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Obama Plays Jon Stewart's Straight-Man-In-Chief

Oct 28, 2010

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The White House can check off the "Appear on The Daily Show" line item on its to-do list of actions meant to fire up the base, especially young voters ahead of Election Day.

Of course, just because you go to all the right places and say all the expected things to activate the base doesn't mean the base will be energized.

There was no news in what the president told Jon Stewart Thursday evening except for maybe seeing a president become the straight-man-in-chief for a comedian. You don't get to see that too often.

The president ticked off his talking points of recent weeks. That he knows voters are frustrated, that his administration staved off a second Great Depression, that the American people have to be patient. Yadda, yadda, yadda, to quote a famous comedy show of the past.

It was all mostly unremarkable stuff though Stewart, the professional entertainer that he is, was able to jazz it up.

For instance, in one of the show's most memorable moments, when Obama remarked that his administration had done things that the American people didn't even know about, Stewart said:

"What have you done that we don't know about? Are you planning a surprise party for us, filled with jobs and healthcare?"

Obama laughed. Then he returned to his talking points.

"When you look at what we've done in making sure, before we even passed health care, four million kids got health insurance that didn't have it before through the children's health insurance program. Expanded national service more than anytime since the beginning of the Peace Corps."

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

At least two other moments appeared to be instant highlights.

When Stewart asked if Obama had been chastened by experience and might tone down his campaign rhetoric when he's up for re-election, Obama unintentionally drew laughs when he rephrased his famous "can-do" 2008 slogan.

STEWART: "You wouldn't say you'd run this time as a pragmatist? It wouldn't be, 'Yes we can, given certain conditions?'"

OBAMA: "I think what I would say is yes we can, but (Stewart and audience laughter) but it's not going to happen overnight."

At another point, Obama echoed his Oval Office predecessor, and not in a good way.

Obama was defending one of the lead architects of his economics team, the departing Harvard economist Lawrence Summers.

OBAMA: "In fairness, Larry Summers did a heckuva job."

STEWART: "You don't want to use that phrase, dude."

OBAMA: "Pun Intended."

Well, maybe. But intentionally likening Summers to the hapless Michael Brown of Katrina fame probably isn't the best way to increase voter confidence in the wisdom and eventual success of the president's economic policies.

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