Punch Lines for Pakistan's President
Jon Stewart Laughs It Up With Musharraf

By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The president of Pakistan has been in the United States lately to discuss matters of global importance and -- in his spare time -- to flog a memoir. Last night he appeared on Comedy Central's "Daily Show" with Jon Stewart, where he demonstrated both a sense of humor and a deep desire to sell "In the Line of Fire," which, incidentally, is now available on Amazon.com for the low, low price of $16.80, plus shipping and handling.

Following Pakistani custom, Stewart started off by offering Gen. Pervez Musharraf some tea. He also gave Musharraf the "American delicacy" known as a Twinkie.

"Is it good?" Stewart asked, then followed up with: "Where's Osama bin Laden?"

"I don't know," Musharraf replied, as the audience roared with laughter. " You know where he is? You lead on, we'll follow you."

Has it really come to this? In recent days, Musharraf has promoted his memoir, published Monday, on "Hannity & Colmes," "Today," "60 Minutes" and "Charlie Rose." He has engaged in long discussions of his country's foreign policy and endured the occasional moment of awkwardness in service to the greater good of book sales.

For example, on "Charlie Rose":

Rose: " 'In the Line of Fire" seems an appropriate title for your memoir, does it not?"

Musharraf: "I think so. That's why I selected it."

Last night was the first appearance of any sitting president on "The Daily Show," and the best lines, as usual, belonged to Stewart. He asked his guest ("Mr. President") about two attempts on his life, which took place on the same bridge.

"I'd come up with a new way to go to work," Stewart advised his guest.

As usual, much of Stewart's humor was rooted in criticism of the U.S. administration. If Musharraf felt such jokes put him in an awkward position with his ally President Bush -- with whom he met on Friday and is scheduled to meet again today -- he did not say so. Rather, he chuckled and played along. For example, Stewart asked Musharraf if Bush ran against bin Laden in a low-level election in Pakistan, who would win. Musharraf responded that both would "lose miserably."

Stewart asked Musharraf why he hadn't made much reference in his book to America's war in Iraq.

"Is that because you felt like it was such a smart move, and has gone so well that to mention it would be gloating?" Stewart asked.

Musharraf laughed and said of the war, "It has led certainly to more extremism and terrorism around the world."

"So we're safer?" Stewart pressed.

Musharraf laughed again. "No, we're not."

Stewart also asked if Bush pays attention when Musharraf meets with him, or whether he might be, say, watching television or sleeping with his eyes open. The president of Pakistan said the president of the United States paid close attention during their last meeting.

Book tours can benefit greatly from juicy details released in advance of publication, and this has proved no less true for Musharraf's book. Last week, it came to light that Musharraf claimed that former deputy secretary of state Richard L. Armitage threatened to bomb his country "back to the Stone Age" if Pakistan did not cooperate in the war on terror. (Armitage has since denied making such a threat.)

Asked about the "Stone Age" quote at a news conference with Bush on Friday, the Pakistani president said he could not discuss his book before it came out, citing an agreement with his publisher.

"In other words, buy the book is what he's saying," Bush said.

Is there any publicity better than that? Of course -- Oprah.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company