The lighter side of policy: Obama to appear on talk show

Fans of America's late-night talk shows expect politics to intrude on the traditional fare of jokes and celebrity pandering when the country is in campaign mode. They do not expect to be similarly disturbed when the elections are over. It is a contract between comics and couch potatoes that has endured for years. But no longer.

In a departure from tradition that may or may not bring him dividends, President Barack Obama will visit the Burbank studios of Jay Leno's The Tonight Show on Thursday night for a bit of banter about things as hilarious as the crashing economy, ill-gotten bonuses on Wall Street and his $3.55trn budget blueprint.

Breaking the occasional rule is a thing to relish in Mr Obama's White House. As NBC, the network that carries The Tonight Show where Mr Leno has presided for 17 years, has gleefully pointed out, Thursday evening will constitute both the first appearance by Mr Obama before a live studio audience since his election and the first time a sitting US president has appeared on such a television programme.

Putting Mr Obama on the Leno set is not so terribly controversial, however. Candidates for election, including himself and former Republican nominee John McCain, have long walked the talk show trail. Mr Obama did both The Tonight Show last year and its competition on CBS, The Late Show With David Letterman.

If the move smells a little like desperation, remember that Mr Obama still enjoys approval ratings of more than 60 per cent, higher than Ronald Reagan at this stage of his presidency. However, he unquestionably faces growing public anger over bank bailouts and the AIG bonus scandal.

Most importantly, the President hopes to use the interview to promote his budget proposal, the framework on which he hopes to hang an array of policy departures in areas from climate-change to health care. It is facing stiff opposition on Capitol Hill from Republicans and even some Democrats.

He will be using Mr Leno to do an end-run around the Washington press corps that usually filter White House propaganda and to reach beyond the relatively small number of political junkies glued to the cable news channels.

Nor is it surprising that Mr Obama's staff opted for Mr Leno, whose humour is designed more to lull than to excite (he is on at bedtime, after all). It would be another thing if the President were to surrender to the astringent whims of Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. Mr Stewart last week mauled Jim Cramer, a television financial pundit, for failing to foresee the current train wreck on Wall Street.

Mr Leno's viewers may or may not respond kindly to Mr Obama. If the Commander-in-Chief and talk of trillion-dollar budgets threatens to ruin the coming night's sleep, there will always be Mr Letterman on the other channel. His much-funnier guest will be Billy Crystal.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?