Pres. Obama is wonkish & charming on ‘The Tonight Show’

President Obama just keeps on breaking new ground. Thursday night, Obama became the first sitting president to appear on a late-night talk show. He appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and it was a pretty good interview.

Before he even sat down with Jay, there was a lot of consternation from Congressional Republicans and conservative pundits that Obama was sullying the dignity of the office by appearing on a late-nihgt talk show. Once Pres. Obama came out on Jay’s set, I kind of saw the Republicans’ point. He didn’t look bad or anything, but coming across as “just a normal guy” can always backfire. He’s not a normal guy – he’s the President of the United States. But on to the interview.

Jay and Obama did three segments, roughly seven minutes each. There was some joking around and Obama had several good and funny lines throughout, but most of the conversation revolved around actual policy and political talking points. Just so I wear my affiliation on my sleeve, I voted for Obama, and I still adore my President. In interviews, I have always found him charming and relatable, with an ease and a grace that only comes along once in a political generation. Tonight was no different. If anything, Obama seemed more wonkishly intelligent, as well as charismatic and pleasantly exhausted.

On “life in the bubble”
The interview started out with Obama talking about “life in the bubble” of the presidency. He told a funny story about how the Secret Service wouldn’t let him walk 75 yards to a location, that they made him take the motorcade. He also joked about the circus vibe the motorcade gives off, saying “the doctor is walking behind me with the defibulator.”

On the AIG bonus scandal
Obama talked about AIG and the criticisms that he and his administration have received this week (and this month, and last month, etc). He said, “It’s a little bit like American Idol, only everyone is Simon Cowell.” Obama reiterated that it will take “a while” to get out of the financial mess we’re in, and that AIG and the financial system failed because they were built on “a house of cards”. He criticized AIG’s (and other corporate barons) for their “sense of entitlement”, and said he hoped America would be able to “get back to the values that built America.”

On fairer tax rates
Obama said that he hopes America can get back to the tax rates we had in the 1990s, even if it would mean he and Jay would have to pay more. When Leno asked him if some of these corporate crooks should go to jail, Obama responded “Most of the stuff that got us into trouble was perfectly legal… [which is why] we need to get back to some financial regulation.” I disagree, Mr. President. I’m not even a lawyer, but I know fraud when I see it. This, out of everything, is what I have always felt is Obama’s Achilles heel – he is much too generous with his enemies. And there’s no question in my mind that AIG and so many other corporate wankers are the enemy.

Takes responsibility for problems
Obama also defended his Treasury Secretary Tim Geitner. I find Geitner rather hapless, but Obama’s got his back, so I guess he’s sticking around for a while. Obama also takes some of the weight off Geitner, saying “I’m the president, ultimately this is my responsibility.” This comes literally hours after Vice President Dick Cheney’s denial-filled interview on CNN, where Cheney would not admit to any mistakes, or admit any wrong-doings, ever. The fact that Obama owns many of the mistakes that weren’t even made on his watch is what makes him extraordinary, in my opinion.

A new dog, basketball court are coming to the White House
Leno didn’t let Obama talk about the fun stuff until the end. Obama confirmed the dog is coming, most likely after the NATO summit next month. He also said that Sasha and Malia are totally ambivalent with all of the trappings of the White House, saying that in their first ride on Marine One, the girls were more focused on who had the Starbursts. He also confirmed that he will most likely transform one of the White House tennis courts into a basketball court.

Throughout the interview, Leno gave Obama plenty of time to explain his points, and Leno never got in his face. It was a very nice way to interview Obama, a politician who seems to shun the easy 10-second talking points that most journalists thrive on. All in all, it was a good interview, and I totally understand why Obama did it. No matter what has happened in the past 60 days (and seriously, this administration is only 60 days old), most people still really like and trust President Obama. He is his own best messenger.

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56 Responses to “Pres. Obama is wonkish & charming on ‘The Tonight Show’”

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  1. pixiegirl says:

    I think it’s great that he’s appearing everywhere. It’s so refreshing and it comes across as if he’s working on our problems and taking them seriously.

  2. philo says:

    “He’s not a normal guy – he’s the President of the United States.”

    But he is a normal guy, he’s just doing an important job.

