Jon Stewart Obama Interview: We Are Not Laughing, Mr President

It’s tough being president. Things just keep going wrong: four years of trillion dollar deficits, a gross domestic product that’s now smaller than our national debt, an economy that just won’t grow, and terrorist attacks abroad. Sometimes you just need a break.

Why not go on The Daily Show? After all, a public conversation with Jon Stewart is the best possible vacation spot for any Democratic politician. The audience there is so friendly to the Democratic Party line that you barely have to prep — they’ll erupt into thunderous applause at the end of every sentence. 

That’s even better than the State of the Union. Thankfully, no one on The Daily Show interrupts your bipartisan, uplifting monologues with a bellowing “You Lie!”

Maybe someone should start. The president’s take-away line from last night was staggering: “If four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal.”  Yet nary a squeak came from the enraptured audience, who could only sit on the edge of their chairs in dumbfounded awe of Barack Obama’s likability. 

I’m willing to give the president the benefit of the doubt. He probably didn’t mean to phrase things the way he did. He may have even pulled "a Biden” by speaking before thinking. Every politician does it at one point or another. We should all just forgive, forget, and wait for the president to deliver the next punch line. That’s why he’s on The Daily Show, after all.

That’s exactly the problem. This is a president who thinks that comedy shows are better than press conferences. This was his second visit to Jon Stewart’s show as a sitting president and his sixth in total. He’s also made appearances on The Late Show with David Letterman and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. There must be some benefit to Barack Obama’s late-night comedy hijinks.

“Optimal,” indeed — if only for Barack Obama’s campaign. Appearing on comedy shows is little more than a campaign shenanigan aimed at making the president seem personable and friendly.  An affable president is surely a successful president, at least at the ballot box. 

Whether his jokes actually help individual Americans is less certain. It turns out that laughter doesn't pay the bills. But please, Mr. President: keep the laughs coming. Perhaps it's the only thing that’s keeping America’s jobless from crying.

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Stephen Ford

Stephen Ford is a communication director a D.C.-based government affairs firm.

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