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Obama to Jon Stewart: Change Isn't "Overnight"

President Obama chats with "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart during a commercial break, Oct. 27, 2010 in Washington, D.C. Getty/Pool

WASHINGTON -- President Obama left the set of "The Daily Show' Wednesday evening to the pop song "Falling to Pieces." Lyrics "I'm still alive but I'm barely breathing" rung true in an interview by Comedy Central's Jon Stewart that was fair but tough on his administration and the Democratic Party.

Less than a week before an Election Day in which Mr. Obama's party is expected to lose crucial seats in the House and Senate, the show dedicated the full half hour to the President's interview. Two firsts in history- the first time a sitting President has appeared on "The Daily Show" and the first time the show in its entirety has featured a single guest.

Stewart, who is co-hosting a "Rally for Sanity" on the National Mall Saturday with Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert, asked Mr. Obama if he would be more pragmatic in future campaigns.

"Yes we can, but..." the President was cut off by the audience's laughter. "... It is not going to happen overnight," he finished.

Discussing legislative achievements, Mr. Obama said there were things his administration accomplished that people "don't even know about."

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"Are you throwing us a surprise party?" Stewart asked in jest, a light moment in an interview that swayed from serious to comedic.

The president was comfortable, slouching in his seat, his jacket unbuttoned to reveal a light blue or purple tie. He rarely sipped his water from a cup Stewart dubbed "Mug Force One."

He had a warm welcome from the audience of mostly twenty-somethings. When Stewart asked if Mr. Obama always enjoyed such a welcome, the president joked, "not at the Republican Congressional Caucus."

Referencing a 2008 campaign speech signature, Stewart opened interview asking Mr. Obama, "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?"

See a clip from the interview at left or watch the whole thing here.

Mr. Obama said multiple times that he knew people were frustrated. Joking that he ran on campaign of you can't get new results with the same old people, Stewart referenced the president's hiring of Larry Summers for the National Economic Council. Summers served in the Clinton administration.

Summers did "a heckuva job," the president said, corrected by Stewart, "You don't want to use that phrase, dude." Mr. Obama reiterated that most jobs lost in "toughest years of any time since the Great Depression" were before his administration's economic policies were put into place.

In a discussion on health care reform, in which Stewart referenced a conversation he had with a member of the audience before taping began, Stewart told the president he ran with such "audacity," but that his legislative approaches have seemed "timid" at times.

Laundry-listing positive effects of his health care reform, Mr. Obama said, "Jon, I love your show, but this is something where I have a profound disagreement with you... this notion that health care was timid."

Before he exited, Mr. Obama asked if he could make one "plug," to which Stewart asked, "Are you dropping an album?" The president encouraged the young audience to vote Tuesday. He also told the Comedy Central host it would have "made a difference" if Stewart held his rally two years ago.

Mr. Obama complimented "The Daily Show" set of white columns, DC scenery and red, white and blue graphics, saying it reminded him of the convention.

"We actually bought it," Stewart quipped. "It was in a warehouse."

The show did not feature regular "Daily Show" correspondents. In a conversation with the studio audience after the president's interview, Stewart said they were at "a soup kitchen downtown."

He also admitted to being nervous for his Q&A with Mr. Obama, quickly joking that every other politician was out campaigning and the president was a "last resort" for the show's DC taping. "The Daily Show" regularly tapes in NY.

Calling Mr. Obama the "most interesting guest ever," Stewart had to re-shoot the show's open to allow the presidential interview to run in its entirety. Producers told the audience it would not be edited. The original open, which will not be seen at 11 p.m. ET Wednesday, included a series "Lets Make the President Wait," during which Stewart played with his pen and ate the candy M&Ms while Mr. Obama was backstage.

During commercial breaks, Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" and Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" played. "The Daily Show" was taped at the Sidney Harman Theater and audience members stood in line for as much as eight hours, in the rain, before doors opened.

Christine Delargy
Christine Delargy is an associate producer for You can read more of her posts here. For more of Washington Unplugged, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
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