President Obama is appearing on “The Daily Show” on Wednesday night. It’s a fake news program produced by Comedy Central, remember – so will host Jon Stewart make fun of America’s chief executive to his face?
No. At least, we’re 98 percent certain that he won’t.
Reason No. 1: Mr. Stewart is kind of, sort of, liberal-leaning. In a restrained “Rally to Restore Sanity” way.
Reason No. 2: It would be rude, and he would never have a chance to interview a top Democrat again. And that would be a bummer, since his show is in Washington all week, and you can spend only so much time at the Smithsonian looking at Archie Bunker’s chair and Judy Garland’s ruby slippers.
Reason No. 3: Comedy hosts, even comedy hosts who are trusted sources of actual news for millions of Americans, generally don’t ask tough questions in face-to-face interviews, no matter how unrestrained their other material is. Paradoxically, this is because they often try to prove they’re not just clowns. So they ask detailed questions from the talking points provided by staff, along the lines of, “Isn’t the president’s small-business bill designed to stimulate infrastructure investment? And if so, how?”
Perhaps they want to prove they can have a conversation about policy. David Letterman does this. Jay Leno does this. Stewart does this. (Stephen Colbert does not – he’s an outlier. He’ll force an arms-control expert to pick the one country he’d nuke, if he had to nuke one.)
Sure, then they’ll build some kind of shtick off the policy bit. Stewart did this Monday when he talked to White House economist Austan Goolsbee about the aforementioned small-business legislation. He ended up comparing Mr. Goolsbee to Braveheart, and Stewart recalled in his younger days how he had to apologize for what his friends did in bars.
But in some ways, presidential appearances on non-news shows can produce more-interesting insights than news interviews. In our opinion.
Mr. Obama himself is not concerned that appearing on a show that is supposed to be funny will detract from the seriousness of what he has to say, according to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
Asked on Tuesday whether the president is worried about mixing entertainment and politics, Mr. Gibbs replied, “Jon Stewart is sort of past that,” with the implication being that Stewart is fully aware of the odd quasi-journalist position he occupies.
Why is Obama doing the show at all? Because that’s where the voters are. In particular, that’s where the young voters are, Gibbs said.
“The president hasn’t been shy about going to the places where people are getting their information and trying to make his case. And I think that’s what he’ll do on the [Stewart] show,” said Gibbs.