Earlier this evening, President Barack Obama sat down with Jon Stewart to tape an extended, fourteen minute interview for The Daily Show set to air later tonight. While we don’t know everything that was said, a good portion of the discussion was included in a recently-distributed White House pool report.
Mr. Stewart began by declaring he’s making a campaign scrapbook, and he showed Mr. Obama two pictures and said they came from the presidential debates. As the pool report put it, “One showed Michelle Obama looking at him very angrily onstage afterward, and the other showed her smiling broadly at him afterward.”
“Do you know which debate was which?” Mr. Stewart asked.
“Cute, cute Jon,” Mr. Obama said as he smiled.
They went on to discuss the president’s varying debate performances, where Mr. Obama admitted he had an “off night” with the first verbal contest before launching into his traditional attack against his Republican rival, Mitt Romney, for supporting the same economic policies “that got us into this mess in the first place.”
Mr. Stewart next asked Mr. Obama if he was making the case for himself or against Mr. Romney in this election, causing Mr. Obama to cite ending the Iraq War and reforming the health care system as among his accomplishments. Nevertheless, Mr. Obama said, although he has a “strong story to tell,” part of his job is “also preventing things that won’t work.”
Mr. Obama also blasted Republicans refusing to ask “millionaires and billionaires to pay another dime in extra taxes,” causing Mr. Stewart to sarcastically interject, “Wait, this is the first time I’m hearing about this about millionaires. What are you doing to us?”
The audience laughed and Mr. Obama tried to calm Mr. Stewart’s “mock concern.”
“No,” Mr. Stewart stated, “I’m going to throw to a commercial and you and I are going to have a conversation.” He then threw it to a commercial break.
The second segment began with Mr. Stewart asking Mr. Obama how frequently Vice President Joe Biden arrives in meetings with a wet bathing suit.
“We had to stop that,” Mr. Obama replied. “I gotta say though he looks pretty good.”
Mr. Obama added he had to issue a presidential directive to fix that particular habit of Mr. Biden’s.
The full pool report, which includes notes from Mr. Obama speaking seriously on the topic of the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi and reiterating his vow to close down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, can be found in its rough form below:
Potus sat for two segments with Jon Stewart of roughly seven minutes apiece, broken up by a commercial break. Among the highlights, Stewart pressed Potus on his national security approach and the handling of the Benghazi attacks.
On Benghazi, Potus said: “Every piece of information that we get, as we got it we laid it out to the American people. The picture eventually gets fully filled in.” Potus also said: “Here’s what I’ll say. When four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal. We’re going to fix it. All of it.” More: “The government is a big operation and any given time something screws up. And you make sure that you find out what’s broken and you fix it. Whatever else I have done throughout the course of my presidency the one thing that I’ve been absolutely clear about is that America’s security comes, and the American people need to know exactly how I make decisions when it comes to war, peace, security, and protecting Americans. And they will continue to get that over the next four years of my presidency”
When asked about the tradeoff between national security and civil liberties, Potus reiterated his vow to close Guantanamo. And when asked about political gridlock in Washington, Potus said he hoped that more Democrats are elected to win more seats. He also joked about Biden and other topics. More details below:
He sat across from Stewart at the interview desk with two blue mugs on it. Obama did not remove the lid from his. The president spoke on topics ranging from the choice between him and Romney to the political gridlock in Washington to Benghazi to Guantanamo.
Before Potus came out, Stewart opened with a monologue making fun of how the media spun the debate in relation to women voters and how turned off said voters were supposed to be by the rough and tumble nature of the debate. Stewart juxtaposed Obama talking about being raised by a single mom with Romney’s “binder full of women” quote. He flashed a mock magazine called “Jobsmopolitan,” and gave Chuck Todd a shout out during the segment. He brought out Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee, who played along and said women were going to pick their candidate with a “final rose … like on the Bachelorette.”
Potus came out after the first break wearing his pink wrist band, and he immediately gave a shout out to “some amazing women warriors” from the USO who were in the audience. “I had nothing to do with this” he said. Then Stewart said he was making a campaign scrapbook and showed Obama two pictures of the debate but wasn’t sure which was which. One showed Michelle Obama looking at him very angrily onstage afterward, and the other showed her smiling broadly at him afterward. “Do you know which debate was which?” Stewart asked.
“Cute. Cute Jon,” Potus said with a smile.
