes work it took to achieve this victory. Plus, Kay and Rob chat about their struggle to behave in the Senate gallery, Jon’s Bernie Sanders impression, and what the Senate has in common with an assisted living facility.
LISTEN TO A CLIP
Jon Talks About the Passing of the PACT Act
Ep 205 Final Transcript
Maggie Hassan: On this vote. The yeas are 86, the nays are 11. Under the previous order requiring 60 votes for the adoption of this motion to concur, the motion is agreed to. [CLAPPING]
[END C-SPAN CLIP]
Interview with Jon Stewart
Kasaun: Hello, welcome to The Problem with Jon Stewart. My name is Kasaun Wilson.
Rob: I’m Rob Christensen. We’re both writers on the show. And for this podcast, we’re gonna do it a little different. Kasaun and I are gonna host, and we’re gonna bring in a very special guest. Our boss, Mr. Jon Stewart. Welcome to your podcast. [KASAUN LAUGHS]
Jon: Mimimimimi. [LAUGHTER]
Rob: A very tired person who left DC at 8:00 PM last night.
Kasaun: Truly. Yeah.
Jon: You know, I didn’t realize that legislating can give you a hangover.
Rob: Oh, yeah.
Jon: So it’s —
Kasaun: Drunk on democracy?
Jon: Drunk on democracy, motherf*****.
Rob: That must be why they don’t do much of it in DC.
Jon: Oh man.
Kasaun: So we have so much to talk about that happened yesterday.
Jon: I know.
Kasaun: The passing of the PACT Act.
Rob: And what the PACT Act did is that, it provided healthcare for veterans who were, uh, injured by the burn pits. They had burn pits in, at war. It gave them cancers and other ailments. And now they’re gonna be covered when they go to the VA. They’re gonna have presumption that their diseases were caused by their service,
Kasaun: Or if you’re a Republican, it is a slush fund that we gotcha on.
Rob: Gotcha! $400 billion. [KASAUN LAUGHS]
Kasaun: And if you are not familiar with the burn pits and the reason for why the PACT Act was so important, please check out season one episode one of The Problem with Jon Stewart on Apple TV+. We pretty much talk about it at length about these veterans and everything that they sacrificed in the fight that they’ve had to come back to America and fight for their healthcare wellbeing and for those who, unfortunately didn’t make it, but still deserve to have the healthcare taken care of.
Kasaun: It was passed.
Rob: And it was passed again.
Kasaun: It was a blowout and then we lost and then we won by more than what we won by originally.
Jon: That’s the thing, you know, I don’t know if you guys felt like when that gut punch happened, when they turned the bill down. I think that was on either Wednesday night or Thursday night. You know, everybody had gathered there in Washington, all the veteran service organizations, all the veterans for a celebration because this bill had obviously already passed 84 to 14 and it had a blue slip issue, which is, there was a small constitutional provision about rural VA providers had to be taken out. One sentence. Uh, so they were all there. So when, when, when Pat Toomey stood around the desk and convinced all of his frat brothers to, uh, and we’ll get into what the Senate is like, but when he convinced them all to just, you know, “Hey man, let’s just take a stand here against veterans with cancer. [ROB LAUGHS] Let’s do that. Let’s, let’s finally defeat big veteran with cancer.” And, uh, you know, when that happened, people were, were devastated. And I don’t like not to like overly massage the point, but like people committed suicide, like that’s real. And within the period. And—
Rob: Because of that?
Jon: That’s right.
Rob: Oh man.
Jon: We know of two instances of people that we were actively, uh, trying to get help who committed suicide. Like that’s how f***ing serious this was right?
Rob: Thanks for playing your games with the bill.
Jon: See that, that’s the point. That’s why I was so mad. And because the misinformation willful from the right, like, I still can’t understand, like, what’s the point of this whole, like, it’s a “Schumer Green New Deal” slush— like, and it’s right there. Like, you can look it up. It’s not like we’re not playing semantic games. Nothing changed from June 16th to July. So knowing the stakes of what was going on, like, you know, that’s why I was so raw.That’s why we were fighting so hard because when this misinformation grabs hold, and Rob, you might know, look, and I don’t know if you’re on like those, you know, net bot servers or whatever they are for military community. But that real right, that hardcore right wing part of the military —
Jon: — was attacking the f**k outta everybody else all caps.
Rob: Yeah. Yeah. I do know some people who are in, who are very right and it’s just, they don’t question this information when it comes in. And like question it, if it’s coming from Schumer, question it and it’s coming from, Toomey, absolutely 100% every time, question it too.
Kasaun: Toomey being the Senator from Pennsylvania, if you don’t know.
Jon: But it, it was the certainty of it of no, the Dems inserted. They switched it from mandatory. And I, and I kept telling people, “Don’t believe me. I understand what you think of me, but you don’t have to take it from me. Take it from your eyeballs, whatever connects your eyeballs to the other processing chips that go on there. You can actually go on the site and just line the two documents up.”
Kasaun: Jon, the whole week is like, “My evidence ends in dot gov. Like I’m not making — or a dot com.
Rob: Fact check me.
