When President Barack Obama made his second visit to Jay Leno’s NBC late night talker “Tonight Show,” he clearly knew who was his audience — the first rule of any good late night talk show appearance.
Leno: “Have you been watching the GOP debates?”
“I’m going to wait until everybody is voted off the island before — ” Obama began.
Wild applause from the studio audience in Burbank, approving of the “Survivor” reference.
“Once they narrow it down to one or two, I’ll start paying attention,” Obama added.
Leno had kicked off the interview by asking the president for “your take on this?” in re last week’s grisly death of Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi.
Yes — it’s still a comedy show.
“Well, this is somebody who, for 40 years, has terrorized his country and supported terrorism. And he had an opportunity during the Arab spring to finally let loose of his grip on power and to peacefully transition into democracy,” Obama began, getting that glassy-eyed, stuffed frog look politicians get when they go into well-rehearsed diplomatic-speak.
“ We gave him ample opportunity, and he wouldn’t do it. And, obviously, you never like to see anybody come to the kind of end that he did, but I think it obviously sends a strong message around the world to dictators that — ”
“Yeah,” Leno interrupted enthusiastically.
“ — people long to be free, and they need to respect the human rights and the universal aspirations of people.”
Leno asked Obama how many members of the GOP had opposed withdrawing from Iraq, which Obama outlined in a nationally televised speech last Friday.
“It’s shocking that they opposed something I proposed,” Obama snarked.
Leno gave Obama a platform to talk about Republican Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell’s recent comments that, as Leno told it — “our goal is to make this guy a one-term president” — something Leno said made him good and mad and faux wondered, “How is that a goal?”
“I think the things that folks across the country are most fed up with, whether you are a Democrat, Republican, independent, is putting party ahead of country, or putting the election ahead of the next generation,” Obama responded smoothly.
Over the years, Leno has cozied up to the GOP – he got nicked for delivering a national audience to body builder turned actor turned politician Arnold Schwarzenegger when he lobbed softball questions his way in on his late night show, back when Schwarzenegger was running for governor of California in ‘06 and ’03, without also inviting the Terminator’s Democratic opposition, and Leno turned up at the Governator’s victory party in ’03, for instance. But Tuesday night, Leno went out of his way to make Obama feel welcome, devoting most of his opening monologue to bashing the GOP and its presidential hopefuls:
* “As you know, a Libyan rebel has admitted to killing Gaddafi. He said he shot Gaddafi twice in the temple. To which Michele Bachmann said, “I didn’t know he was Jewish.”
* “They says Moammar Gaddafi may have been one of the richest men in the world…$200 billion dollars. With all of the billions he had, he spent very little on education or health care for his country. So, I guess he was a Republican.”
* “Earlier today, Rick Perry unveiled his new tax plan. He says he wants a flat tax. He believes that the tax should be flat, just like the earth.”
* “In an interview with Parade Magazine, Rick Perry said that after meeting with Donald Trump – there’s a meeting of the minds right there – he says he isn’t sure that Obama’s birth certificate is real. He says there’s room for debate. The good news is, Perry loses every debate he’s been involved in.”