On Leadership
Video | PostLeadership | FedCoach | | Books | About |
Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

PostLeadership

Bad move for Obama to go on Daily Show?

Much has been made of the fact that last night Barack Obama became the first sitting president to appear on The Daily Show.

The implication? The president's party is in so much trouble that he's the first guy willing to stoop to faux news to get his message out. While the Democrats may indeed be on the ropes, the rest is misguided--it's only been since President George W. Bush's tenure that The Daily Show gained any political clout, and host Jon Stewart's constant lambasting of Bush hardly made it a friendly forum for W.

Still, Obama's decision to appear on the comedy show was undoubtedly risky. Despite the cheering audience and tough but friendly host, Obama gained little from his appearance Wednesday.

Sure, he got a few laughs--particularly at the outset, when he made a joke at his own expense about Stewart's D.C. set. It bore a grandiose resemblance to Obama's much-criticized Democratic convention backdrop. "We actually bought it," Stewart quipped, seemingly impressed with Obama's joke. "It was in a warehouse."

But he was the subject of more. Obama stepped in it when he told Stewart that economic adviser Larry Summers had done a "heck of a job," calling to mind the famous Bush quote about Hurricane Katrina-era FEMA director Michael Brown. While he recovered well, saying "pun intended," Stewart got the bigger laughs. And when the host pinned him on his "change we can believe in" slogan--Stewart suggested they should change it to "Yes we can, under a certain set of circumstances"--Obama's rebuttal ("What I would say is, 'Yes we can, but it is not going to happen overnight,'") prompted laughs of its own, with the crowd interrupting the president to chuckle at the word "but."

But those weren't the only reminders that the comedy appearance could net Obama little in return. While his last-minute plug for viewers to "vote" revealed the real reason he went on the program--to rally his flagging base--he was also preaching to the choir. If he wanted to get his message out, the string of accomplishments he ticked off on the show could have used a different audience.

And while it's two years before the next presidential election, Obama seemed to be campaigning for himself rather than the members of Congress who'll be elected next week. Despite some kind words for a few members of his party, Obama felt more candidate than leader, the savviest of which would have used humor to turn the conversation around and try to deflate the kind of anger and furor the country is gripped with these days.

Obama hardly fell flat--as always, he was polished, a strong debater and lighthearted in his delivery. But Obama (and really all leaders considering the late-night comedy circuit--former JetBlue CEO David Neeleman earned little but jokes at his expense from going on David Letterman after the airline's 2007 ice storm mess) might want to take a cue from the celebrities and book authors who are the typical guests on Stewart's show. Go when you are in a position of strength and have something to promote, rather than something to defend.

What do you think? Good or bad move? Chime in with a comment below.

By Jena McGregor

 |  October 28, 2010; 11:40 AM ET |  Category:  Government leadership , Humor , Leadership advice , Pop Culture , Presidential leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Caprio: The final death knell of political civility? | Next: Is Sarah Palin good for women in government?

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



Obama or any President has no business going on any comedy show. He did a disservice to himself, his policies and to the Presidency.

Posted by: RayK1 | October 29, 2010 10:02 PM

If I look at this and other things many of our leaders engage in,not so strange, but if I think about how a starving refrugee or slave in another country depending on america for hope I might not feel so well.

Posted by: jmounday | October 29, 2010 6:14 PM

The Implication is that the Daily Show connects with Obama's target audience better than any of the major news networks. The major news networks (with the exception of Fox) need to learn from this, and need to shape up.

This is a notice to the mainstream media which supported Obama so strongly, that their hero worship hastened their decline.

Now we just need Palin to get into office so that Fox News' hero worship can bring about their decline. Unfortunately, there is very little competition on TV for conservative leaning news, so Fox News' monopoly can go unchallenged despite all their screwups.

Posted by: GabrielRockman | October 29, 2010 11:56 AM

Obama can't appear on a network he has been demonizing for years. He needs to be on MSNBC, CBS, NBC, CNN, PBS or ABC where the staff will kiss his ring and help him inform the unwashed dumb and fearful masses how misguided they are.

Posted by: quillerm | October 28, 2010 10:38 PM

It used to be the jester courted the king.

Now we have the king courting the jester.

Pathetic.

Posted by: cpameetingbook | October 28, 2010 10:14 PM

Hip and cool? Desperate and pathetic? Boxers or briefs? A nation yearning for real leadership gets this instead. Its amazing they were able to fit both of their highly inflated egos in the same studio.

Posted by: gardedgarton | October 28, 2010 10:04 PM

Mr Obama showed he is human.

He also showed he has guts.

My respect for the man has gone up precisely because of his appearance on TDS.

This makes me want to give them a few more years to get it right.

Posted by: Ciap | October 28, 2010 9:07 PM

Ugh. It was painful to watch. Jon wasn't setting up the softballs that I think the Obama people were expecting. Obama came off as gruff and almost petulant sometimes.