Jon: Can I tell you what’s crazy though? This whole run right, was a micro. I felt like for me, it exposed the fault lines of our dysfunction. By the way, also exposed some really positive developments. If people are looking, for a reason to hang with this government, your senators may, and not all of them obviously, but a lot of them may be f*** wads. But the legislative aids that worked on this tirelessly know their s*** backwards and forwards work way harder than anybody else down there. They come in earlier, they leave later, they know the ins and outs. They know how to climb the ladders of bureaucratic protocol and get what needs to be done. They’re practical. They’re brilliant. They’re grounded. They’re not divided by and that’s, by the way, the most part, like certain senators, the ones you might imagine, their legislative aids are mini me’s of their idiot, senators and like, you’ll, you’ll talk to them and they’ll just be like, “Why don’t you put in a slush fund?” And you’re like, you f****** know Simon, you know, Simon and Pat. They wrote it, go talk to them. I’m telling you, by the way, big, big, big shout out to Simon Coon and Pat McGuigan who are legislative and Lindsay Deering, from Tester’s office, from, and Tony McClain Tester’s office, Boozman’s office, uh, Moran’s office, the brilliance of them together, ignoring all the other stuff. So if you’re looking for reasons of hope, our government at the level, you don’t see, is staffed by some brilliant, hardworking, practical, reasonable people.
Rob: And yeah, it’s amazing to be standing next to the guy who wrote the bill and then looking at the senators on the Republican side, lying. And I’m like, I have the guy here, he wrote the thing.
Kasaun: So Simon and Pat like wrote, they’re instrumental in actually writing out the PACT Act. How the money gets distributed, like all of that stuff.
Jon: That’s right. Yeah, yeah.
Rob: So, and can I just say real quick, shout out to Simon Coon, I got a tall guy with a shaved head wearing a chain full sleeve tattoos.
Jon: Yeah man, Dyker Heights, fan, Dyker Heights.
Kasaun: The only c**** I root for. [LAUGHTER]
Jon: Oh that’s f****** hilarious. Can I tell you how he and I bonded?
Jon: He, he was a fucking straight edge punk. [KASAUN LAUGHS]
Rob: I see that.
Jon: I for years worked at a legendary punk club in Trenton, New Jersey called City Gardens. And when Simon found that out, it just, we, then you start twirling down that road of like right Suicidal Tendencies, then show that Gwar show in 1986, you know, he’s obviously a lot younger than me, but you know, I was the old man telling him stories of Gibby Haynes, you know, and all those guys. So, uh, but, but that’s how we bond, but those guys are, I’m telling you, man, and you know, what you feel stupid about is like wanting to hug them cuz you know, Pat and Simon, and it’s just like, I will kill everyone in my path and you’re just like my man. [ROB LAUGHS]
Kasaun: I just, I want, I want everyone to know the guy who wrote the PACT Act wears a pinky ring. [JON LAUGHS]
Rob: Yes, yes.
Jon: Not, not all the time. That was just celebratory.
Rob: We need to take the pinky ring back. OK.
Kasaun: That’s a fact.
Jon: Celebratory. It was, it was merely in an accoutrement on a festive, on a festive day. But you know, what’s crazy though about that is, I can’t tell you how many reporters write up the story of what happened and they’re wrong.
Jon: Just flat out wrong, wrong on substance, wrong on style, wrong on everything. And you, like my job that whole five days was I am going to suss out every moment of misinformation that I can and try and push it back in the tube, because this is making it harder for the veterans to get this through it’s it’s obfuscating, it was doing its job. The misinformation was doing its job.
Jon: So you would get, and so I’d get these reporters and I would say, this is wrong. And they’d say, well, you know, I got that from YahooNews.gov or some other sh**. And you’re like, that’s just an aggregator. How about this? And so I made Simon all day long, just working to get on the phone with people and go like. OK. So page 19, here’s what happened. And like, just run through everything that was going on.
Rob: And our journalists though, they do have a purpose in society. It is to fact check the s***. That’s what they do. They go out and find the stuff and they make sure it’s true.
Jon: I’m not, I, so Rob — and again, look, I’ve been doing this a lot — I don’t think that’s, I think what they’re supposed to do is find out what, what that means for the midterms.
Rob: Oh you’re so right.
Kasaun: To spec, to speculate.
Rob: My bad. I had an old definition.
Jon: Yeah. It’s no, it’s, what everything means for the midterms, but, uh, oh. And, uh, here’s a great one f****** Newsweek came out with a fact check on Toomey. Today. [LAUGHTER]
Rob: OK. OK. The bill, the bill passed yesterday.
Kasaun: Well done. We’re gonna get Tuberville now.
Rob: We’ve got ‘em guys.
Jon: We’re gonna get to it. We’re gonna get to it.
Kasaun: So like, can we take a step back? Let’s start from the beginning.
Jon: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Kasaun: I think for people who don’t know, they know something really good happened for veterans. It was trending on Twitter. Like all of this amazing stuff.
Jon: By the way, not even really good, like just, just like, here’s how f****** up we are — like they still have cancer. They’re still fighting these illnesses. Like it’s the perspective of like, for a moment you are like, yes, chemo won’t bankrupt them. Like, so in, in the perspective of, it was a day, the country lived up to an obligation that it had, but their lives are still a battle.
Rob: Yeah, for sure.
Jon: And that, and that’s the thing.
Kasaun: I have no segue for what I’m about to say.
Jon: Bring it, Kay.
Kasaun: Which is, I feel so guilty for how great of a time I had yesterday. And we want to tell you about it, Jon. Uh, we just wanna talk about everything that happened yesterday. We were, we were in DC with Jon, a group of us went down. And saw it from, I wanna say beginning to the end. It was clearly, you’ve been fighting for decades.
