Jon Stewart’s biggest get

‘The Daily Show’ has its biggest night ever—an in-studio interview with Obama


Here’s the episode. I wish I could figure out how to embed Comedy Network clips.

Last night was the biggest moment in The Daily Show‘s history, at least in terms of its ability to blur the lines between a silly comedy show and a legitimate news source: the show’s first full-length, in-studio interview with a sitting President of the United States. (Obama has been in the studio with Stewart before, but before he was President..) Obama has been a more talk-show-friendly President than most: last year he was on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,  the first sitting President to sit down with a talk show host. But that was the most-watched talk show on television, which The Daily Show is not, and it was a short, soft interview (though Obama managed to get himself in minor trouble anyway with his “special Olympics” joke). By going on The Daily Show and doing a full-episode segment, Obama was almost anointing Stewart’s show as the equivalent of a prestigious cable news program: something that doesn’t have that many viewers, but has the ability to drive the news and the narrative.

James Poniewozik has more thoughts on the interview and what it says about Stewart’s status as a “real” news personality, rather than just a fake one. Stewart has the luxury that most TV journalists don’t have, of being able to only get serious when he wants to — he can always hide behind his comedian status to preserve his credibility in a tough situation, while real newsmen have no choice but to take everything (even things they may personally consider not worthy of mention) seriously. And Stewart also benefits from not having to pretend to be a policy wonk or political junkie: he can, and did, spend most of an interview asking questions about process issues and Obama’s failure to change the system. A “real” reporter would have to ask more questions about policy and the election horserace, not just because of network pressure, but because the real news’s job is to give more broad-based information.

I think both Stewart and Obama came off pretty well in the interview, even if both were ill at ease — but why not? This was a big moment for Stewart, who really is uncomfortable in situations like this. (I get the impression he really doesn’t want to get politicians mad at him, even though it’s part of his job and he does it. When Meghan McCain was on recently, Stewart seemed genuinely unhappy that her father, once one of Stewart’s favourite people, has turned against him and the show due to the negative coverage he received in 2008.) Obama was uncomfortable for the same reasons that any sitting President facing a tough mid-term would seem uncomfortable. One thing that seemed to come across most clearly is that the health care legislation, and his belief that it sill turn out to be the right thing despite its overall unpopularity on both left and right, is something that’s very much on his mind. Obama isn’t G.W. Bush, but both of them are preoccupied with the idea that history will judge them to have been right. I guess a lot of leaders are.

Obviously, too, Stewart isn’t some kind of firebrand interviewer who asks all the tough questions the Mainstream Media won’t ask. There are many criticisms that didn’t play a big role in the interview, like the biggest criticism of Obama from the left, his record on civil liberties.

One thing the interview left me wondering about is whether the show will ever be able to get George W. Bush. Conservatives actually go on Stewart’s show quite a lot, as they consider it a place where they can get a fair shake from Stewart and prove that they are cooler than people think. But Bush is the only living President who hasn’t been on either Stewart or Colbert. (Bush’s father hasn’t been interviewed, but did tape a message for Colbert’s Iraq show.) I’m certain they’d love to get W., and I’m certain it’s been suggested as part of his book tour, but it seems equally certain that they won’t get him. I think it would be a good idea for him to go, since Stewart would be very nice and respectful (voluntarily) and might help him improve his image.

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Jon Stewart’s biggest get

  1. Obama is doing a great job in reducing the mystic of the presidency and demeaning the office of the presidency. There is nothing that he does not have an opinion on with daily appearances on TV.

    Despite all the bombastic rhetoric where he is shilling for his party during this election cycle the country is turning away from the preacher-like messiah. The emperor has no clothes. Unless things change drastically in the next two years he will turn into another Jimmy Carter.

    • There shouldn't be any 'mystique' about the president. He's just an elected politician.

    • The office of the presidency was demeaned when the previous guy was occupying it and ruining the country.

      • Well at least George Bush didn't anger the people so much that they formed a new movement called The Tea Party in order to see he was defeated.

        • No, because the people in the Tea Party are his base, not to mention a bunch of morons who formed because they don't like the idea of a black president.

          • Typical…..a black president? How come then 55% of American voted for him in 2008. They had no problem with his skin colour then. Now that he has proven he can make a great speech but is a crappy president they suddenly become prejudiced or bigots. Come on. Give your head a shake. Think man. Think for yourself.

          • We're talking about the Tea Party. You think any of the racists in the Tea Party voted for Obama? Give YOUR empty head a shake. Learn to think at all.

        • What do you call the populist movement that defeated Bush?

          • Message to jbrun……Bush was elected for two terms. The maximum term that a president can run. Bush had his two terms and he retired. Bush was not DEFEATED. However, the same cannot be said about Barack Obama. I think unless he changes his way of governing he is going to be a one term president. His day of reckoning is coming on November 2nd.

