US President Barack Obama has dodged barbs from satirical news show host Jon Stewart, defending his change crusade in a bid to appeal to younger voters six days before mid-term elections.
Obama became the first sitting president to appear on Comedy Central’s Daily Show, which skewers top politicians with withering humour and delights in exposing hypocrisy and insincerity.
The episode featuring Obama, which was taped on Wednesday in the US, will be shown on ABC2 in Australia on Thursday night.
The mood was light-hearted during Obama’s interview with Stewart, but exchanges were hard-hitting and direct.
Stewart challenged the president about “timid legislation” to reform the nation’s health care system, economic recovery and financial reform, and whether it was possible to keep the inspiration and change promised in his 2008 campaign moving forward.
“You ran on the idea that this system needed basic reform. It feels like some of the reforms that passed – like health care – have been done in a very political manner that has papered over a foundation that is corrupt,” Stewart asked at one point.
Obama argued that the work of his administration was unfinished, that he had promised “change you can believe in,” not “change you can believe in in 18 months.”
“This notion that we could quickly transform Washington – it’s a work in progress, it’s just not going to happen overnight,” Obama said.
Stewart also gently mocked Obama over one of his campaign mantras to supporters that “we are the change we’ve been waiting for.”
“Are we the people we were waiting for, or does it turn out those people are still out there – and we don’t have their number?” Stewart asked.
The president, however replied “I am feeling great about where the American people are, considering what we have gone through.
“We have gone through two toughest years of any time since the Great Depression.”
Obama also dismissed the accusation that his signature health reform law, one of the most sweeping pieces of legislation for decades was “timid,” ahead of mid-term elections next Tuesday on which his Democrats fear a Republican wave.
Normally, the Daily Show consists of a satirical take on the day’s news before a short guest segment, but Wednesday’s show was devoted to a single guest for the first time, the White House said.
Obama appeared on set with the Stewart, who is taping in Washington this week, as part of a frenzied final push for votes from constituencies that strongly supported him in 2008 but typically don’t vote in strong numbers in midterm elections.
The White House has regularly put Obama on platforms that have rarely, if ever, seen a president before.
He became the first sitting president to appear on a late-night talk show in 2009 when he was a guest on The Tonight Show, and later visited David Letterman’s Late Show set as well.
Earlier this year, he also was a guest on a daytime talk show, The View.
“There’s a lot of different channels for people to watch these days,” press secretary Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday.
“They get their information from not just television news and cable and newspapers and radio and the internet. … And the president hasn’t been shy about going to the places where people are getting their information and trying to make his case.”
Gibbs said the White House agreed to the Daily Show interview before Stewart announced his “March to Restore Sanity” in American political life, being held in Washington on Saturday.
While making it clear Obama was in no way endorsing the event, Gibbs said that any effort to “get people involved in and excited in participating in that democracy on either side is a good thing.”
The event on Washington’s Central Mall on Saturday is meant to lampoon the “Restore America” march led by right-wing icon Glenn Beck in Washington in August.
Stewart’s comedy nemesis, Stephen Colbert, used his own fake news show on Comedy Central to invite Americans to attend another rally, which he dubbed the “March to Keep Fear Alive.”