President Obama’s interview with Jon Stewart is getting a lot of attention — and deservedly so. There were, I think, several things to note from the interview.
The first is that I wish that most news anchors and reporters were half as good at interviewing the president as Jon Stewart is. Stewart is, of course, a liberal and he came at Obama from a liberal perspective. But he asked penetrating questions in an engaging manner and, from time to time, succeeded in getting Obama to abandon his usual spin and talking points.
As for Obama himself: he was at times prickly and defensive, sounding almost insulted at having to answer questions that are critical rather than worshipful. Now, all politicians struggle with this; they are, after all, only human. But Obama seems to have a particularly thin skin — and is particularly dismissive of those who don’t buy into his Narrative of Greatness.
Throughout the interview, Obama also found himself hoisted with his own petard. It is Obama who created, by his words and promises, almost Messianic expectations for himself and his presidency. He was going to do so much, so fast, so well. Those expectations have come crashing down around Obama. Stewart’s line of questing was consistent. “Is the difficulty you have here the distance between what you ran on and what you’ve delivered,” Stewart asked the president. Mr. Obama did not seem happy with Stewart’s impertinence. But, at least, out of the interview emerged a new motto from the Obama White House. It’s based on what the president himself said: “Yes We Can — but…” as in “I think what I would say is ‘yes we can, but it’s not going to happen overnight.’”
Most of us missed the qualifiers during the campaign.
There was also the kind of vanity and self-justification we’ve come to expect from the president. ObamaCare is one of the most unpopular major pieces of legislation in American history. Virtually all of the promises Obama has made about it are unraveling. It is one of the reasons Democrats will be handed a devastating defeat on Tuesday. Yet Obama not only defended his health-care bill; he called it “as significant a piece of legislation as we’ve seen in this country’s history.”
Actually, no, at least not in the (positive) way Obama interprets it. But it is one of the worst and most politically damaging pieces of legislation we’ve seen in quite a long while.
Mr. Obama’s presidency is failing. Jon Stewart sees it. Seemingly, only the president does not.