Obama said he had an “off night” at the first debate, adding that the “presentation was not the way it needed to be.” But he said the issues were the same in both debates. “Governor Romney makes a good presentation but the fundamentals he’s calling for are the same policies that got us into this mess.”
Stewart asked if had made a stronger affirmative case for a second term or more negative one against Romney. Potus listed his accomplishments such as ending the Iraq war, health care, the auto bailout and said he had a “strong story to tell” but he added that part of his job was “also preventing things that won’t work.” He listed restricting rights for gays and lesbians, not passing a budget to make college more affordable and rolling back health care and turning medicade into a voucher system.
“ I’m convinced when the middle class does well, the entire economy does well. When a few folks are doing well at the top… the economy grows slower. That is the central issue in this election.”
Potus said the economy would be growing “even faster” if Romney’s “allies in Congress” would approve
Stewart pressed him on why he thinks he can move forward next term if the GOP continues its obstinance to his agenda. Potus replied that he wants to “make sure as many Democrats are elected as possible. Maybe we can take some seats back.” And he also said that if you look at 2013, the question on deficit reduction will be “settled,” the only question was how to do it and whether Republicans would refuse to ask “millionaires and billionaires to pay another dime in extra taxes.”
Stewart interjected: “Wait, this is the first time I’m hearing about this about millionaires. What are you doing to us?” The audience laughed as Potus tried to calm his mock concern. “No,” Stewart continued, “I’m going to throw to a commercial and you and I are going to have a conversation.”
He threw to a commercial.
The second segment started with a light question: How many times a week does Biden come into a meeting in wet bathing suit. POTUS answered that he had to put out a presidential directive on that.
“We had to stop that,” he said dryly, adding: “I gotta say though he looks pretty good.”
Stewart than asked about POTUS record in terms of the trade-off between upholding U.S. values and ensuring our security.
POTUS said: “I still want to close Guantanamo. We haven’t been able to get that through Congress. … One of the things we have to do is put a legal architecture in place, and we need Congressional help to do that so that not only am I reined in but any president’s reined in in terms of some of the decisions we’re making.”
He pointed to his track record in prosecuting terrorism.
“We’ve gone after al Qaeda and its leadership. It’s true that al Qaeda is still active, at least sort of remnants of it are staging in other parts of North Africa and the Middle East. Sometimes you’ve got to make some tough calls but you can do so in a way that’s consistent with international law and with American law.”
Stewart asked about the Bush wiretapping program. POTUS said it has been modified, with a “legal structure and safeguards in place that weren’t there before.”
“They aren’t sexy issues,” POTUS said.
“You don’t know what I find sexy,” Stewart quipped.
POTUS alluded to the opening segment in which Stewart referenced the book “50 Shades of Gray.”
“I know what you’ve been reading,” he joked. But declined to press further because, after all, he is still president.
Stewart asked about the Benghazi attack, and “confusion in the administration”
POTUS answered that “we weren’t’ confused about the fact that four Americans had been killed. I wasn’t confused about the fact that we needed to ramp up diplomatic security around the world right after it happened. I wasn’t confused about the fact that we had to investigate exactly what happened so it gets fixed. And I wasn’t confused about the fact that we’re going to hunt down whoever did it.”
As he said in the debate, POTUS said no one is more interested in figuring it out than he is.
“Every piece of information that we get, as we got it we laid it out to the American people. The picture eventually gets fully filled in.”
Stewart asked if part of learning fromt his is improving the communication between divisions, having referenced Ambassador Rice at the UN seeming to be reading from a different script than State.
POTUS: “Here’s what I’ll say. When four Americans get killed, it’s not optimal. We’re going to fix it. All of it.” More: “The government is a big operation and any given time something screws up. And you make sure that you find out what’s broken and you fix it. Whatever else I have done throughout the course of my presidency the one thing that I’ve been absolutely clear about is that America’s security comes, and the American people need to know exactly how I make decisions when it comes to war, peace, security, and protecting Americans. And they will continue to get that over the next four years of my presidency”
Stewart ended by asking, during the course of their 12-14 minutes together, how many emails POTUS’ campaign sent him.
“It depends on whether you’ve maxed out!” POTUS answered.
Ended with a bit of stump about how the stakes could not be bigger. “There is no excuse not to vote,” he said, and he hopes they vote for him.
Pool was quickly ushered out and into the vans. Motorcade moved quickly to Waldorf Astoria, where we are waiting several hours in a hold. Potus is meeting privately with campaign donors.