  3. Mrs.Darcy says:

    I agree with philo and pixiegirl, I am an American living in Britain and the politicians here (including the Prime Minister)regularly get interviewed on morning chat shows and other political interview shows. Accessibility to the people in charge is a good thing in my opinion, the fact that Bush was in a bubble where he didn’t have to answer too many questions fed into the grand catastrophe of his administration in my opinion.

  4. Ursula says:

    I hate it when politics mixes with hollywood. I did not like it when Obama was scheduled to appear on Leno or hosted Brad Pitt to update him on NO. But I do appreciate his effort in this case. The show was entertaining too. Still, I hope he does not make this a habit.

  5. vicsmith says:

    He made a joke at the expense of the special olympics folks.

  6. geronimo says:

    @Vicsmith – No he didn’t. He made a joke at HIS OWN EXPENSE which some idiots have decided to interpret as a slight against those who take part in the Special Olympics. Anyone with half a brain would regard what he said as a self-deprecating remark, aimed only at himself, and that no offence whatsoever was intended.

  7. Alexis says:


  8. HEB says:

    Geronimo–why is it ok to put yourself down by comparing yourself to someone else? Especially for something that isn’t their fault. Thats like saying “Oh I’m a dumbass, I’m sort of like that kid with downs syndrome”

  9. vicsmith says:

    If you don’t think it is an insult to put down yourself using the special olympics as a comparison, you are missing half a brain.

  10. Bodhi says:

    Ditto Geronimo

    This comes literally hours after Vice President Dick Cheney’s denial-filled interview on CNN, where Cheney would not admit to any mistakes, or admit any wrong-doings, ever. The fact that Obama owns many of the mistakes that weren’t even made on his watch is what makes him extraordinary, in my opinion.

    Mine too, Kaiser. After the past 8 years, its flat amazing to see & hear someone at the top finally take responsibility

  11. TheDomina says:

    Why is it ok that he make a joke at his own expense by comparing himself to disabled people? I know he didn’t mean it as an offense, but it was a total Bush-ism and I find it amusing that the press is largely ignoring it.

  12. geronimo says:

    @HEB – it’s not. But his intent was clear – a self-deprecating remark about his own lack of ability. I just can’t see it as anything other than an off-the-cuff comment at his own expense. Thoughtless, yes, unfortunate, definitely since it’s now been picked up by the media and the pc brigade. Unless people believe him to be capable of this type of thoughtlessness and insensivity, then the comment should be taken for what it was.

  13. prezteleprompter says:

    Our econonmy is in shambles & Obama thinks he’s still campaining. Hey Obama – you won – time now to actually WORK!! Who am I kidding, he’s just a puppet of Congress anyways. He just signs what they tell him to sign.

    1.20.13 – Change we can believe in!

  14. Codzilla says:

    HEB: I’m with you on this one. That was a stupid thing to say, and if he was a Republican, he’d be torn to shreds for it.

  15. LilyBme says:

    Fact 101: congress runs the USA, and it has been at the helm since 2006. Do your math.

  16. LilyBme says:

    …Pelosi has been at the helm since ’06.

  17. waldemar says:

    I thought Obama said his bowling skills where as good as an handicapped player. He is making a joke at his own expense, but he also says that handicapped people can’t bowl.

  18. HEB says:

    Geronimo-he’s depricating himself by comparing himself to people who can’t help but be that way! Its worse than racism.

    I agree that he mis-spoke and his people apologized for him immediatley-he’s trying to make up for it-but he’ll have to keep working at thinking about every word before he says it. Sure he’s human-but he’s also the president and he represents a whole country.

  19. Kolby says:

    Let’s calm down on the Special Olympics remark – it was a stupid thing to say and the president has already spoken to the head of the Special Olympics and apologized. We all say stupid things sometimes, I’m just glad he acknowledged it and made amends. Time to move on.

  20. Mimi says:

    please! He’s 9 trillion times better than the j-ck-ss who preceded him and should’ve been impeached. To the haters: would you like skim or 2% in your steaming cup of STFU? 😉

  21. geronimo says:

    @HEB – I do see the point you and others are making, I really do. And it’s a valid one. But nothing I’ve heard or read about him suggests that he’s ordinarily the type of person to make thoughtless, boorish remarks so I’m putting it down to human fallibility on his part. I’m sure he’s mortified about it.