          • Message to hollinm. Obama isn't on a ballot on November 2nd. The midterm results will represent dissatisfaction with a whole lot of incumbants (the majority of whom are Democrats). It won't be a "day of reckoning" at all for Obama.

          • Obama may not physically be on the ballot but don't doubt that his policies and his style are on trial. The American people are revolting against his policies. He will lose the House and maybe the Senate. Who knows. However, his arrogance and his ability to push legislation through that does not have the support of the people will be considerably diminished. So yes Obama is on the ballot. Why else would the Americans be unhappy with a whole lot of incumbents.

        • It would be dangerous to assemble that many idiots in one place with the Tea Pot crowd and the Texan cowpoke. Nobody can predict what would happen in the resulting "intellectual black-hole".

        • Actually, he destroyed the fiscal health of the US government and left Obama to play sick-nurse. Hence the Tea Party.

      • Bill Clinton was impeached, so that's a good point.

        • REALLY? When did that happen? Or do you have your own version of history?

    • OMG…
      "Demeaning the office of the presidency"

      Where were you the 8 years before he got into office?

  2. demeaning the office of the presidency
    It could stand a little demeaning given that it's a position whose title holder is little more than the winner of the original version of American Idol but has increasingly been treated as if they were someone whose opinion may not be questioned regardless of act.

    Politicians are supposed to earn your respect through actions, not entitlement. People seem to have forgotten that.

  3. Lynne Cheney has been on Stewart. The problem with George W. Bush is that he is not funny, and Stewart would be using clips from his interview, were there to be one, as the basis of dozens of jokes in future shows. So, why would Bush allow himself to be that kind of a punching bag, knowing that the viewers of The Daily Show will never, ever buy, or borrow, or read, or glance at his book.

    • Calling Karl Rove "turd blossom" I thought was funny. Thanking all the Canadians who waived with all five fingers when he arrived in Ottawa I thought was funny. I think he'd hold his own – he doesn't appear to not be comfortable in his own skin. I'd expect a bit of self deprecation.

    • Daily Show viewers don't read.

  4. I doubt Stewart would be as respectful as you say, just in this one particular case.

  5. I think George W. Bush will come on Stewart's show, but not any time soon.

    Believe it or not, Bush respects the breathing room an outgoing president is supposed to afford the incoming one, and Bush would be loathe to utter an unsupportive word to Obama, much as Clinton largely kept quiet during Bush's terms.

    • Don't forget, if you say anything negative about Obama, the left (basically the mainstream media) immediately brands you a racist.

      GW Bush will *never* go on Stewart's show.

  6. Conservatives actually go on Stewart's show quite a lot, as they consider it a place where they can get a fair shake from Stewart and prove that they are cooler than people think

    Whenever Mike Huckabee appears on The Daily Show, it's must-watch.

  7. Looking forward to watching this after work!

  8. Obama's disastrous policies are crippling the United States, but he'll go on this show because the viewing demographic may still believe the hype and vote for his cronies in the mid terms.
    130% of College students voted for Obama in the last election, even if only 110% of them vote for his marxist cronies this time, that's enough for him to force his policies on the American people.

    • Ya, his "marxist" cronies like Larry Summers… you're brilliant.

    • The United States was crippled before Obama was elected. He is just handy to blame by those who have short memories. The Cheney-Halliburton White House with their Big Biz Maximize Profits free ride and "We'll look the other way" while Goldman-Sachs, et al, scammed the world with pyramid schemes and the total reliance on the military-industrial complex while the REAL jobs were being shipped to Asia(by the aforementioned Big Biz).
      For gawd's sake, if you can't remember reality give up on proving it.

    • Disastrous policies crippling the US? How about honourable policies saving the US from the disastrous situation that the last administration left the country in? Marxist? Gimme a break. What policies has he implemented that in any way liberate the proliteriat and take power and money from the elite?

      • You do realize if you stop feeding him, he'll eventually go away?

  9. At one time Jesters appeared in front of the Ruler, now the Ruler performs for the Jester.
    Are Colbert and Stewart the best the democrats can do?

    • Nicely put

  10. What a purely moronic article! So you think W. Bush should go on the Stuart show because Stu would be sweet and nice to George W. and it would help soften his image!

    Great! A man who started a criminal war in a sovereign country and has screwed up his country's finances and was an idiot par excellence should be able to appear on this inane pseudo-comedy show to imporove his image.
    Try HANDCUFFS for W. at the International Cirminal Court.

    Remember, bozo, that Blair Himself had a group waiting to serve him with a subpeona for crimes against humanity when he visited recently South Africa.. But, being the smart sneaky little lapdog he was trained to be, Tony escaped before he was able to give his speech—through the backdoor.

    Blair and Bush should only be seen in the backdoor. They've caused enough damage to this world without appearing on Jon Jon's show to "soften their image". Please! Priscilla Queen of the Dessert is where they'd shine!

    • Dub nay not be the smartest guy in the room but I'm sure he knows it's Stewart not Stuart.

