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.
October 28, 2010; 11:40 AM ET |
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