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About (Late) Last Night: Jon Stewart presses President Obama on 'The Daily Show'

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 1

Barack Obama became the first sitting president to appear on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart last night, but really "The Daily Show" came to him. Stewart and company are broadcasting from Washington, D.C., all week ahead of Saturday's Rally to Restore Sanity on the National Mall, an event Obama recognized near the end of the show.

"The one other thing that might have made a difference is if you had held the Rally to Restore Sanity two years ago," Obama said. It was one final, playful punch from the president after a series of tender jabs from Stewart during the pair's 30-minute friendly rumble.

Throughout the chat, Stewart played the role of disillusioned Democrat, disappointed by President Obama's first 18 months in office and left deflated with real-life results after a campaign that worked to build lofty expectations. "You ran on very high rhetoric, hope and change, and the Democrats this year seem to be running on 'Please baby, one more chance,' " Stewart said. "Are you disappointed in how it's gone? Are you surprised that other people, even your base, can be disappointed in how it's gone? Or do you reject that narrative?"

President Obama stayed on message ahead of Tuesday's midterm elections. "We've gone through the two toughest years of any time since the Great Depression," he said. But he also acknowledged disappointment. "People are frustrated, a lot of folks are hurting out there still, and in that environment, I think they're hoping that we can do a little bit better here in Washington than we've been doing."

But it was Stewart's repurposing of Obama's own rhetoric that shifted the president into offensive mode, championing his administration's accomplishments. "Are we the people we were waiting for, or does it turn out those people are still out there?" Stewart asked early on, as a half-joke. But the host pressed on. "Is the difficulty that you have here the distance between what you ran on and what you delivered?" Stewart asked. "You ran with such, if I may, audacity," he said in his most pointed question, playing off of the title of Obama's book, "The Audacity of Hope." Stewart continued, "Yet legislatively it has felt timid at times."

"Jon, I love your show, but this is something where I have a profound disagreement with you," said Obama. "If the point, Jon, is that overnight we did not transform the healthcare system, that point is true," said Obama later. Stewart cracked up, his resistance futile in a battle of words. "When you put it that way, it seems so petty," Stewart admitted.

Obama called the Affordable Care Act "as significant a piece of legislation as we have seen in this country's history," and rattled off additional gains -- preventing a second Great Depression, private-sector job growth, financial regulatory reform -- but always reeled himself back. "Is it enough? No," Obama said. "I expect, and I think most Democrats out there expect, that most people want to see more progress."

As a guest, Obama never quite seemed loose around Stewart, assumedly an ally. "I don't mean to lump you in with other pundits," Obama said at one point. Stewart laughed but countered later, "I don't mean to lump you in with other presidents."

The president's most casual moment came when discussing the financial crisis. "In fairness, Larry Summers did a heckuva job," Obama said to chuckles from the crowd. The phrasing echoed praise by  George W. Bush of Michael Brown, the FEMA director during Hurricane Katrina. "You don't want to use that phrase, dude," Stewart told the president. "Pun intended," Obama quipped.

Toward the end of the interview, after one of many long spiels by Obama, Stewart tried to butt in. "I appreciate you being polite," Obama said. "It's just really hard not to talk," Stewart squeaked.

"Folks, I think, hoped that we could completely transform Washington. I understand that impulse,"  Obama said. "The culture here is not always real helping," he continued, calling moves to change the process from the inside "a work in progress."

"On all these issues, my attitude is, if we're making progress -- step by step, inch by inch, day by day -- then we're being true to the spirit of that campaign," Obama said. "Yes we can," he said, with a caveat. "But it's not going to happen overnight."

-- Joe Coscarelli

See Parts 2 and 3 of the interview below.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 2
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Barack Obama Pt. 3
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity
Comments () | Archives (50)

Big deal. How many sitting president have there been since the inception of the Daily Show?

Did Stewart had time to remove his lips from the president's butt?
Enough time to ask him real questions like why Obama has Fannie Mae ( the largest consumer of TARP, the one that has paid nothing back and asked for more) now managing TARP?!?! And paying them millions to do so?!

Or maybe how/why HC rates have risen and are continuing to rise against his promises it would fall?

Oh that's right, Stewart isnt real news - its just a comedy show.

The first president to be on The Daily Show? And I guess also the first to be on The View, as well. What a President!
No press conferences, but he's making the comedy circuit. Oh well, that may be pretty fitting anyway.

Two toughest years since the Great Depression?

Did he forget:

World War II?

The Korean War?


Jon helps restore a bit of my sanity from time to time, like he did with Tim Kaine.

Well played by both fellas.

