Leno show is friendly turf for Obama

If TV talk shows have become a battleground where hosts and newsmakers battle it out, Jay Leno and President Barack Obama didn't get the message.



Leno queried Obama about difficult issues — including AIG's executive bonuses and criticism of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner — but with minor exception allowed the president to answer without challenge.

"Mr. President, I must say this has been one of the best nights of my life," a beaming Leno announced at the end of Obama's visit yesterday to the "Tonight" show.

It was a sharp contrast to the recent high drama of embattled CNBC financial news host Jim Cramer's painful appearance on Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" or David Letterman's roasting of Republican John McCain during the presidential campaign.

Of course, a sitting UUS president is a different animal, and Obama was the first to visit "Tonight." (He'd already appeared twice as a candidate.)

"I'm excited, I'm honored to introduce my next guest, the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama," Leno said as his studio band played "Hail to the Chief."

Obama might have sensed from the outset it would not be a grueling exercise. Leno asked if it was fair to be "judged so quickly" after less than two months in office.

"I welcome the challenge," Obama said. "In Washington, it's a little bit like 'American Idol,' but everybody is Simon Cowell. Everybody's got an opinion."

The tone turned serious when the economic crisis was the topic, but Leno wasn't going to make the president sweat.

Obama had appeared "angry" and "stunned" about the AIG bonuses, Leno observed.

"Stunned is the word," Obama replied, then launched into a lengthy, wonkish description of how the insurance giant foundered and why the company bonuses symbolize the larger issue of Wall Street's "attitude of entitlement."

If Leno had a bone to pick, it was with federal efforts to tax the AIG bonuses out of existence.

"If the government decides they don't like a guy, all of a sudden, 'Hey, we're gonna tax you,"' the talk show host said.

He did tweak Obama at one point, after bringing up criticisms of Geithner. As Obama defended the treasury secretary for taking the right steps against a host of problems, Leno joked, "I love that it's all his problem."

But the biggest dig was against Leno's own network.

"A lot of people were surprised that the president came to NBC. You'd think by this time he'd be tired of big companies on the brink of disaster with a bunch of overpaid executives," Leno said during his monologue.

It was a far different atmosphere when CNBC "Mad Money" host Cramer appeared on Stewart's "The Daily Show" earlier this month and the Comedy Central host railed at him for putting entertainment above journalism. Last year, Letterman gave McCain a tough time after the Republican presidential contender canceled a "Late Show" appearance.

The White House scheduled the "Tonight" appearance as part of a broader outreach to promote Obama's agenda — one that's already had him on ESPN's "SportsCenter" this week and includes a "60 Minutes" interview airing Sunday, plus a prime-time news conference Tuesday.

On "Tonight," Obama had enough running room on to display his comedic chops as Leno delved into what he called "some personal things" with the president.

Leno pressed him on when daughters Malia and Sasha would get their pet dog.

"This is Washington. That was a campaign promise," Obama replied to the pet question, drawing audience laughter. "No, no, no, no, no, I'm teasing. The dog will be there shortly."

"How cool is it to fly in Air Force One?" a dazzled Leno asked at one point.

Toward the end of the interview on Thursday, Obama said he's been practicing at the White House's bowling alley but wasn't happy with his recent score of 129. During a campaign photo op a year ago at a bowling alley in Pennsylvania he rolled only a 37 in seven frames. The clip of the disastrous game was replayed on late night television shows such as Leno's — one of Obama's few campaign gaffes.

Watch a clip of Obama's 'Special Olympics' gaffe

Leno complimented Obama on the 129 score, but the president quipped, "It was like the Special Olympics or something," which prompted laughter from the audience.

Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton said the president's offhand remark was not meant to disparage the Special Olympics, only to poke some fun at the commander-in-chief's bowling skills.

"He thinks that the Special Olympics are a wonderful program that gives an opportunity to shine to people with disabilities from around the world," Burton told reporters flying back to Washington with Obama aboard Air Force One.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried