Thursday, October 28, 2010

Obama hits comedy central

"Join me in welcoming the President of the United States," said Jon Stewart to rapturous applause. This was a small piece of history in the making, since no serving president had yet appeared on the satirical Daily Show. British Prime minister appeared one year, but after he'd left office. And some members of George Bush's team had been on the show. But this was a first.

However it was not the most relaxed of meetings. The President faces the electorate in mid-term elections and he has been accused of not not doing enough. Even Jon Stewart pulled few punches, though he generalised his criticism to the party as a whole rather than at the president personally. Stewart intimated that the Democrat Party had been "legislatively too timid at times" and suggested that Obama might be more pragmatic in a future campaign.

"When we promised during the campaign 'change you can believe in,' it wasn't 'change you can believe in, in 18 months'," Obama told Stewart. The host responded with a quip, "Yes we can, with conditions attached". The president responded, "What I would say is Yes we can, but..." As he paused the audience laughed. "'s not going to happen overnight," Obama added [CNN].

Reports in today's papers focused on the serious demeanour of Barack Obama who faces crucial mid-term elections next week. "Host Jon Stewart did his best to help the President lighten up during his appearance on The Daily Show - but perhaps he couldn't shake off the fear that his Democrat Party is facing a landslide defeat in next week's mid-term election," the Daily Mail's David Gardener wrote. The Daily Telegraph meanwhile described him as "sombre". There were few smiles from the president, but his party has faced a barrage of criticism over health reforms and a failure to deliver on his promises over the last few months.

Of course he was not facing a hostile audience and as he stepped on to the studio set, one could be forgiven in believing a rock star had arrived. But the Daily Show is well known for its lean towards liberal America. In fact some see the show as pivotal to helping Obama securing the 2008 election. The appearance on the satirical show is seen as an attempt to reconnect with the young voters and as far as last night's audience was concerned, it was mission accomplished.

"He was wonderful," one woman exclaimed, describing him as articulate even without his auto-cue. Asked if Obama had delivered, another member of the audience told the BBC, "We've been screwed for a long time, he's been slowly unscrewing us." Whether he is "unscrewing" America enough will be seen in the polls next week.

In Britain the Daily Show is aired on More4 at 20:30 Tuesday to Friday.  The Daily Show official website [video content unavailable outside US]

tvnewswatch, London, UK


Anonymous said...

and if he had been any less somber, you and others would have made a point of criticizing his levity. i think he responded appropriately given the time, the setting, jon stewart and the expectations afforded the presidency. i wonder how the president came to the program in the first place. it was an odd blend.

Newsjunky said...

The post merely reported on the event and how other media covered the story. I personally reserve judgement on the President's performance. Certainly the Republicans would have capitalised on any levity shown by Obama, possibly something he took into account as he approaches the mid-term elections. In other words he was perhaps playing it safe. The Daily Show is not new to Obama however. This was his fifth time on the show, but the first as president.