StanCollender'sCapitalGainsandGames Washington, Wall Street and Everything in Between

Why Would Obama Appear On Leno?

20 Mar 2009
Posted by Stan Collender

So why would a sitting president appear on a comedy show as President Obama did last night when he appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno?  Why not just do a bunch of formal news interviews?

This is easy.

  • Five million a people a night typically watch The Tonight Show
  • A very different audience watches The Tonight Show than watches the evening news.
  • He had 30-plus minutes all to himself.
  • He sounded relaxed and confident.
  • He got outside the White House press corps.
  • Much like his attendance at a Washington Wizards - Chicago Bulls game several weeks ago, he looked and sounded like he's not holed up inside the White House.
  • Leno is not a tough interviewer.
  • The Republicans so far haven't shown that they have anyone who can compete with Obama in this type of setting.
  • This is the type of appearance that creates a good deal of good will and warm feelings.

In case you're wondering, Obama is not the first president to appear on The Tonight Show.  Back when it was hosted by Jack Paar, another charismatic president --Jack Kennedy -- appeared on the show.

Presidential candidates have increasingly made appearances on comedy and variety shows in recent years.  Given its importance to 18-24 year olds, a stop at the Daily Show is now considered a must part of campaigning for president.

But it's hardly something new.  I remember candidate Richard Nixon appearing on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-in in 1968 to show that he had a lighter side.  At the time, it was considered gutsy, especially because Laugh-In's audience was not likely Nixon voters. Now of course, appearing with Leno, Stewart, Stephen Colbert, etc. is commonplace.




seems like Obama would be a night show guest since he's so good at rolling with the punches


Anyone nostalgic?

Probably for the same reason...

"Why Would Obama Appear on Leno?"

Probably for the same reason why he would spend a good chunk of his time recently presenting his March Madness bracket picks on ESPN.

During "the worst economy since the great Depression", as he's repeatedly described it, and maybe the worst world financial crisis ever, it does a lot more for his poll numbers than spending the same time twisting arms to fill all those vacant top positions at the Treasury -- which have left the people in the British government complaining that there is literally nobody there to answer the phone when they call to coordinate on policy.

The permanent election campaign never ends, and first things first!

The DC press corp trades on

The DC press corp trades on insider access because they know nothing about policy. They have nothing else to trade.

The DC press corp write like a high school gossip club. They cover the ins and outs of the political personality. They do not write about policy because they know nothing about policy.

The DC press corp trades in gotcha questions and gives us the "He said, she said". They don't give us serious policy because they know nothing about serious policy.

Fortunately, the internet means that experts have direct access to policy documents and can provide us with thoughtful, serious comments on policy. The DC press corp stopped discussing policy long ago.

I can learn more about the budget reading the blogs than I can from the TV airheads who know nothing past the talking points written by political hacks.

Numerous people have commented that John Stewart often is more serious than the straight news. A president with no substance, like GW Bush stuck with the DC press corp because they did not press him on policy, beyond sloganeering. Bush ideology is that government doesn't need to do anything anyway, so why should he be worried about policy.

Obama believes that government needs to intervene, so policy is much more important. To be successful, Obama needs to do more than make nice to the DC gossip club. If it takes going on Leno to deliver his policy message and bypass a DC press (entirely focused on the political process) that neither understands nor is interested in reporting policy details, then that is exactly what will happen.

W didn't believe in government?

How did we get the initial intervention, then, Bakho?

Further, the only substantive thing said on the Tonight Show was by Leno; that the confiscatory bill of attainder was a dangerous idea.

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