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Obama's missing sense of humor

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By Kathleen Parker
Saturday, October 30, 2010; 12:00 AM

It's always risky to appear onstage with a comedian. Not only are funny guys funny, but they're also aggressive.

Indeed, humor is nothing but aggression harnessed and saddled - and nobody today rides that horse as well as Jon Stewart.

So what was President Obama thinking when he submitted to a nearly 30-minute interview with the Comedy Central star? He was thinking, of course, that he could rekindle some of the love with his base. Seventy-four percent of Stewart's audience falls into the 18-49 demographic otherwise known as - money.

Dude.

As others have noted, Stewart is a superb interviewer. No surprise there. The funniest people are also often the smartest people in the room.

Stewart asked all the right questions and managed to get the president to answer most of them. Should he have called the president "dude"? As a matter of decorum, the short answer is no. But in the context of the moment, who could resist?

Stewart had just asked Obama how he could square his campaign mantra of "change" with hiring economic advisers such as Larry Summers, who looks the same as those who had served in previous administrations. In response, Obama said that Summers had done a "heck of a job."

Whereupon, Stewart said, "You don't want to use that phrase, dude."

Everyone got the joke. George W. Bush used the same words to commend Michael "Brownie" Brown after his disastrous performance as head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency following Hurricane Katrina. Translation: You're fired.

Everyone got the joke, that is, except for Obama. He got it eventually, after seeing the "oops" expression on Stewart's face, but he couldn't take the joke. There's a world of difference.

Instead of laughing at himself, he turned to the audience - a beat too late - and said, "Pun intended."

No, it wasn't. Anyone watching could see that. He slipped. Obama is a nice guy; he was trying to say something nice about Summers, and "heck of a job" just tumbled out. No big deal. We get it. Stuff happens. But Obama couldn't roll with the gut punch.


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