Jon Stewart and President Obama got along well as expected, and Jon did ask Obama some difficult questions. Most of Obama’s responses were a defense of his record during his first nineteen months in office, and I thought he did a great job making his case that “Change you can believe in” doesn’t happen overnight. He says it takes time (no argument here) and the Democrats are making progress in spite of the Republicans’ stalling tactics.
I did find it a little strange that not once during the whole show was there any talk about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. I guess this time around “it’s about the economy, stupid,” and who controls it.
I am pretty sure it’s safe to say that Jon Stewart is the first interviewer of a sitting president to address the president as “Dude.”
If you haven’t watched the show, you can watch the rerun today on TV, or you can watch it here on your computer.
Obama: You know, look: when I won and we started the transition, and we looked at what was happening in the economy, a whole bunch of my political folks came up and said, “You know what: enjoy this now, because two years from now, folks are gonna be frustrated.” And that is in fact what’s happened. When you’ve got 9.6% unemployment, when folks are seeing their homes under water, when the economy is growing but is still not growing as fast as it needs to to make up for the 8 million jobs that were lost — yup, folks are gonna be frustrated, and that’s gonna reflect itself in the political environment. But, having said that, I look over the last 18 months and I say, we prevented a second Great Depression, we’ve stabilized the economy — an economy that was shrinking is now growing — we’ve got 9 months of consecutive private-sector job growth, we have passed historic healthcare reform, historic financial regulatory reform, we have done things that some folks don’t even know about —
Stewart: What have you done that we don’t know about? [laughter] Are you planning a surprise party for us? “Filled with jobs and healthcare!”
Obama: When you look at what we’ve done in terms of making sure that — before we even passed healthcare, 4 million kids got health insurance that didn’t have it before, through the children’s health insurance program [cheers], expanded national service more than at any time since the beginning of the Peace Corps, made sure that credit card companies couldn’t jack up your rates without notice — over and over again, we have moved forward an agenda that is making a difference in people’s lives each and every day. Now, is it enough? No. And so I expect, and I think most Democrats out there expect, that people want to see more progress.
Stewart: — he took a rifle and he shot the “Cap and Trade” bill. And I thought, “Oh, gosh, the Republicans are so — oh, that’s a Democrat?? Oh, that’s interesting.” Have you convinced your own party that the legislative progress has been enough, and how do you feel about their reaction to it?
Obama: Look: let me say this about members of Congress —
Stewart: Are you gonna curse?
Obama: No, I’m not gonna curse. [laughter] I know a lot of folks feel frustrated about Congress, about how it operates, the bickering, the weird rules, the filibusters, all that stuff. But the fact is that there are a bunch of folks who, during the course of this year, took really tough votes, that they knew were bad politics, because they thought they were the right things to do.
Stewart: It feels like some of the reforms that have passed, like healthcare, have been done in a very political manner that has papered over a foundation that is corrupt. And I thought that —
Obama: That I think is fair — here’s what I think is fair: that, over the last two years, in an emergency situation —
Obama:— our basic attitude was, We’ve gotta get some things done, in some cases quickly, that are — in order to do that, basically worked with the process as opposed to transformed the process — and there’s no doubt that that frustrated folks. It frustrates me. Look: I would love not to have a 60-vote requirement — which is not in the Constitution, but is in the Senate rules right now — that apply to everything we do, so I can’t get a Deputy Secretary of Treasury in the middle of a financial crisis because somebody’s holding it up and is filibustering the appointment. …
Obama: If the point, Jon, is that overnight we did not transform the healthcare system, that point is true.
Stewart: [laughs] When you put it that way, it seems so petty!
Stewart: Welcome back to the show President Barack Obama. [audience cheers and applause] You expressed some frustration with those on the Left who are still feeling dissatisfied. Do you think in any way the expectation was something that maybe even you and your campaign created? Were people being naïve, in the sense of — I remember very clearly you said, “We can’t expect different results with the same people.”
Stewart: And I remember when you hired Larry Summers [laughter] — I remember thinking, “Well, that seems like the exact same person,” and why would you — so, in some respects, I get your frustration with this idea that, “Well, geez, are you never satisfied?” but again, the expectation, I think, was Audacity, going in there and really rooting out a corrupt system. And so the sense is, has reality of what hit you in the face when you first stepped in, caused you to back down from some of the more visionary — like bringing in a guy like Larry Summers, like —
Obama: First of all, if you look at how we have handled this financial crisis —
Obama:— if you had told me two years ago that we’re gonna be able to stabilize the system, stabilize the stock market, stabilize the economy, and by the way at the end of this thing it’ll cost less than 1% of GDP where the S&L crisis cost us 2½% of our entire economy for a much smaller crisis, I’d say, “We’ll take that,” because we saved taxpayers a whole lot of money. And, in fairness, Larry Summers did a heckuva job trying to figure out how to —
Stewart: You don’t want to use that phrase, dude. [laughs]
Obama: Pun intended.