Obama’s interview with Jon Stewart aimed at ‘base,’ White House says

Jon Ward Contributor
Font Size:

President Obama will do an interview with Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show” next week in order to speak to his “base,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Wednesday.

“It’s a program that younger voters and even occasionally older voters, the 39-year-old age group, catch, if they can remember to stay up late,” Gibbs said. “I think it’s a great way to appeal to a younger voter audience that is a big part of the President’s base.”

It’s also a way to highlight Stewart’s Oct. 30 rally on the National Mall in D.C. three days before the midterm election, which the comedian is calling the “Rally to Restore Sanity.” It is, at least in part, a response to Fox News personality Glenn Beck’s rally on the Mall in late August.

The president will sit down with Stewart next Wednesday.

Obama has already talked up Stewart’s show in recent days, telling a group of voters in Richmond three weeks ago that the Comedy Central show host’s rally in D.C. was ultimately about “common sense and some courtesy in how people interact.”

Stewart has never made a secret of his liberal politics, and has hosted Obama on his show before, though never as president. During Obama’s last interview on “The Daily Show,” a few days before he was elected president, Stewart acknowledged that his target audience was almost uniformly supportive of the Democrat.

“Clearly our show is not a swing show,” Stewart said on Oct. 29, 2008, when Obama appeared via satellite. Stewart asked him then if he would be “comforted” or not by the 30-minute “Obama infomercial” that the campaign had broadcast earlier that day.

The tone and feel of that interview, and Obama’s demeanor, is a marked contrast to today. Obama radiated confidence and serenity in the brief exchange.

“This is the time to want to be president,” Obama said.

He is feeling less chipper two years later. Obama is an embattled president, who has passed major landmark legislation — the $814 billion stimulus, the health care overhaul and the financial regulation bill — but has seen much of the country sour on his policies.

In the short term, Obama’s appearance on “The Daily Show” is an attempt to rally young voters to the polls on Nov. 2.

In the broader frame, Obama’s nod to Stewart and his program are another signal that the president and his administration believe their worldview and resulting policies are eminently reasonable but have yet to be fully understood by much of the country.

Elevating ideological allies such as Stewart — who has been more than willing to criticize Obama for not living up to their shared values and to his campaign promises — is one way to move the ball forward in helping the rest of the country along, the thinking goes.

Email Jon Ward and follow him on Twitter