On the Daily Show, Obama is the last laugh
On Comedy Central, the joke was on President Obama Wednesday night.
The president had come, on the eve of what will almost certainly be the loss of his governing majority, to plead his case before Jon Stewart, gatekeeper of the disillusioned left. But instead of displaying the sizzle that won him an army of youthful supporters two years ago, Obama had a Brownie moment.
The Daily Show host was giving Obama a tough time about hiring the conventional and Clintonian Larry Summers as his top economic advisor.
"In fairness," the president replied defensively, "Larry Summers did a heckuva job."
"You don't want to use that phrase, dude," Stewart recommended with a laugh.
Dude. The indignity of a comedy show host calling the commander in chief "dude" pretty well captured the moment for Obama. He was making this first-ever appearance by a president on the Daily Show as part of a long-shot effort to rekindle the spirit of '08. In the Daily Show, Obama had a friendly host and an even friendlier crowd.
But, as in his MTV appearance a couple of weeks ago, Obama didn't try to connect with his youthful audience. He was serious and defensive, pointing a finger at his host several times as he quarreled with the premise of a question.
Stewart, who struggled to suppress a laugh as Obama defended Summers, turned out to be an able inquisitor on behalf of aggrieved liberals. He spoke for the millions who had been led to believe that Obama was some sort of a messianic figure. Obama has only himself to blame for their letdown. By raising expectations impossibly high, playing the transformational figure to Hillary Clinton's status-quo drone, he gave his followers an unrealistic hope.
"You're coming from a place, you ran on a very high rhetoric: 'hope' and 'change.' And the Democrats this year seem to be running on 'Please, baby, one more chance.'" Stewart observed. "Are you disappointed in how it's gone?"
Obama replied that he was advised after the election that "two years from now, folks are going to be frustrated" -- a prediction he did not make public to his starry-eyed suporters at the time.
"We have done things that some folks don't even know about," Obama ventured.