  11. A milestone in media evolution! Stewart with his Obama interview & Colbert in his recent congressional appearance have taken George Carlin's groundbreaking use of parody as a tool to explore social truths and hypocrisy to the next level in which self-referential parody of the news has become media theatre.

    The ongoing challenge is to define the appropiate protocol for lampooning political theatre while sufficiently preserving the dignity of the lampooned so that they will continue to return to take part in a satirical expose of their posturing and excesses.

    The old media order in which manufactured newsmaker personnas were accepted at face value by the press has evolved under Stewart & Colbert to a new order of artificial press personnae interacting with newsmaker personnae as avatars as a game with the winner exposing some truthful aspect of the avatar.

    News has been transformed to a sports spectacle of avatars duelling to either preserve or dispel the posited illusion of news as reality.

  12. Obama is a FAILURE as president and reminder of why Herbert Hoover was succeeded by a man of FDR's resolve and courageous attempts to effect REAL CHANGE and Hope.

    Obama proved himself to be exactly what some in the Democratic party have always said he was:

    An opportunistic political huckster with elitist tendencies and no backbone with a baritone voice trained 20 years at the Jeremiah Wright Church of Hatred — a huckster who betrayed his mentor Sen. Alice Palmer in Chicago stealing her election in the 90s and going on to win elections based on fraudulent tactics and with the help of political fraudsters like Emannel Rahm(bo), his obscenely-mouthed ex Chief of Staff.

    Obama was a fraud from Day 1. And even that neanderthal of Republican Glory, McCain knew it way back when Obummer started his escalation to the top of the political pie in Washington.

    McCain's ad just before Obumma won the Democratic presidential race was the best suited to Obama's theatrical talents–comparison with PARIS HILTON and show and glitter with no substance!

    • Whew, I almost didn't read to the end of your post. I'm glad I did. First word in the last paragraph offers another reminder of why Obama was elected as handily as he was.

    • I can't understand how people expect Obama to correct, in 2 years, all the damage that was done in the previous 8 years. Think, people, think! George W's policies/actions had a devastating effect on the USofA. He took out the regulations that protected people from big bankers making the same mistakes that caused the '29 crash. He gave tax breaks to companies that sent jobs offshore. He started the invasion in Iraq and left Bin Laden alive. Start thinking back to what he did, none of it good!

    • The name-calling is pretty telling about the source of your news and views and the validity of your comments.

      By most historians take, Obama had had one of the most remarkable legislative records in the first two years of a term than anyone since FDR, whether you like the policy direction or not.

      Obama is not perfect, and no one (except maybe Oprah) ever said he was. He knew he was inheriting problems but things got exponentially worse at the tale end of Bush's term with the catastrophic economic collapse. In that regard, Obama has done about as well as can be expected in a country that is suffering from having lived too large on too much credit (federally and privately) and having a government where the opposition has been merely destructive rather than constructive in terms of trying to improve legislation. They won't even honestly come to the table.

  13. It would be awesome if Americans got as upset about Bush murdering thousands of innocent people in Iraq via an illegal war as they do when Obama tries to help out American citizens or goes on TV.

    Your country is a hate-filled mess, thank god you all have guns.

    • Uh… Bush was one of the least popular Presidents in the history of polling. Everywhere you look in the US you see "Bush lied people died" stickers, etc. Americans did get mad at Bush.

      • And not a moment too soon.

  14. Greatest Obama interview ever.

    Jon Stewart may be the best interviewer on TV. He struck the right tone, and asked just the right questions.

    I hope Obama takes some of what Jon said to heart. Obama gave good answers for the most part, even thou he had to soft peddle some of the decisions he made.

    He also showed his fundamental weakness, and pretty much admitted that he works within the system, instead of changing it.

    It gives me insight into how Obama thinks, and it makes me fear for Americas future.

    These are important times and the U.S need a fighter POTUS, before their whole system becomes even more corrupt then it already is.

  15. I didn't like this interview even though I am a fan of both. Stewart kept on asking the same whiney question lefty's always ask, "why can't you change the whole country on a dime in 18 months" while Obama repeated his old line of we were in a huge mess and this crap takes time (which is true). I just didn't find it very interesting.

  16. Obama is not really a "failure" in that he's tried to advance some of the more progressive items on his Democratic agenda. But his followers were too full of "hope" to ever seriously think that "change" requires fundamental shift in a nation that had Reagonomics and then tthree ignominious Bush Terms to contend with!

    Obama, however, is justly critized by his more progressive followers who showed up in droves to vote for him and a more "democratic" agenda that would see the closing of Gitmo, dynamic regulation over banks and an end to the wars (not escalation as Obama did in Afghanistan that now boasts 1.5 million refugees thanks to Obama's drones intervention!).

    While he tried to instal more progressive agenda in Washington, he often sabotaged it himself by appointing Larry Summers, Rubin and Rahm as "advisors" and chief of staff. Wall Street received a slap on the wrist by Obama that was laughable.