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“The Daily Show”: Obama vs. Stewart on “Change”

President Obama opened his appearance on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” a first for a sitting commander in chief, by remarking on the columned grandeur of the set that the show has built for its week in Washington.

“This is a nice set. It reminds me of the convention.”

“We actually bought it. It was in a warehouse,” Stewart quipped.

The quips fit quite well for what was about to come: A conversation in which Stewart cited the soaring promise of the campaign, one of the high points being Obama’s speech at the convention, with the reality of what was to come. For Stewart and many of his viewers, that has meant disappointment.

Based on an early pool report, Obama spent much of the hald hour defending his record and calling for patience.

Stewart asked Obama, “Are we the people we were waiting for, or does it turn out those people are still out there, and we don’t have their number?”

“I am feeling great about where the American people are, considering what we have gone through. We have gone through the two toughest years of any time since the Great Depression.

“There is still a lot of good stuff happening, but people are frustrated.”

He ran through a list of accomplishments, including preventing a second Great Depression and passing healthcare, before saying, “We have done things that people don’t even know about.”

Stewart responded, “What have you done that people don’t know about? Are you planning a surprise party for all of us?”

Obama, however, again listed his accomplishments, then said, “Is it enough? No. So I expect and I think most Democrats out there want to see more progress.”

Stewart challenged Obama’s contention that he has delivered much of what he campaigned on, calling legislation that passed “timid.”

“Jon, I love your show, but this is something where I have a profound disagreement with you, this notion that health care was timid.” He defended health care reform as “as significant a piece of legislation as we have seen in this country’s history.” He added that critics “focus on the 10% we didn’t get.”

When Stewart suggested that some reforms merely papered over problems, Obama acknowledged that they worked within the process rather than transforming it.

“It frustrates some people, it frustrates me,” Obama said.

“I guess on all these issues, my attitude is, if we are making progress step by step, and inch by inch, then we are being true to the spirit of the campaign.”

But Stewart also challenged Obama’s decision to hire Larry Summers, noting that “the expectation was audacity.”

Obama defended the pick. Summers, he said, did a “heckuva job.”

Stewart seized on the Bush-like phraseology, “You don’t want to use that phrase, dude.”

 

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