“When we promised during the campaign change you can believe in, it wasn’t change you can believe in in 18 months,’’ Mr. Obama said. “It was change you can believe in but were going to have to work for it.”
The 30-minute interview, before a wildly enthusiastic crowd of 550 at the Harman Center for the Arts in downtown Washington, a short drive from the White House, was Mr. Obama’s first appearance on the show as president, though he was also a guest during his run for the White House in 2008. The president used the appearance to defend his agenda and make a pitch for people to get out and vote; Mr. Stewart used the interview to press the president with the critique he often hears from the left, by characterizing his agenda as timid – a characterization the president fiercely resisted.
“You ran on very high rhetoric, hope and change, and the Democrats this year seem to be running on, ‘Please baby, one more chance’,’’ Mr. Stewart said at one point. At another, he asked the president if he was now running on “Yes we can, with certain conditions.’’
Mr. Obama replied, “I think I would say, ‘Yes we can, but –“
Mr. Stewart, laughing, cut the president off. Mr. Obama jumped in again, finishing his sentence: “But it’s not going to happen overnight.”
For Mr. Stewart, the interview was part of the run-up to the Rally to Restore Sanity and the March to Keep Fear Alive that he and his fellow Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert are hosting on the National Mall this Saturday. For Mr. Obama, it was another step in an intense effort to get Democrats – and especially young people –to the polls, and Mr. Obama closed the interview by making a pitch for them to do just that.
“Can I just make a plug just to vote?’’ the president asked, as Mr. Stewart tried to wrap up. “Go out there and vote Nov. 2. A lot of you have early voting in your states; make sure you make use of it.’’
Of course, when you are president of the United States and you appear on a fake news program, you can expect to get tweaked, and Mr. Stewart did not disappoint.
“So here you are, two years in, and the question that raises in my mind is, ‘Are we the people we were waiting for?’’ Mr. Stewart asked – a riff on Mr. Obama’s much-repeated campaign line. “Or,’’ Mr. Stewart went on, as the audience laughed, “Does it turn out those people are still out there and we don’t have their number?’’
The interview went longer than Mr. Stewart expected – so long, in fact, that the show’s producers decided to cut out the original introduction Mr. Stewart taped, which include a riff of him fiddling with a pen and drumming his fingers on the table while making the president wait, and his introduction of Mr. Obama as “White House chairman of the council of Economic Advisers Austan Goolsbee’s boss.’’ A spokeswoman for the show said it was the first time the show consisted of a single interview.
Late-night television has come a long way since Bill Clinton, then a presidential candidate, played his saxophone for Arsenio Hall during his campaign for the White House in 1992. The lines between entertainment and news are increasingly blurred – in part because Mr. Obama has been willing to bring his presidential platform to settings his predecessors might have regarded as unconventional, to say the least.
Last, year, Mr. Obama became the first sitting president to appear on “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno. Over the summer, he dished with Whoopi Goldberg and other doyennes of daytime television on ABC’s “The View.” (“I wanted to pick a show that Michelle actually watches,’’ he told them.)
Getting out the vote is “on the top of every to-do list of every person working in a campaign at any point in the country,’’ and The Daily Show appearance is a part of that effort, the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs told reporters this week. Mr. Obama, he said, “hasn’t been shy about going to the places where people are getting their information and trying to make his case.”
Can't wait to watch this!!