Making history as the first sitting U.S. President to appear on the satirical show, Stewart sparred with Obama about his executive style, his party’s campaign approach and the health care bill. Obama defended his record, saying his fiscal policies had helped the country avoid the “second Great Depression.” (Check out After The Midterms: How Obama Can Reboot)
Campaigning hard in the short run up to the midterm elections, which could possibly see the Democrats lose their grip on Congress, Obama focused on two vital messages: that he had done a good job in getting health care reform through Congress, and passing financial regulation laws. However, the President appeared agitated at Stewart’s remarks over the timidity of his legislative program. He sat forward, pointing his finger at the desk separating them and addressed the host.
“Jon, I love your show, but this is something where, you know, I have a profound disagreement with you. […] When we promised during the campaign ‘change you can believe in,’ it wasn’t change you can believe in, in 18 months. It was change you can believe in, but you know what, we are going to have to work for it.”
Acknowledging public frustrations over escalating unemployment rates and the lingering housing market, Obama said the American public are unaware of many of his administration’s achievements. To which Stewart replied, “What have you done that we don’t know about?” Are you planning a surprise party for us, filled with jobs and health care?” (See Hope, Change and Struggle: An Artist’s View of the 2008 Presidential Campaign.)
Over at Tuned In, James Poniewozik notes that Stewart, as a comedian, had a unique edge while interviewing President Obama.
Stewart’s interview, like The Daily Show itself, wasn’t a replacement for the work of the rest of the news media but a supplement to it. A comedian has certain advantages straight reporters don’t. He can call the President “Dude.” When Obama referred to Larry Summers as having done a “heckuva job,” directly recalling George W. Bush’s unfortunate praise of his FEMA head after Katrina, Stewart pounced, “Dude, you don’t want to use that phrase.” (Obama tried to recover with, “Pun intended.” Yeah, I don’t think so, and it wasn’t actually a pun.)