WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama targeted young voters on Wednesday with a robust defense of his policies and promises in an appearance on the popular comedy program “The Daily Show.”
Obama, whose Democrats are expected to suffer big losses in Tuesday’s congressional elections, was light on jokes but heavy on policy as he said it would take time to fulfill the pledges he made during the 2008 presidential campaign.
“When we promised during the campaign ‘change you can believe in,’ it wasn’t ‘change you can believe in 18 months,'” he told the host, Jon Stewart.
“It was change you can believe in but, you know what, we’re going to have to work for it.”
Stewart, one of the most influential comedians in the United States, pressed Obama over the gap between his promises and his accomplishments and described the White House’s legislative achievements as “timid at times.”
That did not sit well with a visibly frustrated president.
“Over and over again we have moved forward an agenda that is making a difference in people’s lives each and every day. Now is it enough? No,” Obama said.
“I expect and I think most Democrats out there expect that people want to see more progress.”
After achieving healthcare reform and an overhaul of financial regulation during the first half of his term, Obama highlighted energy and immigration reform as issues that would be on his agenda in the next two years.
“HECK OF A JOB”
Stewart needled Obama for promising change but hiring people with long Washington careers such as Larry Summers, his top economic adviser, who served as secretary of the Treasury under former President Bill Clinton.
Obama said Summers was integral in navigating the economic crisis that faced Obama at the start of his term.
“If you told me two years ago that we’re going to be able to stabilize the system, stabilize the stock market, stabilize the economy and, by the way, at the end of this thing it will cost less than 1 percent of GDP ... I’d say we’ll take that,” Obama said to applause from the audience.
“In fairness, Larry Summers did a heck of a job,” he continued, using the same infamous phrase his predecessor, Republican President George W. Bush, used to describe the discredited former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michael Brown, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“You don’t want to use that phrase, dude,” Stewart said.
“Pun intended,” Obama replied.
Summers is due to leave the Obama administration at the end of this year to return to teaching at Harvard.
Comedy Central, the network that broadcasts Stewart’s show, says the program has an audience of roughly 3.6 million U.S. viewers per episode, including 2.2 million in the 18-49 age range. Many more watch the show on the Internet.
Young voters helped propel Obama to the presidency in 2008 and the White House hopes his presence on programs like “The Daily Show” will help cement support for Democrats in Tuesday’s election.
Obama ended his appearance by urging Americans to vote.
Additional reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by John O'Callaghan