Author’s Note: We normally do not run videos from Comedy Central at all, even though we admire the talent of Jon Stewart and others. But, this video is both historical and sad. Sad, because we think that a sitting president should not appear on a show on Comedy Central.
President Obama should make the most of his “Daily Show” appearance on Wednesday night – charming the pants off Jon Stewart and the crowd, as he did when he showed up there two years ago. It’s a terrific show, Stewart is a great interviewer and Obama makes good television.
Then, the President should cancel all future trivial media appearances. While they may have kept him personally popular, in broad terms they’ve degraded the Obama brand.
Obama’s handlers were supposed to be smarter than this. They were supposed to use his celebrity strategically to advance his agenda. Instead, they’ve been indiscriminate, carpet-bombing Americans with the man they elected rather than launching communications smart weapons.
The result is that for millions of Americans, the very likable, charming Obama has become a constant tone in the background rather than an occasional, convincing, presidential voice in the foreground – the kind that makes your ears perk up.
Consider all the quasi-entertainment media appearances he’s made, most of them frivolous.
He went on ESPN twice to announce his Final Four picks. He went on “The View” (drawing 6.5 million viewers). He had a “Christmas at the White House” special with Oprah Winfrey. He went on Jay Leno – becoming the first sitting President to appear on a late-night show. He was on the cover of Rolling Stone, giving a revealing interview looking back on his first 18 months in office. In December, he’ll be going on the Discovery Channel’s “MythBusters.”
All that’s left, apparently, is to be a guest voice on “The Simpsons,” though I’m sure that’s in the offing. Banksy will animate.
This “Daily Show” appearance makes a second strategic mistake. By chumming it up with Stewart just days before the Rally to Restore Sanity, Obama and Stewart are coopting each other. The President is killing two mockingbirds with one stone.
Without Obama’s and Oprah’s fingerprints on it, the rally might have looked like a semi-spontaneous uprising by moderate-as-hell Americans sick and tired of the extremists. Now, it’ll appear to be a Democratic Party event, through and through – appearing to opponents every bit as “Astroturfed” as the biggest Tea Party events seem. (In truth, I don’t think either the Tea Party gatherings or the Rally to Restore Sanity are staged; they’re both authentic and filled with genuinely concerned voters. But this is as much about appearance as reality.)
I know what David Axelrod and other presidential handlers must be thinking: Obama is an amiable guy. He’s a good spokesman. And the new media landscape is endlessly fragmented and hopelessly partisan; to reach people, you’ve got to branch out far beyond the big three networks and the cable news networks, as often as you possibly can, if you’re actually going to make inroads.
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