  22. bittercup says:

    Thanks for letting me read the predictable fawning praise of the Obamabots.

    A lowbrow venue for a lowbrow “man”.

  23. pixiegirl says:

    Geronimo, good points. It was a misstep to be sure. But judging by his overall character, I don’t see the big deal. At least he admits responsibility for his mistakes which is something the last administration would never dream of doing. Responsibility = character.

  24. prezteleprompter says:

    Mimi – Really?? 9 trillion times better. Why? Because he’s black automatically makes him better?
    Obama has already spend more money in his first 50 days than bush did in 8 YEARS & fighting 2 wars. He’s spending this country into oblivion, but the messiah can do no wrong in the eyes of his shepp. BAHHHHH BAHHH BAHHH.
    Why don’t you STFU!

  25. bittercup says:

    And if your best defense of this bumbling idiot (profits to earnings- really?) is that he is better than Bush- well that is called damning with faint praise. He should be able to be measured be objective standards, but even his supporters admit that isn’t possible.

    I hope his teleprompter steps it up. The issues we are facing are serious not fodder for late-night tv.

  26. daisy424 says:

    @ Mimi, Haters? By the comment you left, looks like you’re the hater. A bit harsh?

    While I agree with most of the posts, I think it was a unfortunate slip of the tongue. I read that he contacted the Shriver family to apologise.

    On the other hand a Republican would have been lambasted for that remark. Mimi’s comment makes my point.

  27. lunachick says:

    I’m think it’s great that Obama is doing interviews in all sorts of venues – in Town Halls, with Jim Lehrer on the News Hour a couple of weeks ago, and yes, on Leno. He’s making sure his message is getting out to a broad cross-section of Americans. Good for him.

    And seriously, who doesn’t make an awkward slip of the tongue or a bad joke once in a while? If it’s with mal-intent, that’s one this. This clearly wasn’t, he owned it and apologized, so it’s a non-issue in my book.

    And preztel? You probably watch Limbaugh. Nuff said.

  28. michellle says:

    I support Obama, am impressed w/ how he carries himself, (finally some dignity in the executive branch.)

    However, there’s way too much to do right now. Spending precious time focusing on talk shows & the like is a mistake. I realize he’s reaching out to the US public, but if he can’t do so in the traditional avenues; press conferences, presidential addresses, state of the union, it really speaks poorly of us as a nation. What’s next, dropping by American Idol to give us a heads up.

    While he’s only been in office a short time. I’d like to see him take the time to properly oversea what’s being passed by his admin. As a lawyer & more importantly as the pres he should have understood the details of the bailouts,(details of which were clearly cited.)

    While he clearly has a lot on his plate, I prefer he prioritize, tackle the economy & save the masses of other issues for later. I fear attempting to do it all in one fell swoop will spell disaster.

    As for the Spec Olympics slip, I think it was just that, a slip. I believe he meant no harm. Regardless, it was a bad move.

  29. Bob says:

    Is it too late for me to go back and change my vote to Hillary?

  30. lunachick says:

    Miss edit…”if it’s with mal-intent, that’s one thing, but this clearly wasn’t” I meant…

  31. pixiegirl says:

    Watch Limbaugh? I didn’t know that was possible! How unfortunate!

  32. teleski says:

    yes, MIMI your right: 9 trillion is what the USA will be in debt for after this administration is finished with boosting this economy.
    On his Special Olympics blunder: Obama is not a quick and witty speaker without his teleprompter.

  33. Melanie says:

    I can see people’s point that it looks bad to be on a late night talk show. But on the upside, he did have a chance to reach a wider audience and express what he plans to do with this mess.

  34. Baho says:

    “A lowbrow venue for a lowbrow “man”.”

    Why the quotations around ‘man’ bittercup? He’s not a billygoat or a foot stool.

    For god’s sake, don’t be so stupid.

    You people who don’t like Obama, fine, but can’t you at least come up with something better than questioning his membership in the species or trot out the usual lines about ‘drinking the kool-aid’ or ‘Baa Baa?’