Rob: You know, we showed up on the last day and shook hands. [JON LAUGHS]
Jon: Can I tell you what was nice though? And I, and I honestly mean this, so like we’re worn out and when you are that way, like, I, I really, the reason why I switched tactics on that day was I could tell the group was, was done. Like some of the veterans were in crisis. We had to get the VA to send over crisis counselors. Like these folks have traumatic stress, they have disabilities, they have illnesses caused by the burn pits (unintelligible). And like they were fraying. They had been outside for a very long time. And when new people come and bring new energy, it allows them to go a little bit further to dig a little bit deeper. And when Kay and Rob and Brinda and Gillian, and the podcast team, and everybody showed up,
Kasaun: Robby, Robby came too.
Jon: and Robby came and it was such a lift. And what I thought was interesting is obviously down there, you know, we don’t have unlimited food and, uh, to see all you guys around that food table, in some ways, keeping others from getting there was really what, for me, you know, I was like, well, you know, we don’t, we don’t actually have more. I think it’s, I think it’s only, we just have that one box of burgers and to know that it was nice to see how hungry you guys were.
Rob: Yeah, we make sure when we come down, we support and we get all the pepperoni pizza.
Jon: That’s right.
Kasaun: We gotta stay focused. We can’t allow you to get, yeah.
Jon: Yeah. Well, I remember I was like, oh, this is a great lift, but guys, it’s not an open bar. [ROB AND KASAUN LAUGH] So if you could just for a second and let the guy in the wheelchair just have maybe some of the coleslaw, that’s all I wasn’t asking for much.
Kasaun: Robby did have two cups of salad.
Jon: Yeah. What was Robby doing with, I look over, he’s got a cup and a fork and I’m like…
Kasaun: and John Feal kind of looked at us like be more like this guy, like we ate bread and he let us have it.
Kasaun: And I’m like, bro, we’re trying to get the PACT Act done. I didn’t come here to feel guilty.
Rob: I came here for pizza.
Jon: Yeah. John Feal is pure paleo. He just reaches in for meat and just does — it’s a lot of things.
Kasaun: So who, all right, we should understand that there’s some inside stuff here that people may not know for those who don’t know who John Feal, can you explain?
Jon: John Feal is, uh, an absolute whirling dervish of a human being, served in the army. He’s an army guy airborne, I think. And, uh, you know, when, when 9/11 happened, he went down there to help because he was also construction foreman and he decided, God knows where he got the willpower or the strategic know how.
Rob: Long Island. [KASAUN LAUGHS]
Jon: You know what, Nesconset, he’s from Nesconset, so that’s probably it. Uh, and he organized this, I mean, hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of trips down to Washington to get these people taken care of. And he was the guiding force behind really the momentum, the foot soldiers of getting the Zadroga Act through the, uh, the Congress back in 2010. When I became aware that this was going on, I reached out to him to say, “Hey man, come on the show. Let’s —” cuz Mitch McConnell, oddly enough, because it’s the Senate. It’s the same players because nobody ever leaves the Senate because. It’s Hotel California. And so, “Come on. Let me try and shame them before they go on their break. And let’s do…” He’s like, “Jon, I’d love to come and do it, but I can’t Jon, Jon, Jon, I can’t. Jon I’m here in Washington and Jon, I can’t.” But he hooked me up with four people, a firefighter, construction worker, cops, and they came on the show and he and I just stayed in touch with it and thinking it was over, but it was never over and he’s never been able to do it. And this will be the rest of his life, by the way, is making sure that these funds are properly administrative and all those sorts of things. But we became very close and over these past, you know, 12 years or so, we’ve been, we’ve been brothers in arms trying to do this and, and he’s just the hell of a dude.
Kasaun: Needless to say, uh — you ever watch like a blowout NBA game where when it’s a minute and a half left, they bring in a five, four point guard to just dribble the timeout?
Jon: Are you talking about, are you talking about Mugsy Bowes? Because that’s an All-Star, baby.
Kasaun: No. I mean like literally the guy that you’ve never heard of that just dribbles the timeout. That’s what the writers were yesterday. We were just, we were just dribbling the ball out. You guys had done all hard work and we were —
Jon: Uh two weeks ago, uh Kasaun was with G League [KASAUN LAUGHS] Ignite and now he’s with the Lakers and he’s chucking up some threes.
Kasaun: So we, we were out on the, we were, we got to DC, we were on the Capitol lawn at like 10:00 AM. And, uh, we were just hanging out with the veterans and hearing stories and, and it was just such an incredible time to, I mean, hearing devastating stories, but just hanging out with people who are like heroes and hearing their stories. And—
Jon: That’s right.
Rob: And if, if you wanna talk about energy, if you thought we brought energy, they brought us energy.
Rob: When we get down there and we talk to these people, it’s like, you’ll do anything for them at that point. Like, I’m going nowhere now.
Kasaun: It’s it’s—
Jon: And, and Rosie is, did you, did you get to meet and talk to Rosie?
Jon: Rosie Torres is talking about it, but she’s another she’s like what John Feal was during the Zadroga Act for the burn pits she’s been at this, her husband, Leroy Torres was sickened by the burn pits, came home, Texas state, trooper couldn’t work. They fired him. They’re about to lose their house. He gets suicidal, you know, it pulling them. She pulled him back from the brink and his service dog, and they decided to fight. and so they began this effort and that’s actually how John and I, John Feal, and I got involved, Rosie saw what was going on with Zadroga and said, that sounds like what’s happening to us.
Jon: She contacted Feal. He contacted me and we were like “When and where, baby. Let’s do this.”
