President Barack Obama became the first sitting commander-in-chief to appear with Jon Stewart on ‘The Daily Show’ Wednesday night, and while the host was respectful enough of his guest’s eminence to devote the entire show to the interview, that didn’t mean his questions were all softballs.
Stewart opened with a riff on Obama’s presidential campaign catchphrase. “Are we the people we were waiting for, or does it turn out that those people are still out there and we don’t have their number?” Stewart asked.
A couple of times, Stewart got Obama to trip up just enough to deliver soundbites that his sleazier opponents are certainly going to take out of context and exploit. At one point, Stewart asked if Obama would still stick with his campaign slogan after the struggles of his first two years in the White House. The president responded that he’d change it to, “Yes We Can, But…” and the crowd laughed before he could finish his sentence.
“But it’s not going to happen overnight,” Obama clarified. Earlier, POTUS had said, “It’s not ‘Change we can believe in in 18 months.’ It was ‘Change we can believe in – but you know what, we’re gonna have to work for it.'”
There was also a moment when Stewart took Obama to task for keeping on guys like Larry Summers after he campaigned on the platform of cleaning house and making sweeping changes in personnel. The president defended his choice by saying Larry has done “a heck of a job,” which got the crowd laughing. As Stewart pointed out, “You really don’t want to use that phrase, dude.” Obama seemed to realize immediately that he was accidentally invoking former President Bush’s “Heck of a job, Brownie” gaffe regarding Michael Brown, the FEMA boss during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. Obama quickly winked and added, “Pun intended.”
President Obama took offense when Stewart described his health care reform as “timid.” He prefaced his comments with “I love your show” and “I don’t want to lump you in with a lot of other pundits,” then pushed back on that notion by saying the media is focusing on the 10 percent of health care they wanted but didn’t get, and ignoring the 90 percent that they did get with the bill.
“You’ve got 30 million people who are going to get health insurance as a consequence of this, you’ve got a patient’s bill of rights that makes sure insurance companies can’t drop you when you get sick if you’ve been paying premiums, it makes sure there aren’t lifetime limits, makes sure kids who don’t have health insurance can stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26, and it cuts the deficit by over a trillion dollars. This is what I think most people would say is as significant a piece of legislation as we’ve seen in this country’s history.”
“Right now, there’s a woman in New Hampshire who doesn’t have to sell her house to get her cancer treatments because of that health care bill, and she doesn’t think it’s inconsequential,” he added. “She doesn’t think it’s timid.”
Stewart pressed the president on the idea that the health care bill was just papering over a system that was broken at its core, to which Obama wryly responded, “If the point, Jon, is that overnight we did not transform the health care system, that point is true.” Stewart laughed back, “When you put it that way, it sounds so petty.”
“We’ve put a framework in place that allowed us to continue to make progress,” the president said. “That’s what we’ve done over the last 18 months, and that’s what I expect we’re going to keep on doing as long as I’ve got the capacity to do it – and as long as I am President of the United States.”
Obama also expressed frustration with the filibuster and the need for 60 votes for everything in the Senate, and said that energy issues, new jobs, education and immigration reform would be on his agenda to deal with in the future.
He ended the show by encouraging turnout at next week’s midterm elections saying, “Can I just make a plug, just to vote? Go out there and vote November 2nd.”
All in all, the interview was very friendly and cordial, and showed that people can have disagreements without resorting to name-calling or insanity – which is a very good lead-in for this weekend’s Rally To Restore Sanity in Washington D.C.
Did you watch President Obama on ‘The Daily Show’? What did you think of the interview?