  35. Lem says:

    It seems like some of you want Obama to fail. Nothing would make you happier than to see this man fall on his face? What does that say about you? So what if he appears on a talk show? Does that mean he’s not doing his job? So what if he uses a teleprompter? Can you remember the points you need to make a stay clear, concise and on point every time you talk (do you ever have such important things to say)?
    Point is the country is in shambles. It is not his fault what-so-ever. He’s doing his best to recover the country. He’s keeping us informed, taking both responsibility for his actions and those of the office before he took over. He’s not playing hide the nut.
    Maybe some of you nuts should hide yourselves. If you don’t like him because he’s a Dem or a lawyer or a black man, whatever the case may be. Back off, he’s had 60 days. What have you done in the last 60 days to better your situation, your community, your country? If he fails… If he fails at cleaning up the mess our government and to a very large degree Bush has gotten us into…If he fails at cleaning up big business and the banks and wall street and main street and the environment and the government and the economy and health care and 2 wars and New Orleans and Darfur and the tax system and the potholes and the dog poop of the lawn; then give him what for. He has one mighty big pile on his plate. Like it or not he is your President. Grow up, he deserves your respect if or until he proves otherwise. If he fails, and all of us are unemployed not just the 16 million that were unemployed before he took the oath. If he fails and all of us are living in a cardboard box, and nobody has food let alone a table, if he fails then we’ll vote for you and we’ll see how you can do it better. You can’t root for him to fail! If he fails we all fail. Cut him some bloody slack. How’d you bail us out lately?

  36. Lem says:

    I understand being angry about the situation we are in. Who isn’t. We can either look back and reflect on how we got here. What direct steps led to this melt-down. (Tax breaks for oversea companies perhaps) Or we can look back at who is to blame. What did the last one do or not do that directly affects us right now?
    We can learn from past mistakes, get more involved in what’s happening now. Do you know your Mayor, Senator, Governor? Do you know where they stand on what they stand. Do you know how they vote on each issue? Do you know how they are planning to spend this round of state rebate? Are you speaking to them? Are they listening to you? Do you have an opinion? Are you sharing it? Have you called them? Do you even know who and where they are? How can you expect the big branches of government to take what you want into account when you haven’t told them. You don’t want this vote or that vote. Tell somebody, do something. You want to stop Obama’s spending. Call your Representative. You want to pass a bill saying this or that? Call somebody. Until you get involved, until you stride to make a difference. Volunteer. Donate. Stuff some fliers or hold a sign. For pete’s sake our parents were stoned out of their gourds or seeing stars and stripes where there were none and the still managed to sit in or stand up when they believed in something. Today people just want to bitch about it without getting off the couch. Stand Up and Get Involved.

  37. Lem says:

    Just to be clear I didn’t vote for either one of them. One for more than obvious reasons and one who plagiarized more than I find acceptable. However one is here now and in charge. Support him, because if he does not succeed neither do we. It’s really that simple folks.

  38. Codzilla says:

    First off, I voted for Obama, and as of now, still stand behind my decision. That being said, I’m just horribly tired of this “show him respect because he’s your President” nonsense. Especially since that sentiment WOULD NOT be voiced by most of the people here if McCain had won. Obama’s in the hot seat now, and anyone who’s not praying he can pull is through is foolish. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to vent our frustrations along the way. I mean, people accused Bush of being the devil, and most of you responded with a standing ovation. But now, if any of us are annoyed by something Obama says, we’re suddenly lazy, good-for-nothing assholes? Give me a break.

  39. Codzilla says:

    … pull US through …

  40. geronimo says:

    I agree with you, codzilla. I’m not American so can’t engage with the political divide here and the accusations that those voicing criticisms of him are somehow wishing failure on him. Just find it a bit frustrating that something like this, an unintentional (albeit unfortunate) comment, is used as a whip to flog him. If his current (and future) decision-making turns out to be flawed, then he’s fair game, just like any other political leader, American and otherwise.

  41. daisy424 says:

    Bravo Codzilla!

  42. Codzilla says:

    geronimo: I definitely see your point. I suppose I was taking my bigger frustrations and applying it to a not-so-important blunder. Probably a sign I should stay off political threads, lol.

  43. michellle says:

    Dissent is patriotic.
    Action begins w/ assembly, of which blogging is a form.

    Being villified for questioning government after 911 was both ludicris & dangerous.
    Being villified for questioning the new admin is just as bad.