Rob: And the connection is that, uh, and, on 9/11, they were breathing in some s*** that was toxic, that was burning in the rubble. And at the same time, our soldiers were burning s*** and breathing it in the same s*** they were being told to by their superiors.
Jon: Right. One, one was an attack and the other was a direct order.
Kasaun: Yeah. It’s —
Jon: F***ing stupid.
Kasaun: It’s incredible how effective injustice is at creating community, it’s like, it was just hanging out on the —
Jon: Bars. Bars, K, bars.
Kasaun: Oh, listen. Yeah. I mean, you guys did all the speeches yesterday. [JON LAUGHS]
Rob: And there was a lot of speeches non — stop speeches
Jon: By the way, if they would cut out the speeches you would see probably 60 to 70 percent more legislation. Washington is 10 percent legislation, 20 percent cocktails and lunch. And the rest is speeches.
Kasaun: So we don’t know these people, Jon. You talk to these people all the time. Uh we’re on the lawn. You know, these people, you talk to these people, you talk through legislation, you hear all the stuff behind the scenes. We don’t know these people. So we’re on the lawn, hanging out with the veterans, having a good time, electric sliding for justice, all that good stuff. Mm. Who, who’s the most noteworthy Senator that came over to you, Rob? Like who’s the person that you’re like, this is —
Rob: Oh, well, the star of this show was Warnock.
Kasaun: Oh, a hundred percent.
Jon: Yeah, really? Oh man. OK. See, whenever, whenever those folks walk over, I don’t know if you guys noticed. I walk away.
Rob: Yes. We noticed. [LAUGHTER]
Rob: You know, we still got we’re wide eyed and bushy-tailed.
Jon: Alright. Alright.
Rob: What we like about Warnock is that he’s very different in person than he is on television. when you see him. I—
Kasaun: I would like to say something that I’m already requesting you guys to cut from his podcast. He wore buffs. He wears buffs, Jon, and he ties his tie, like an original king of comedy.
Jon: Let me tell you something. Nobody looks better than Warnock. Like yeah. He walks out there and I think, cuz you also see — like let’s face facts — the Senate is a glorified assisted living facility.. [KASUAN LAUGHS] So when you, when you bring in a Warnock, uh, when you bring in, you know, when you get a couple of guys who cut a dapper figure, and you’re just like, “Is that the lawyer who’s trying to shut down the nursing home?” [KASAUN AND ROB LAUGH] Like, you don’t know, you’re trying to pick everybody’s places. It’s like when we were in the gallery and you see them walk, come up, tell me that didn’t look like “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” where it’s just elderly people walking up to get their medicine.
Kasaun: John Ossoff is, is somebody’s grandson. And that they’re like, “This is my grandbaby who came to visit me.”
Jon: My favorite thing about watching these votes is all the guys in their grays. You know, it’s all gray and brown and you know, ash and so it all has this very sort of Otto Preminger feel as they’re walking up and then Krysten Sinema walks with a Lily Pulitzer. And her shoes have daisies.
Kasaun: A great look.
Rob: Yeah. Honestly, unfortunately we have to report that she looked great.
Jon: She looked great and she’s moving two to three times faster than anybody else and creating vapor trails. And all you do is you look over at like Grassley going, “Who’s she coming to visit?” It’s the funniest f***ing thing you could ever. I mean, it’s just, it’s such a wild place.
Kasaun: It’s alright. So, so for those who don’t know, we were on the lawn, we weren’t sure when things were gonna get passed.
Jon: Uh, no, I’ll tell you this, though, because any, because senators are coming over, that’s how, you know, s***’s starting to get resolved cuz we were down there for days and the only people came over were the Capitol Police going, “Please don’t put your chair there. Can you, yeah.” You know, when the senators started coming, that’s when I went, we’re gonna, we’re gonna win this.
Kasaun: So, so Warnock came over. Yeah. Uh, uh, uh, I mean, it was headlines.
Rob: He had Heinrich from New Mexico.
Jon: Sure. Yeah. Tell me. He’s a good dude. Tester —
Rob: Hell of a tan on this man Heinrich.
Jon: Hell of a tan.
Rob: Too good of a tan for a man with the last name Heinrich. [JON LAUGHS] I think how does that happen? Another writer, Robby, said that he had big time game show host vibes.
Kasaun: Yes that’s, agree. Agree.
Jon: No question. Um, he does, he does their trivia night from whatever [KASAUN AND ROB LAUGH]
Kasaun: Um, Mark Kelly came, uh, and I, I think the first time you said like, senators don’t come over unless they know is when Schumer came over and you were like, “OK, this —”
Jon: They wouldn’t do it. Yeah. They, they, they don’t have, that’s not, they don’t come over to like check on things. They. That, that’s just not how they work.
Kasaun: Uh, Bernie came over and said, what’s up. And it started to feel like there was some optimism in the air, but we weren’t sure. And regardless, like what everything Jon is saying is absolutely true. Like any publication that was like, Republicans have already voted. No, like we didn’t even know mm-hmm and we’re kind of getting word as we go along and we find out there a vote is going down mm-hmm and we figure out that we’re gonna go out into the Senate, which I think for me, Robby and Rob, we were like, this is not what I envisioned I’d be wearing the first time I’m invited inside.
Rob: Yeah. I’m watching my first vote in the gallery in a shirt that I’ve sweated for nine hours straight [JON LAUGHS], deodorant giving up.