Obama 18 months in office? Last time I counted past 20... and looked at when Obama entered work has been over 21 months. Of course that doesn't include "The Office of the President-Select"

Such silly garage... shows you the mentality of the American Sheeple and their hypnotic trace glued to the propaganda of corporate (MSM) media, aka 4th branch of American government.

OBUMA is a joke so going on the Stewart show is just more Lib comedy!

Truly a pathetic excuse for a President OBUMA is

Our President is in an almost impossible situation, considering the stupidity flu pandemic in our Country. He speaks in an intelligent and non-accusatory way. That is a problem for the members of "The Dumbing Down of America'. Maybe making the rounds of the comedy shows bothers some. However, I am happy to laugh at something other Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, et al.

it must be nice to have all that free time. i am working 2 jobs to make it through these hard times, this president knows nothing about hard work and can not relate to us regular people. i wish i had enough free time to even watch the daily show. it seems like he just wants popularity not to be a good president!

What's the deal with all these entertainment appearances?

There has been one sitting president on The Daily Show (Barack Obama). Dubwa was too afraid of the "comedian". Thank god we have someone with a brain in office now!

Oh so much cynicism from people who wouldn't be pleased by anything short of impeachment.

There will be lots of people who'll characterize Stewart's interview of Pres. Obama as a friendly session, just as your writer Joe Coscarelli described the interview as "a series of tender jabs" from the "assumedly (?) friendly" Stewart. Anyone who watched that lengthy interview (as opposed to hate-filled bloggers who didn't) will have to say Stewart chased the president, especially on health care, in ways MSM guys simply won't. He prodded Obama on specifics of the health bill vigorously enough to get specific admissions about the bill, and the general one about how slowly and incrementally change must come in a Washington that is built for profit and special interests.
Sure it was friendly, but it revealed more about the world we're living in than the nutjobs who live to blog hatred do.

This President never seems to have time for real news agencies with real questions... but he will certainly get in line to get on a comedy show. Both of them (Jon and Obama) played their roles well (1) played a news caster who is clueless about anything and the other one playes a President who's a total idiot. Good Luck America until we all wake UP. I hope it's not to late!

Only one sitting pres has been on the Daily Show. Dubya was too afraid of the "comedian". And that brings up my next point...If this "is just a comedy show" then why is it that so many Republicans are afraid to come on and take on Stu Beef? Makes you wonder if Jon is "only a comedian" doesn't it!

@jabberwolf--I don't think he went anywhere near his butt at all. In my perception, he politely and carefully brought up legitimate, if broad, criticisms... if you've watched the show recently, Jon hasn't spared him from jabs. Plus, you can't really expect him to get into nitty-gritties in a 30 minute interview. I thought it was a really interesting back-and-forth.

Also, sounds like you may have missed the part where he said "it's not going to happen overnight"?

@Utah Canyoneer: The past two years have been tougher financially than the eras you mention. They were boom years -- one because all industry was on a war footing.

@EWD: 3.

No matter how much I try to like and respect this President, the cruel reality is that everything he touts as "successes" are in fact not the case. A likeable chap for sure, but he is obviously in over his head with the issues at hand. He is fighting battles he can't win...and that even if he did win, are irrelevant to our nation. He does not know economics as evidenced by trying to raise taxes in the middle of this debacle, a health care law that everyone admits they did not read before the passed it, spending like crazy on programs that have shown no positive results. Whew! the list goes on and on. And he spends time on comedy shows where even his staunchest backers are loath to be able to support him.

If Obama were running for President next Tuesday, he would carry two states!

Woe is me!!

"Did Stewart had time to remove his lips from the president's butt?"
Seriously? You may have liked to see Obama roasted in front of FOX "News" "reporters", but some of us are a little tired of the negative propaganda and would prefer to hear Obama finish a sentence; some of are actually interested in what he has to say...

"Oh that's right, Stewart isnt real news - its just a comedy show."

True. And you know what? FOX "News" is strictly a comedy show as well. Time after time FOX "News" has been exposed (on the Daily Show as well as others) for distorting and yes, making up, facts and associations just to keep their Right-wingnut propaganda machine turning. There's nothing there but innuendo, and they have no one pressuring them to check the facts.
A real news agency, on the other hand, loses credibility when they make up "facts" that they cannot back up.

What a great Right-wing "fair and balanced" "News" organization FOX is. They can just broadcast whatever they like without any supervision. And nuts like you just eat it up.

You all whine about Obama's unrestrained stimulus without asking what might have happened without a stimulus. He has just SAVED YOUR JOB and you just sit there whining about it. Sheesh. Get a clue!

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