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Jon Stewart, President Obama debate on 'The Daily Show'
"I'll tell you what I mean, and I don't mean to lump you in with other presidents," Stewart said, to laughter from the audience. "If I were to try to coalesce whatever crticism of it there may be, it is you ran on the idea that this system needed basic reform. It feels like some of the reforms that have passed, like health care, have been done in a very political manner that has papered over a foundation that is corrupt."
"That, I think, is fair," said Obama, who cited the Senate filibuster and district gerrymandering as systemic roadblocks to more efficient and less divisive governing.
Stewart cited Clinton player Larry Summers's role in the administration as evidence that Obama has not been totally committed to bringing true reformers into government, which set the president up for the only semi-gaffe of the night. The president said Summers did "a heckuva job" during the thick of the financial crisis, prompting Stewart and the audience to sputter into laughter.
The sober comedian and the even more sober president agreed on one thing:
It's " 'yes we can,' given certain conditions," Stewart said.
" 'Yes we can,' but it's not gonna happen overnight," Obama said.
The president's appearance was an Act I finale to Comedy Central's weeklong occupation of the District. The culmination is its avowedly "apolitical" Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the Mall on Saturday. There are scant details on the event itself.
"We don't know what we're doing," Stewart said before Monday's taping, "but we're doing it up."
The show featuring Obama airs Wednesday night at 11 on Comedy Central.