Kasaun: So, um, they take a, we, we have to go inside the Capitol, but first we have to go through 30 minutes of the insurrection tour and —
Jon: Boy, isn’t that — when you walk through there now, it’s a different vibe than. like you walk through certain places and you go, “Oh, this is where the confederate flag guy was.”
Rob: Yeah. Yeah.
Jon: Oh, this is where the, like, it it’s haunting now in a way that it wasn’t when we were first doing it.
Rob: And also it’s really different when you’re allowed to be there. [KASAUN LAUGHS] I say the vibe’s a little different, it’s a little more put together, you know, when you’re like welcomed in.
Jon: Let me say this, easily 40 to 50 percent less tear gas. [ROB AND KASAUN LAUGH]
Kasaun: We’re not, they kept telling us to be quiet. I was like, you ain’t say that to the…
Jon: Right, right, right.
Kasaun: Um, so we’re sitting in the Senate gallery.
Rob: Yeah. We make, we go in, we go, we get invited in. We didn’t think we were going in. Yeah. We didn’t know that was gonna happen. This is a surprise. And again, our eyes are wide. We can’t believe that we’re even able to be part of this. And then they tell us they have to, we have to give up our phones and we’re like, well, maybe we don’t, we don’t wanna go in anymore. [JON LAUGHS] You know, because we’re so addicted to our phones, but we go in everyone’s phones, electronics, my watch, everything is locked up and we get put into the gallery and we’re all sitting together. And, and at this point it’s like, I could only describe it as like it’s 100% pure uncut reality. Like the emotions are in the air. The air is thick. There’s no distractions. You’re with your people. And you’re watching this, the work that everyone’s done, had done, come to fruition. Yeah. That I had, I felt really alive. I felt truly alive in that moment.
Jon: Can I tell you for me, because I’ve been there a lot, it’s hard for me to turn off the TV producer brain. So for me, it’s like, if you’re gonna put phones in a pouch, you’ve gotta bring some entertainment and some game. And there are certain things like [KASAUN LAUGHS] the vote would, it would stir to a certain climax. And then all of a sudden there’d like, be this weird seven minute lag and I’d be like, “We’re gonna have to cut this part. Yeah. We’re gonna cut this part and we’ve gotta bring some finale to this.”
Rob: Jon, Jon’s the Senate warmup guy. Jon’s the warmup guy.
Kasaun: Jon is just David Stern-ing it. So all he is all, “Y’all ready for this?” [Kasaun sings section of “Get Ready” by 2 Unlimited]
Jon: 5’8” tall from Ohio
Kasaun: And it’s just, it’s just Cory Booker, erghhh
Jon: Like a, the whole time it’s going on because nobody has phones and we’re not allowed to be demonstrative, right? Uh, so all I’m doing is impressions of every senator as they walk out to the entire gallery that, that we’re sitting with trying not to do it loud enough, that is going to cause us an issue.
Rob: And you did do it loud enough to cause us a few issues. And we, we were silenced a few times.
Jon: In my defense, the Bernie Sanders bit was gold. And I don’t think any of you can argue that.
Rob: And you gotta do that at full volume. [KASAUN LAUGHS]
Kasaun: You can’t whisper that one.
Jon: You can’t for that one. We, we were, this is just a point of order that goes up. We’re looking up in the gallery and Bernie Sanders, most of the gallery is empty and he’s just wandering clearly aimlessly. And so the whole time going, [JON DOES A BERNIE SANDER IMPERSONATION] [KASAUN LAUGHS] “I left the candy. There’s a, there’s a, there’s a, there’s a hard candy. I, I left it here. It was, uh, they’re not, they’re not expensive, but I, I like the flavor and I got,” [IMPERSONATION ENDS] and I’m doing the whole thing and I’m walking everybody ha ha laughing, laughing. He ends up over at a desk. He reaches in, he pulls something. And what does he take out?
Rob: Oh, no.
Jon: I am not f***ing lying. Hard candy.
Rob: Oh man.
Jon: Boom! Nostradamus.
Rob: Yeah, that’s a, that’s a guy you can rely on, you know what Bernie’s gonna do and say.
Kasaun: First of all, we were, we were very tightly packed in. Whoever created the dimensions for the Senate gallery also made Greyhound buses. Like it’s—[[JON LAUGHS]
Jon: It’s the same, by the way, same caliber of people. Oh yeah.
Kasaun: Um, so we’re, we’re watching the, they, they go through three amendments. If it, if it’s not the whole thing’s online. Uh, they go through the three amendments, they’re voting yes or no. And we’re, we’re literally just in a Senate gallery looking down on just a zoo of evil. It’s like, it’s just, you’re just watching. We’re just, we’re supposed to be quiet. We’re not supposed to say anything. We can’t stand. We can’t talk. We can’t move.
Rob: Can’t celebrate.
Kasaun: Couldn’t start a wave. And, and we’re just watching. We’re just watching, like. All of these, we watched Cruz walk in, which is, I mean…
Jon: Did you ever have a moment? There were certain moments like when Cruz walked in where you almost felt like, so they’re not gonna play the Darth Vader music? [Rob hums a section of “The Imperial March” by John Williams]. But, um, but there there’s, there’s a lot of moments where certain people walk in and I think, you know what, you motherf***ers don’t necessarily deserve to work in a building this nice.Like that building is beautiful. It’s and it is filled with the, the, the trappings of a democratic system that was messy, but has functioned, relatively, uh, unscathed for, for all these years. And some of those guys walk in and I just think like you should be working above a Kinko’s two-story building. Like you don’t deserve to be here under the bust of the vice president. Like you just don’t deserve it.