And Jon highlighting the "Brownie" moment just made my stomach sink. I couldn't believe Obama really said that.

I felt pretty darkly about our prospects on November 2. But, after this lukewarm, uninspired rally, I feel a disaster looming.

What happened to the guy everyone loved so much two years ago? Somebody fold him up and forget which storage room he got stuffed in?

Get ready for a 1000 year Republican Reich. Democrats just can't govern.

Sigh. The Dems just keep giving me reasons to sit out the polls.

Posted by: Bosworth2 | October 28, 2010 8:17 PM

Obama's appearance on the Jon Stewart show is more a measure of desperation than anything else. If he feels irrelevent now, just wait until democrats join republicans in pummeling his agenda. I really am discouraged by Obama's fall because he was the first politician that could rally enough support for an agenda that became too large and too liberal instead of a common sense step by step agenda that would allow the public to adjust and digest the solutions vs the problems.

Posted by: fcrucian | October 28, 2010 8:03 PM

If it's "below" the President to appear on the Daily Show, then I can only assume that it was also "below" Eric Cantor to appear on the very same show two weeks ago. I highly recommend watching Jon Stewart's extended interview with Eric Cantor. It was the most civilized, most productive political discussion I've seen in a long time. Frankly, it puts news organizations to shame.

Posted by: damascuspride04 | October 28, 2010 7:12 PM

Stewart is the comedian, Obama is the President. There was no need for Obama to make jokes. It wouldn't be appropriate. He's being serious, because he's in charge of serious issues. Stewart is in charge of an entertainment show.

I think Obama did the right thing. He had an opportunity to explain a couple of controversial and, let's face it, seriously misrepresented issues, which I think he did very well.

Posted by: francinelast | October 28, 2010 6:58 PM

Heckofva job Larry Summers???

What a joke on Obama!

He is an ass~

Posted by: jjcrocket14 | October 28, 2010 6:57 PM

Let's have a little Come to Jesus moment. (a) The total amount of money spent for purely political purposes in the 2010 election cycle is forecasted to top $4 billion dollars.
(b) Three candidates collectively will spend one-quarter of a billion dollars on the governor's races in their states
(c) all while scores are dying from dehydration and disease in Indonesia and Pakistan and Haiti(and countless other places)
(d) and cash-strapped US cities are slashing basic civil services, US school children are falling further behind their global competitors, international aid agencies render poverty health aid to destitute communities in the US, and some 30 thousand lower income citizens of East Point, GA turn out to receive applications for low-income housing assistance.

Now, back to crushing importance of Barack Obama going on an evening comedy-news show...

Posted by: jakereeves2000 | October 28, 2010 6:21 PM

Is there any TV show Dude Obama won't go on?

I think next he is on The Big Comfy Couch, with Lunette and Molly, a girl and her dolly on the Big Comfy Couch.

Posted by: cpameetingbook | October 28, 2010 5:07 PM

A new low for the left.

Posted by: lrvs | October 28, 2010 4:56 PM

Our country is looking for leadership during a time of economic hardship for many. Our president campaigning on a faux news show is not leadership. Pretty sad that liberals actually watch these comedy shows to get their news. Says alot about the intellectual ability of the viewers to even make an informed opinion on which candidates are worthy of their vote.

Posted by: lrvs | October 28, 2010 4:54 PM

I thought he was clear, forceful and articulate. He conceded where he needed to, he was very Presidential.

Would u rather Palin? "Oh Jon, its all hopey changey, Reagan tax cuts patriot".

He's a serious man dealing with serious problems

Posted by: Chops2 | October 28, 2010 4:40 PM

It doesn't take long for the Obama trolls to sniff out an article that fails to give proper adoration to 'The One'. Most of the comments here come from democrat professional hacks.

Posted by: mike27 | October 28, 2010 4:31 PM

It was a very well done program. A serious discussion with the President about pertinent issues is rare. What do you want?

He answered important questions in an intelligent way. During the program, I asked myself, "What kind of answers would we be getting if this were Bush instead of Obama?"

I shudder to speculate.

Posted by: MTgrassland | October 28, 2010 3:42 PM

Someone needs to put an end to Murdoch.

Posted by: adrienne_najjar | October 28, 2010 3:24 PM

This is a pretty lousy article.
Obama needs to get his base to get out and vote. His base watches The Daily Show. So, you criticize him for "preaching to the choir" in an effort to get his base to vote?
Makes no sense. The choir IS your base. Duh. I have no idea what your political leanings are, but I can assume by your lack of intellect you are a member of the "proud uninformed" (aka the political right).
Overall, Obama looked pretty cool on The Daily Show last night, and connected (or re-connected) with his young base of democratic voters.