    Regardless of affiliation or frustration one should respect the office, that doesn’t mean shirking our responsibility as citizens. The gov is the people, who better to watch dog it? God knows unbiased journalism is practically nonexistent.

  44. Lem says:

    codzilla I certainly wasn’t calling you an asshole. Nor do I find any problem with the way you voiced an annoyance. I totally supported Bush in his first 60 days because he was my President. I don’t remember cheering his idiocy until his second term. I get a kick out of Bush, but yeah he’s an idiot.
    Those showing their extreme hatred here or elsewhere of the man for no yet justifiable reasons…should do something other than rant like loons. If you think he’s mucking up so badly, see what you can do. Instead of spewing vitriol, stand up and do something productive. There is a big difference between voicing an opinion and the bitterness that is coming out of either pron.

  45. guest says:

    great interview.

  46. L says:

    Daisy 424, I agree. It’s obvious that when it comes to news and information regarding politicians that many posters, and people in general, have a biased perception based on their own political outlook – even when the story itself has nothing to do with politics. some people would defend or attack based on who the person is and what political party they belong to, more so than what the situation was and how the person handled it. furthermore most of our media is generally biased one way or the other. It’s extreme, like the way some people have to make disclaimer about how they voted before offering their opinion on a story, as if whether you are in favor of or defensive about this or that means you are automatically classified as this or that. I personally try hard to remain objective when forming my opinions. I think as a result of that effort in my own mind, it becomes so obvious, and annoying, when some make comments that are based less on thought and more on bias. I like the comments of those posters who have reflected on the story and give an honest opinion, and also those who value different opinions.

  47. JennaMeow says:


    Excellent response. I did not vote for Obama, but I feel the exact same way you do and commend you for being able to speak your mind, even if it means being irritated by the guy you voted for.

    Also, his investment banker as a career remark was FRIGHTENING. Investment bankers aren’t usless. We need them just as much as we need scientists or teachers. Everyone contributes. I just think it was wrong that he blatantly blasted a particular career choice for someone.

    The government’s role is not to suggest career choices for people. Keep us safe, pave some roads and lead our military. Other than that, stay out of my life.

  48. Mimi says:

    Sorry, all: that was harsh and I apologize.

  49. Ana says:

    I didn’t vote but I wish I did. I’m falling for him hard.
    I think it’s great that he appeared on this show. Kind of like the “fireside chats”

  50. mhm says:

    Funny how some people think he can fix the economy in less than 100 days when it took Bush over 7 years to screw it up .. amazing .. did he campaign and say he was God or something?? Did I miss this?? He’s doing a great job and for all you people who are Bush supporters … look where we are now .. can you blame the current President for these mistakes?

  51. Brandy says:

    At first I wasn’t all that impressed with his appearence on Leno, but when you think about it, it’s a good move on his part. There are a lot of people who never turn on a news-station and inform themselves about what’s going on, but will never miss a epi of their favorite late-night talk show.

  52. Mme X says:

    Dear mhm: thank you!

  53. Candy says:

    this man can do no wrong in my book. rock on handsome!

  54. Lauri says:

    Well, Candy, then you are a fool. This man has already done tremendous harm to the country in the few weeks he’s been in office. He doesn’t need to spend his time making the late-night TV show rounds and mingling with his new celebrity friends. He has work to do.

    Actually, though…

    If he’s busy being a social butterfly, that means he is spending less time actually setting policy and so forth. So, it’s probably a very good thing that he is wasting time on TV and sucking up to celebrities. If he’s busy doing that, then he has less time to continue his swath of destruction upon the US.

    WE NEED A DO-OVER! Obama needs to be OUT of office as soon as possible! This country can’t survive 4 years of his unbelievable mismanagement!

  55. Lauri says:

    “Why the quotations around ‘man’ bittercup? He’s not a billygoat or a foot stool”

    Well, he sure doesn’t fit MY definition of a man.

  56. Creime says:

    I commend him for his strength and courage through this bout. I feel he handles himself very well under pressure. But in the midst of this, I don’t think he should have done latenight TV either. He isn’t an ordinary man, and making himself seem so would appear to make it easier for whomever to verbally attack him for whatever the reason. He should be more carefull because being so kind to those enemies of his may have a costly outcome for him, especially knowing he is so open.