In a startling déjà vu moment during his Wednesday appearance on Comedy Central’s Daily Show with Jon Stewart, an increasingly unpopular President Obama unguardedly delivered his own version of the quip that helped send President George W. Bush tumbling in the polls five years ago.
Stewart had suggested to Obama that his choice of Clinton Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers as top economic adviser, rather than an outsider, raised questions about the president’s commitment to the kind of fundamental change he promised in his 2008 campaign.
About 40 seconds into an extended, earnest defense of the massive spending his administration undertook in response to the financial crisis and recession, Obama said, “Larry Summers did a heck of a job” – to which the audience reacted with guffaws.
It was about three seconds later when Obama realized his blunder and grinned. Then Stewart swooped in with the comment, “You don’t wanna use that phase, dude!”
In September, 2005, then-President Bush, in Mobile, Alabama for briefings on the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, stood with Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown and infamously said, “Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.” “Heck of a job” soon became a popular catchphrase for government incompetence.
Reporting on this first-ever presidential appearance on a comedy program (Richard Nixon’s “Laugh-In” cameo was as a candidate in 1968),
USA Today called Obama’s Katrina lapse “an intentional pun,” while the Washington Post pronounced it merely a “semi-gaffe.”
A viewing of the videotape, however, clearly shows that the choice of phrase was unintentional: the president’s expression and manner was earnest and deadly serious until after the audience began laughing.
President Obama and congressional Democrats have been criticized in recent weeks for frivolity, and for degrading the high offices to which they were elected.
Obama recently appeared on ABC’s “The View,” some of whose co-hosts are entertainers and comics, including Whoopi Goldberg.
Last month, Stewart’s fellow Comedy Central host, Stephen Colbert, accepted Democrats’ invitation to appear before the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Citizenship, and Border Security subcommittee – acting as the fake comedic political pundit he plays on TV.
The New York Daily News, a frequent supporter of liberal Democrats, ran a column preceding the president’s appearance under the headline, “Barack Obama’s dumb ‘Daily Show’ Jon Stewart appearance and the President’s diminishing brand.”
A Harris Poll online survey of 3,084 adults taken between Oct. 11 and 18 found only 37 percent expressing a positive opinion of Obama. “This continues the president’s downward trend and he is now at the lowest job approval rating of his presidency,” the pollster reported.
Stewart and Colbert on Friday will together lead a satirical rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the site of Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech and Fox News’ Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in August.
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