Kasaun: One of the best jokes I heard yesterday was that the Senate floor looks like it was designed by a Persian. [JON LAUGHS] It was, it was Reza Riazi’s dream. [JON LAUGHS] Our producer. That would the only thing he would change —-
Jon: Ornate. Ornate.
Kasaun: The only thing he would change if he moved in was the flags. [JON LAUGHS]
Jon: By the way, one of my favorite things, the whole, so, you know, we all have that image in our head of when Toomey sank the bill, uh, the, the week prior and on that. And we were watching it on C-SPAN. Again, we were not in the gallery at that time. Um, he’s at that little front desk area and they’re all coming in and he’s fist bumping, he’s talking, he’s whispering. And then I remember the time it was before the vote happened officially and I was watching Toomey come in and it was like a West Point cheating scandal. Like we turn our back on thee. Like everybody kind of f***ing turned their back on him. Yeah. And he was alone. Yeah. And the difference was palpable. And I thought, they’re angry with him. He probably sold them a bill of s*** that wasn’t true. And they didn’t realize the hornets nest that they had stepped on. They didn’t realize that people weren’t gonna take it, that they were gonna call bulls*** that they were gonna raise and kick up a s*** storm. And I’m sure they were going to him the next few days going, “What did you do to us? What the f*** did you do to us?”
Kasaun: We, we got a couple questions cuz I, I think we have an experience of what happened that day. Like just being down there, how honored we were to be there. What’s going on through your head because you were there. I think you and Rob were the first ones there. Rob got there, like dumb early. We went, we stopped to get breakfast and right. Rob’s like, I think it’s just me and Jon here.
Rob: You know, I’m not gonna eat breakfast when veterans are suffering. Come on, guys. [JON LAUGHS]
Kasaun: You really trying to set me up to be canceled on YouTube? It sucks. [ROB LAUGHS] Alright. Uh, so what’s like, what’s, I, we have, we have the, the day where you kind of, we kind of know there’s something rumbling to the time that we know we’re going in for the vote to like, when you’re kind of confident, like — slightly that this is gonna happen to the moment that it, that you see people flipping and you really know this is what’s going on. Like you talk through like, what, like your, how do you, you experienced yesterday?
Jon: I don’t think I experienced it, unfortunately. Uh, I think, uh, I certainly was there. I saw the video, but I feel a tremendous amount of pressure in these situations because, uh, I feel responsible for helping them and getting them to the next thing. Because, you know, in a weird way, look, they’re, they’re on the ground, in the trenches feeling the effects of this. I am not. I am isolated from it, insulated from it, and I’m not feeling the pain they’re feeling, but I’m feeling the responsibility to help them get what they need. So you are in, I imagine in some ways it’s like working in an emergency room and people are coming in and they need to be triaged. The only difference is I don’t have no know-how. So you are, you spend your days grinding your gears to think, how can I help this? What can I do? And it’s, and there’s a ton, you know, you guys know me, you saw like, it’s just, it’s, it’s a lot of walking in circles and figuring things out and trying to go and then make that play, make that play. And at a certain point you are running just as hard as you can and as fast as you can, because you’re on a deadline, like I know these people are fraying, and I know that if we, if we go past Tuesday night, I don’t know if they’ll be able to hold on. And so I feel, uh, an awful lot of, of a feeling of, “Do not f*** this up for these people.” It’s one of the things that upset me about, you know, we had that troll guy come over and —
Kasaun: When you guys were doing yoga on the lawn?
Jon: Yeah. so, you know, I was so mad at myself because one of the things that was keeping this from being done was all this misinformation. And this was a dude that was putting out a lot of it.
Jon: And, and stirring up this whole group. And I know how to deal with this. I’ve done it my whole life in comedy clubs and the pressure of their pain combined with my sort of exhaustion, to some extent and not, and not having the guardrails up on my own kind of emotions. Uh, I did what you would call the opposite of what you’re supposed to do. Uh, I lost my s*** And in that moment I thought, “Oh f***, I just, I just changed the news on this.” And, uh, was very fortunate that that was not, uh, that, that was not the case.
Kasaun: That’s also why by Tuesday we would watch you do like a Fox interview and then, a second later, it would look like you were on kick return on a tree, like two miles away. [JON AND ROB LAUGH] It’s like after every interview you were like, “I need to go pray.” Like it was, uh —
Rob: Where’s Jon at? And it’s like, “A hundred yards away. He’s in the shade of a tree. [JON LAUGHS] He, he’s kneeling.”
Kasaun: Jon has really, he has very low fuel economy. [JON LAUGHS] His emotional fuel economy is so low that he, it takes him 30 minutes to come back and be like, “Everybody got pizza? Everybody got pizza? Right? Alright, cool, cool.”
Rob: “It wasn’t just my staff eating the pizza, right? The veterans got pizza, right?” [JON AND KASAUN LAUGH]
Kasaun: Oh, OK, so a couple things that happened that is great. Uh, we, we did hold signs at some point.
Kasaun: Uh, we, we held signs.
Kasaun: And one thing that you have no idea that happened is that they asked us to hold signs because the veterans, well, they were really tired. Robby Slowik, who is uh, who is not…
Rob: Not a veteran.
Kasaun: Not a veteran.
Jon: I would say this: He’s willowy. [KASAUN AND ROB LAUGH] I think he’s willowy. If that, if that would be the way to describe it, he’s a, he’s a willowy gentleman.
