Was Obama comedy appearance unpresidential?

Georgene Rice of KPDQ-FM interviews Brian Darling, Director of Senate Relations at The Heritage Foundation, discusses President Obama’s recent appearance on comedian Jon Stewart’s, The Daily Show.

Georgene: This is the first sitting president to sit down with Jon Stewart’s Daily Show. I suppose this is a way to connect with the audience he most wants to inspire, but one wonders if this is a healthy move for the presidency.

Brian: I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s healthy for the presidency when you have a president so close to the election, clearly going on the Jon Stewart Show for partisan purposes. I think it denigrates the office of the President to go on a comedy show on this time. It just isn’t good for The Office. I don’t think other presidents would so. It sets a dangerous precedent. This is a president who has been on ESPN to talk about his Final Four picks. That’s more reasonable because you’re not engaging in partisanship when you’re doing something like that. He’s been on The View. He’s supposed to be on the show, Myth Busters in December. He’s been on The Jay Leno Show, in Rolling Stone. But for the most part you really have to have some balance, I’d say. This is going too far, this is really a partisan ploy, it’s not going to unify the country…I think it’s a big mistake from a presidential perspective.

Georgene: One could argue and I suppose he and others would argue that you gotta go where the young people are and the young people are there in large numbers, and many of whom get their views affirmed on programs like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. These see this as just another news program. And for good or for ill, you have to go where the people are.

Brian: I think that’s a great argument to maybe have Joe Biden be on the show, he’s been other shows like this before. Or have the other high ranking officials from the Democrat party, but not the President. The president is really supposed to arise these types of conflicts because he has to govern as a president, not merely as someone who is the head of his party, and blasting Republicans, at a time when we know Republicans are going to win seats in the house and senate. After the election, he going to have to sit down with Republicans and figure out how to work with them. No matter what’s happen in this election, there’s going to be an opportunity to reach out and work with Republicans. What is going to joke about? What is so funny about what’s going on right now with the economy? Nothing is funny in the elections if you’re a Democrat. Because Democrats are going to lose seats. It’s just really seems like a blatant political act to try to chin up the base just before the election….He’s just trying to go on and slam Republicans to help some of his candidates in some tough races throughout the country.

Georgene: Jon Stewart has relocated his show to Washington, D.C. in advance of his “Rally to Restore Sanity”, which is something of a response to Glen Beck and other rally that have taken place. Is there a connection between those two events? Does it do damage to the President to be too closely aligned with one side of the political spectrum to the exclusion of the other, when he is President over both?

Brian: Yes, I do. I think it does damage. This is two comedians that are going to have this rally, which is going to be part theatre, part comedian and part politics, and I’m ok with that. I don’t think anyone should take these guys overly serious…We’re talking about comedians and it’s almost like when actors get overly involved in politics….they’re supposed to act, comedians are supposed to crack jokes. It seems that they’re getting so overly involved in politics, I think takes away from their shows. Anybody who is associated with them, they don’t look like comedians, they look like liberal comedians trying to advance an agenda. I do think it denigrates the presidency.

Georgene: We’ve seen presidential candidates appear on comedy shows. Do you think this is where we are headed?

Brian: I think it’s happening on a bipartisan level. We see Sarah Palin has a reality show and other potential candidates have shows…You do have a lot of politicians who get involved and take their show on the road. I think it detracts a lot, I really think you need to stay above that. I’m ok with the President going on the show if it’s for his reelection, but for him to go on behalf of the party…I think this hurts him politically. How is this candidates if he is making fun of them? If he is participating in this process, how is he going to work with these new members? I do understand more when it’s his future that’s at stack, but we’re talking about him going on behalf of the party and engaging in hyper-partisan politics.

Georgene: Do you think this will legitimize the comedy channel in this particular program as a viable news source, which is what many viewers see it as. Polls indicate that for younger people, this is their news and information.

Brian: I think it exposes these shows for what they are. They’re liberal advocacy and comedy shows…People need to take it for what it is. Sometimes very politically motivated and almost always comes from the left. If you look at it, a lot people who come to Washington, D.C., part of it is promoting their own programs, as much as
a political agenda….Nobody should take these comedians seriously in the political arena, because that’s not what they do, they crack jokes.

Georgene: When you have Colbert [of The Colbert Show] showing up at a House Subcommittee meeting to testify. It does blur the line even further. My concern is that they give the appearance of legitimacy, so those young people who are looking to these sources for political analysis might in fact think that they can provide more balanced information that they do or they intend to provide.

Brian: That Colbert example is a great example, he comes in and testifies before the House committee talking about immigration policy. I watched it and found it to be very funny. It was the a very funny comedic routine, but the fact that Congress allowed that to happen…it’s outrageous. Our tax dollars helped to pay for that hearing and these members of Congress sat their and allowed themselves to have that process be used for a comedic purpose…It makes a mockery of the process, it makes a mockery of what a hearing is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a serious affair where members of Congress take in testimony and educate themselves on issues that are coming before Congress.

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