Posted by: jgarrisn | October 28, 2010 3:23 PM

I am a late 50 something individual who enjoys staying up to hear John Stewart and Colbert Monday - Thursday nights. I enjoyed the President on last night showing his human side. It is not about the baby boomer crowd anymore. Stewart and Colbert are the wave of the future and I like a President that knows that. McGregor you need to switch to Stewart & Colbert and leave that warped Faux News alone.

Posted by: messey08 | October 28, 2010 3:01 PM

Sigh - - -the interview confirmed that Obama and the other Democratic leaders' failed and are still failing to aggressively, publicly POUND the GOP for their deliberate 100% devotion to sabotaging the Obama Government---NO MATTER THAT WE NEEDED FINANCIAL, HEALTH CARE, and INFRASTRUCTURE JOBS so badly!

Double Sigh - - Have to admit that progress with Jobs, fixing middle-class financial woes, preventing or even slowing environmental destruction - has LITTLE hope in the face of THIS EXTREMELY obstructive GOP characteristic (that-is) Corporate Ownership of the GOP, Blue Dog Democrats, Supreme Court AND Fox "News".

Posted by: lufrank1 | October 28, 2010 3:00 PM

This President and the Carnaval (Reid, Pelosi, Viden etc) all would be in this show every day and not spending millons using the Air Force 1, 2, 3 travel all over the country. Ours suppose leaders all are a total joke.

Posted by: josetuero | October 28, 2010 2:48 PM

I was shocked--shocked!!!--to see you didn't it was a good move by Obama to go on "The Daily Show." Another unbiased take from this right-wing McGregor person. It's been clear from the start you don't like Obama and anything you write about him is skewed through your lens of dislike.

You have zero credibility discussing Obama so find a different subject.

And what the hell is a blog "on leadership" supposed to be about anyway? Sounds like one of those bullcrap corporate seminars where the TQM-like buzzwords are piled high and wide, but mean absolutely nothing.

Except to the consultant being paid to conduct the seminar. Or the "leadership expert" being paid to write the antti-Obama blog. What a great con you have going here.

Posted by: kennedy6500 | October 28, 2010 2:47 PM

Wow. The last three months this president have been traveling all the country spend millons of tax payer dollars, he go to every show possible on the extreme left and he only said that it's wrong communicating their message, wow. I see this movie all around the world, this charlatan the only thing that he do is spend tax payer money.

Posted by: josetuero | October 28, 2010 2:42 PM

The only joke was Obama.

Posted by: apdseal | October 28, 2010 2:41 PM

I thought Pres. Obama's appearance on The Daily Show provided more information that the Sunday news shows hosted by "journalist". Stewart asked very good questions and he followed-up like a professional journalist would not a comedian/satirist. People who think it was a mistake did not watch.

What Stewart did is what the journalist should have been doing but don't seem to be able to do - at least not very good.

Posted by: rlj1 | October 28, 2010 2:37 PM

Sorry but I'm a little old school. It seems to me that it shows a lack of dignity and seriousness for a sitting president to go on talk shows or comedy shows. And what is it with President Obama and the whole shirtsleeves thing? I feel disrespected.

Posted by: lderusso | October 28, 2010 2:37 PM

Jena, don't use the phrase "faux news", that is reserved for Rupert Murdoch's new program.

Posted by: tinkabell1 | October 28, 2010 2:35 PM

I am a big fan of this President, and I don't agree with the writer that it was a bad move at all. Frankly, it shows a more human side of the man. And I like John Stewart and Colbert too. An awful lot of young people watch their shows, and so do I (and I'm 60 years young), and I'm an engineer who will work until I'm 70 because I enjoy what I'm doing. And I also think that there are an awful lot of people who are out there who just are not thinking and using their time & talents wisely. I watch sports and old movies on TV, and stay away from the BS because it is really bad for you. Know thyself, and don't worry about others!

Posted by: MikeV2 | October 28, 2010 1:58 PM

Hey Prez dude how's it shaking?

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | October 28, 2010 1:53 PM

Why does the Post think people want to listen to these right wing hacks? This person is obviously, as she put it herself, preaching to the choir of like minded nut jobs who have continuously, right from the beginning, attacked whatever Obama does. It'd be refreshing to get a "fair and balanced" perspective from the Post instead of giving so much prominence to these inmates from the Tea Party asylum.

Posted by: grgoodmn | October 28, 2010 1:20 PM

Don't worry McGregor, the Post certainly won' fire you for this piece of junk. It's void of any substance, other than a couple of gotchas regarding the "heckuva job line" and the totally realistic statement "but it's going to take time" that Obama explained.

This is your media on acid.

Posted by: dougd1 | October 28, 2010 1:04 PM


Jena it's obvious you're not a big fan of the President.

Why should Obama appear on Fox? To answer stupid questions about Kenya? His birth certificate?

Fox's campaign to create doubt in Obama has been a huge success with a small part of the electorate. The rest of us enjoyed last night's banter, even if it was preaching to the choir.

Posted by: tony_in_Durham_NC | October 28, 2010 12:47 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company