Kasaun: Yes, but he is also a writer on our show.
Kasaun: And he inherited a sign from a veteran that simply said, “I am a veteran. I am not a political pawn. [JON LAUGHS] Pass the PACT Act.”
Rob: And so I got a, I get a sign. I inherit a sign. It’s pretty, I have a pretty generic sign. And so we’re standing there in the line and I’m hear Robby down there. He’s like, “Uh, hey Rob. Uh, Hey. Hey buddy. Um, Can you trade signs with me real quick?” [JON LAUGHS]
Kasaun: There, there is at least one news publication that has a line of veterans holding signs with Robby Slowik, breaking the line, asking, “Rob, can we please, can we please trade signs?”
Rob: He’s like, “My sign is just not true.” I’m not a veteran, and then he gives me the sign. It’s like, well, it’s still not true, cuz I am a political pawn. There’s nothing I can do about that.
Jon: But you’re a veteran though.
Jon: So that helps.
Rob: Yeah. Yeah.
Jon: Actually the sign that Rob was originally holding was, “I am a thin Jewish writer.” [KASAUN LAUGHS]
Jon: And it was very strange!
Rob: Perfect switch.
Jon: It’s perfect.
Kasaun: And once he, and once he switched with me, we all felt good about it.
Jon: Yeah. No, that, that makes sense.
Kasaun: So when did you know, when did you feel good that it was gonna go through?
Jon: I mean there’s steps, right?
Rob: Fox News.
Jon: None of that is —
Jon: — when you feel good at all.
Rob: Those are not the steps? Oh I thought that. [KASAUN LAUGHS]
Jon: By the way, how horrible is it to go on new, to go on Newsmax.
Rob: My favorite network.
Jon: I, I go on Newsmax and, and I go, these guys know what they’re talking about. Like, it was one of those where you’re like, what’s going on here? Like I would go on certain other networks and be like, “You’re not listening. Are you?” And then I would go on Newsmax and be like, this guy seems present. [ROB LAUGHS] I’m in the upside down. But so all that s*** is you’re just trying to generate as much heat as you can to keep the phones going. Cuz what, what you’re trying to do is make sure that they know that the shaming will be relentless, tenacious, and unending, like you’re not going away. And, and that that’s going to translate into phone calls you’re gonna have to answer. And emails you’re gonna have to answer. And not from anybody. From constituents, from people who live in your district, from people who say, “I voted for you, what are you doing?” But to generate that energy, you have to be really strategic and really pointed. And you have to have, you know, they kept saying, you know, people kept saying us, like, just keep the pressure on. And I was like, you don’t understand, like if you don’t give us a backstop, if you don’t give us a vote, if you don’t give us a moment to hit, I can put all the pressure I want on in the world. But it, if it’s not up against something, nobody feels the squeeze. If it’s just pressure in an open atmosphere, then I’m just pissing in the wind.
Rob: And, and Schumer’s the one you need to schedule to vote.
Jon: I said, if you don’t give me a date and I’m serious, then everything that we’re generating here dissipates into the ether and means nothing. I have to have some way to pin people because otherwise, there’s no backup. So, so this is all the, the, the thought process that that’s going on here. And, you know, so, so that’s all, you know, I, I sort of look at it like they’re in the trenches and I provide air support. So you’re wondering like, OK, well, what does the air support do? And, and, and how does it go? So all that is just air support, but you don’t know until the field clears, if it means anything. And I was talking to Tracy, my wife on the phone, and this is before we were going in and it was as we were lining up and she said, “Marsha Blackburn is on the floor.” Cuz she had her amendment about community care. So I assume, she’s been a tough one, she’s on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. Uh, and, and. She’s been tough. She always wants to privatize the VA and there’s a lot of other stuff. So she goes, “Yep. She’s, she’s hitting the community care thing. She’s hitting the community care thing.” And then at the very end, she goes, “Oh my God.” And I go, what? And she goes, “She just urged everyone to pass the PACT Act!” And that moment is when I thought, “We’re done.” But it’s still all, you don’t, you know, so defeating Toomey’s amendment. And I knew the thresholds were 60 and, and the reality of it was that they weren’t gonna get 60 on, on any. And I almost felt bad for Rand Paul’s amendment, where…
Rob: Oh, they hate Rand Paul don’t they? [KASAUN LAUGHS]
Jon: That’s that’s that’s one of those amendments where you’re like, does anyone sit with this motherf***er at lunch? Nobody?
Rob: Yeah, like Rand Paul put up an amendment and we’re just watching both Republicans, Democrats, senators —
Kasaun: Senators were pop locking their votes. They were like —
Jon: No, no, no. Um, so he loses that thing. It’s like one of those games that you read about in Sports Illustrated sometimes where the one coach is brought up on charges for lack of sportsmanship. [KASAUN LAUGHS] Like you really gotta run this thing up that hard uh, and, and obviously, um, so his amendment was first Toomey’s amendment was second, you know, again, as a producer, how Toomey’s amendment isn’t last.
Jon: Doesn’t make much sense.
Jon: It’s literally like having the rose ceremony in the middle of the show.
