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Obama Dominates Jon Stewart's Turf

Laura Walsh |
October 28, 2010 | 9:11 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

As a proud Jon Stewart fan, I understand myself to be one of thousands of college kids who tune into “The Daily Show” under the guise of watching ‘the news,’ knowing full well the liberalist bent and manipulated mockery of the political system of America as we think we know it.

President Barack Obama’s appearance on the show Wednesday night, however, was a somewhat grounding reminder that the show’s absurd bedbug caricatures and Dick Army quotations cast a shadow on Washington D.C.’s real accomplishments. 

Though Stewart tried to keep things light from his initial presentation of a bedazzled “President of the United States” mug to Obama, the president’s less-than-amused sophistication was almost infectious.

Any other speaker and most of Jon Stewart’s fans probably would have started getting bored due to lack of interjection.  Yet as Obama steered the conversation through a defense of the healthcare system, the stabilizing economy, and what he calls “historic reform,” it was hard to fully appreciate Jon Stewart’s humor-driven attacks.  

As the television show’s first featured sitting president walked in, applause was so enthusiastic that Stewart jokingly retired off camera, smirking, “I’m sorry, that’s all the time we have.”  In fact, for the first time in my recollection of Daily Show history, the audience hailed Stewart’s guest with more frequent and enthusiastic applause than Stewart himself, even as the President insisted on focusing on the government’s progress since his inauguration. 

The President’s clear understanding of both the realities of American hardship and cooperation of the government were an impressive and, admittedly, refreshingly balanced understanding of the social and political scene in the United States.

To the audience’s approval, he described overcoming the nation’s “two toughest years since the Great Depression” because of a resilient population that insists on “opening businesses and taking care of their families.”  In short, he revived the same appeal of his recently attacked campaign slogans. Even when his vision of “Hope” and “Change” were questioned by Stewart and undoubtedly his fans, Obama smartly reasoned that change simply couldn’t happen over night, but cited many examples like the stabilization of the economy, nine months of consecutive private sector job growth, historic reform and “things people don’t even know about” to insist that change was indeed in the making.

Though Stewart isn’t exactly known for his defense of conservatism, his critiques have not sidestepped the Democratic and uniquely popular president. Yet on Wednesday's show, his respect for the president’s commanding dialogue was obvious and even humanizing. To watch Stewart step back from the offense as two of Democrats' most well-liked faces addressed real issues was strange but inspirational.

Though I was hoping that Stewart would thwart any attempts at commanding the typically humorous show with a campaign-oriented agenda, Obama’s linguistics somewhat shockingly trumped Stewart's, and I, along with the audience, left with nothing but respect for Obama and his vision of the Democratic Party.

Stewart’s own agenda was lost in the mix.  His “Rally To Restore Sanity “is now a day away and highlights the brevity of the civilized debate between the two figures. Complete with its own website, the campaign will clearly not give Obama the opportunistic chance to defend the government in a civilized conversation.  Instead, the event promises an entertaining, but to some extent unfair mockery of the government in typical Jon Stewart fashion, as attendees are invited to “demonstrate their sanity and reasonableness.” After Obama’s impressive appearance on Stewart’s turf however, one is easily convinced that Stewart's event will be more likely a display of manipulative accusation and unopposed wit.

Reach reporter Laura Walsh here.



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