March 23, 2009

Obama on Leno. It’s a first: a sitting President to appear on a Late Night Talk show.

Update: Here’s the video. 

It went well. Leno got to ask all the questions, simple and serious and bitter and fun, that all of us want to pose to our 59-day new President.

As for our new President, he was relaxed, frank, cheerful, poised, funny, talked about complicated issues in precise manner…finally, a President who’s a leader, too.

He’s getting some hell from PC hawks in the media about his reference to his bowling skills, or lack thereof, as being akin to ‘special olympics.’ I saw, c’mon. He made a joke. It’s a talk show. Everyone makes jokes, but when a politician does they freak. It’s a strange double standard. I don’t think it was ill-intentioned, he was just referring to his bowling skills, trying to make fun of himself!

I say what matters is he talked about how to establish a real, strong economy in ways that make sense. He talked about the warping effect of the bubble with awareness and humor. He talked about how to deal with AIG. These are the things that matter to us. Not gossipy invective about whether we want to allow politicians to talk straight, and joke freely. Imagine yourself in their hot seat—could you make any one of the dozens of jokes you do daily? Video:

Heads up, Nation! Watch tonight, if you can, 9 pm. A smooth-talking President Obama goes where no President has gone before: on a late night talk show. Why? Is this a modern version of a fireside chat? Is Obama feeling the need to reach out via a high-profile platform, to We the People in these times of economic hardship?

The video will be up on this blog just as soon as it’s released. LATIMES excerpt:


However, by taking a seat Thursday night on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” Obama will become the first sitting president to appear in such an unlikely venue, erasing — perhaps once and for all — any vestige of the line that separates news from entertainment.      

It will also extend Obama’s habit of speaking past the Washington press corps and ditching the capital for events that distance him from the Beltway status quo; for those keeping accounts, Obama may be sending a signal by going on the “Tonight Show” and then skipping Saturday night’s Gridiron Club dinner.

The evening of music and comedy hosted by an exclusive Washington journalists’ organization is a white-tie highlight of the capital’s social season. But Obama plans to spend the evening with his family, becoming the first president since Grover Cleveland not to show up for the first Gridiron dinner of his presidency.


“He’s kind of setting a tone that he’s not going to be restrained by the rules,” said Michael Dimock, associate director of Washington’s nonpartisan Pew Research Center      

There is every chance that Obama will fall flat on the “Tonight Show,” given the dismal topic. Country singer Garth Brooks is the musical guest, and even the most heartbroken girl-done-me-wrong performance may seem carefree by comparison.

But for Obama the unconventional appearance is a risk worth taking — and not just because Leno, as the top-ranked host in his TV time slot, draws 5 million nightly viewers.

The president, who remains personally popular despite growing questions about his policies, is banking on the chance to broaden his audience beyond cable news junkies and political elites, appealing to those who don’t already know the intricacies of his budget blueprint and healthcare overhaul plan.

“That’s the group he needs to convince that he’s doing a good job and his budget makes sense,” said Darrell M. West, a Brookings Institution expert on the intersection of politics and celebrity.

Obama will undoubtedly enjoy a more congenial conversation than he would by, say, holding a White House news conference. (On Monday, the president blasted American International Group Inc., the insurance giant, for paying millions in bonuses, then let White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs face a grilling on why the federal government bailed out AIG knowing those bonuses were in the works.)

Obama has visited Leno before, making his first “Tonight Show” appearance in December 2006, when he was plotting his White House bid. Other successful presidential candidates preceded him on the show, including Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.

In 1993, Al Gore made history by going on “The Late Show with David Letterman” and shattering an ashtray with a hammer as part of the sales pitch for his reinventing government initiative. But Gore was vice president at the time.

Read 3 Comments and Reply

Read 3 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Waylon Lewis  |  Contribution: 989,090