Dana Milbank sees Obama's appearance on Jon Stewart's Daily Show as less than a triumph. I agree.
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.
There was worse.
"You wouldn't say you'd run this time as a pragmatist? It wouldn't be, 'Yes we can, given certain conditions?'"
"I think what I would say is yes we can, but..."
Stewart, and the audience, laughed at the "but."
Actually they were laughing at Obama.
I already had my doubts about the thinking on both sides of this strange transaction. For Obama, it looked like nothing but drawbacks. It's a setting he couldn't control. A comedian as smart as Stewart can make you look stupid whatever you say. If you make a joke, you are being frivolous about serious stuff. If you are serious, you have no sense of humor (so what are you doing on the show in the first place?). The idea, obviously, was to rekindle some Obama enthusiasm in the Democratic base, but this (assuming he succeeded) would come at the cost of telling the soft conservatives in the middle of the electorate that you prefer yucking it up with the Daily Show demographic to engaging with them. Not something I would have advised.