Jon: It doesn’t make any sense. So they do Rand Paul, they do Toomey and I just, I only watch a few people. Like what you do is you watch Collins or you, you watch certain people that might, as soon as Collins went bermp, I go, this thing’s not even gonna pass 50. So even if his threshold was 50, that thing’s not passing. Uh, and the part that made me cry was when they brought up the bill and everybody went and like, there was that explosion of, on the floor of the Senate hands went up and I was like, we f***ing won. And I looked over at Rosie and she was crying and I thought about Wesley and I thought about his wife and you know? Yeah, yeah. It was, it was, it was, and, and…
Rob: And in that moment, uh, Kasaun and I were talking about it. I mean, honestly, like thank you for even allowing us to be part of that because I truly —
Jon: No, I don’t. Guys, I was so delighted that you were there and so thrilled that you had come to lend support and everybody, uh, appreciated it so greatly and everybody loved meeting you guys. I mean, truly, you know, now to be fair, they had been sleeping in a field for five days. [KASAUN AND ROB LAUGH] So, so if, really, if anybody had shown up, I think they would’ve been excited, but, but you brought an energy to them that they hadn’t had, and you really boosted their spirits at a time where they really needed it. You know, these are folks that pushed a boulder that no one thought would ever get over that mountain. And they did it once and they f***ing put the boulder back to, and this was their last shot. And it was their last little bit of grace and energy that they had in their bodies. And you guys came down and you represented for them. And I truly appreciate it because it made a difference.
Rob: Their last little bit of grace and energy is a lot of grace and energy. [JON LAUGHS] It is more than most people have.
Rob: And they lifted us up. It was to be there around them. The energy was incredible to be there for that moment. Uh, it it’s, I’ll never forget it.
Kasaun: As somebody, as somebody who, uh, who watches, um, Frasier every night [JON LAUGHS] and doesn’t, and doesn’t inject news directly into my veins, like you, uh, one or two questions, and then we’re out. Rob’s question is the most important of this whole thing.
Kasaun: One, what happens next? Uh, does it go to President Biden’s desk?
Jon: It, it goes to the desk. They’re signing it on Monday.
Jon: And it’s already, if you go to the VA site, there’s already information now up about, if you are a veteran who has been exposed to toxic, by the way, did you meet the fellow from Camp Lejeune? Camp Lejeune, they knew there was benzene in the water in 1953 and they f***ing covered it up.
Jon: And they’ve got cancer clusters and they’ve got, uh, miscarriages and they’ve got stillbirths and they’ve got all kinds of s*** buried under there. And this dude in honor of his daughter, an ex-drill sergeant and, boy, when you shake his hand, do you know that he’s been fighting for 25 years and the tears in his eyes because Lejeune is on this bill. It’s not just burn pits. It’s toxic exposure and Camp Lejeune is on this bill.
Jon: 70 years later. That’s what it’s about.
Kasaun: Yeah, I’m I, yes. [JON LAUGHS]
Rob: That is it’s heavy. It’s heavy, Jon but we —
Jon: It’s heavy, dude. It’s heavy. It’s heavy. It’s heavy. Yeah. That’s why I’m saying like, the s*** is heavy. These people are real.
Jon: It’s like Tocarra said, I quote this all the time from Tocarra. One of the most brilliant things I’ve ever heard just knocked me on my a** when Tocarra said, “Be careful if they call you a hero, because that means they’re OK if you die.” Boom.
Kasaun: I do. I think the one question that we have that will not escape us is Rob’s question and if we gotta, we gotta ask you this before we go.
Rob: Yeah. So you worked on this for a long time. Veterans worked on it for a long time and we’re we all, we’ve all done shows on the road. The show goes well, and you’re alone in the car and you got three hours to drive home. We were like, what is Jon’s drive home like? Is that the fastest three hour drive of your life, what’s going on in your head during that time?
Jon: Uh, so this is gonna sound very, very dumb, but I was very much depleted and, so what I did was I got on my phone and I found the Odyssey app and I listened to Jacob deGrom throwing 102 mile an hour pitches for the New York Metropolitans [LAUGHTER] with my french fries and my Coke, and I thought about nothing, but why the f*** we didn’t pick up Juan Soto? [KASAUN LAUGHS]
Rob: It’s nice to know that you’re capable of being happy for a moment. [LAUGHTER] [JON CLAPPING]
Kasaun: It’s the little things.
Jon: Oh yeah. Little things.
Kasaun: Well, that’s our show. If you want some information on the PACT Act, please, uh, watch it on C-SPAN. The whole thing is on YouTube. If you wanna watch it, uh, we hope you enjoyed this episode for more content on The Problem with Jon Stewart, you please check out the Apple TV+ show. Please go ahead, check it out. The link in the description and, uh, check out old episodes from Season One. If you wanna know more about this burn pit situation, everything we have to say about it is there including Rosie Torres, Le Roy. Her husband, Le Roy.
Jon: Isiah James.
Kasaun: Isiah James.
Jon: Sergeant Wesley Black.
Kasaun: His last TV appearance is on there. Gina Cancelino.
Jon: Gina Cancelino. Gina was down there with her two kids, you know, boy, it’s a hell of a group.
Kasaun: Gina told us a story about her kid said, uh, that you guys have been fighting on this so long that Gina’s like, “So we’re not gonna get to go to DC anymore?” [JON LAUGHS]
Jon: ‘We’re not gonna go see uncle Johnny anymore down in DC?’
Kasaun: So yo check it out. I’m sure there’ll be more content to come. I’m Kasaun Wilson
Rob: And I’m Rob Christensen and from the veterans, Jon. Thank you. Jon, thank you.
Jon: “The Problem with Jon Stewart Podcast” is an Apple TV+ podcast and a joint Busboy Production.