Why so serious, Mr. President?
Despite Jon Stewart's best efforts, Barack Obama played it pretty close to the vest during his appearance tonight on The Daily Show, knowing that nobody's laughing when it comes to the economy, Afghanistan and next week's midterm elections.
When Obama said the administration had accomplished things that "some folks don't even know about," Stewart asked whimsically, "What have you done that we don't know about?
"Are you planning a surprise party for us, filled with jobs and health care?"
But Obama, though sipping water out of Mug Force One, wasn't in the mood to play.
"Over and over again, we have moved forward an agenda that is making a difference in people's lives each and every day," insisted the commander in chief. "Is it enough? No. And so I expect, and I think most Democrats out there expect, that people want to see more progress."
Citing a Democratic Senate candidate's campaign ad attacking a piece of Obama legislation, Stewart asked whether he has convinced even his own party that the legislation passed over the last two years has been enough to secure their loyalty to his presidency.
"Let me say this about members of Congress," Obama began, as Stewart interjected, "Are you going to curse?"
"No I'm not," Obama promised. "I know a lot of folks feel frustrated about Congress, how it operates, the bickering, the weird rules, the filibustering...But the fact is, there are a bunch of folks who, during the course of this year, took really tough votes that they knew were bad politics because they thought they were the right things to do."
Cue the applause as he namechecked a number of Democratic members of Congress who are now in danger of losing their seats on Nov. 2.
"Over the last two years in the emergency situation, our attitude was that we've got to get some things done," Obama said. "In order to do that, [we] basically worked with the process as opposed to transforming the process, and that frustrated folks. It frustrates me."
And it obviously frustrates Stewart, who despite being an avowed Obama fan did not let up when it came to topics like the foundering economy and "timid" health care legislation.
"This is what most people would say is as significant a piece of legislation as we have seen in this country's history," Obama told Stewart. "What happens is, it gets discounted because the assumption is we didn't get 100 percent of what we wanted, we only get 90 percent of what we wanted—so let's focus on the 10 percent we didn't get."
The Daily Show is shooting in Washington, D.C., this week leading up to Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity taking place Saturday on the National Mall, where Stephen Colbert will also be leading his troops on the complementary March to Keep Fear Alive.
"The one other thing that might have made a difference," concluded Obama, "is if you had held the Rally to Restore Sanity two years ago."
(Originally published Oct. 27, 2010, at 6:25 p.m. PT)