Heckuva Job, Summie

Obama’s praise for departing economic adviser on the “Daily Show” echoes Bush comments for Katrina-era FEMA head.

Stewart’s advice: “You don’t want to use that phrase, dude.”


Stewart: Are we the people we were waiting for? Or does it turn out those people are still out there?

Obama: I’m feeling great about where the American people are considering what we’ve gone through.

Obama: The fact that people have been resilient … that’s encouraging.

Stewart: The Democrats this year seem to be running on ‘please baby, one more chance’… Now how did we go — in two years — from hope and change, we are the people we’ve been looking for to you’re not going to give them the keys are you?

Stewart: Are you disappointed in how it’s gone?

Obama: When I won and we started the transition and we looked at what was happening in the economy, a whole bunch of my political folks came up and said, ‘You know what? Enjoy this now because two years from now, folks are going to be frustrated and that is in fact what’s happened. When you’ve got 9.6% unemployment … when the economy is growing but is still not growing as fast as it needs to — to make up for the 8 million jobs that were lost, the folks are going to be frustrated and that’s going to reflect itself in the political environment. But having said that — I look over the last 18 months and I say we prevented a second Great Depression, we’ve stabilized the economy — an economy that was shrinking is now growing. We’ve got nine months of consecutive private sector job growth. We have passed historic health care reform, historic financial regulatory reform. We have done things that some folks don’t even know about.

Stewart: What have you done that we don’t know about? Are you planning a surprise party for us? Filled with jobs and health care?

Obama: When you look at what we’ve done in terms of — making sure that — before we even passed health care, four million kids got health insurance that didn’t have it before through the children’s health insurance program … expanded national service more than any time since the beginning of the Peace Corps … made sure that credit card companies couldn’t jack up your rates without notice. 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. And so I expect and I think most Democrats out there expect that people want to see more progress. But certainly in terms of the folks who voted for me, my expectation and hope is that if you look at the track record that we’ve accomplished in very difficult circumstances over the last 18 months — we have done an awful lot that we talked about during the campaign and we’re going to do more …

Stewart: Have you convinced your own party that the legislative progress has been enough and how do you feel about their reaction…?

Obama: Look … let me say this about members of Congress….

Stewart: Are you going to curse?

Obama: No I’m not … I know a lot of folks feel frustrated about Congress … how it operates. The bickering, the weird rules, the filibuster … all that stuff. But the fact is that there are bunch of folks who, during the course of this year, took really tough votes that they knew were bad politics because they thought they were the right things to do … there are a whole bunch of Democrats — guys like Tom Perriello in Virginia … or Betsy Markey in Colorado — who are basically in Republican districts — they won in the big surge that we had in 2008. They knew it was going to be a tough battle, that these are generally pretty conservative districts and yet still went ahead and did what they thought was right. And my hope in this election is that people who vote on the basis of what they think is right and have integrity and aren’t just thinking about the next election but are thinking about the next generation — that … they are rewarded. Now that’s tough in this political process because you’ve got millions of dollars of independent money that’s pouring into those races. They are being hammered by negative ads every single day. The question then becomes do the millions of voices that came out in 2008 who said folks were interested in fixing our health care system, wanted a serious energy policy, wanted the kinds of changes in our student loan program that have allowed millions more kids have access to college — that’s what we ran on, that’s what we’ve delivered. And my hope is that those people are rewarded for taking those tough votes. And if they are,\ then I think democrats will do fine on Election Day.


Stewart: Is the difficulty that you have here the distance between what you ran on and what you delivered … you ran with such, if I may, audacity — so much of what you said was great leaders lead and a time of opportunity … yet [legislation] it has felt timid at times … I’m not even sure at times what you want out of a health care bill.

Obama: Jon, I love your show …

Stewart: … very kind of you …

Obama: But this is something where I have a profound disagreement with you and — I don’t want to lump you in with a lot of other pundits — but this …

Stewart: … you may

Obama: This notion that health care was timid — you’ve got 30 million people who are going to get health insurance as a consequence of this. You’ve got a Patient’s Bill of Rights that makes sure that insurance companies can’t drop you when you get sick, if you’ve been paying premiums that make sure there aren’t lifetime limits, make sure that kids who … don’t have health insurance can stay on their parents’ health insurance until they’re 26 … And cuts the deficit by over a trillion dollars. This is what I think most people would say is as significant a piece of legislation as we’ve seen in this country’s history … What happens is it gets discounted because the presumption is — Well we didn’t get 100% of what we wanted, we got 90% of what we wanted, so let’s focus on the 10% we didn’t get as opposed to the 90% that we did. And right now there is a woman in New Hampshire who doesn’t have to sell her house to get her cancer treatments because of that health care bill … She doesn’t think it’s inconsequential. She doesn’t think it’s timid.

Stewart: The suggestion was not that it’s inconsequential …

Obama: The suggestion was that it was timid …

Stewart: Timid … And I’ll tell you what I mean and I don’t mean to lump you in with other presidents … But I think if I were to try and coalesce whatever criticism of it — may be it’s that you ran on the idea that this system needed basic reform … it feels like some of the reforms that have passed, like health care, have been done in a very political manner that has papered over a foundation that is corrupt …

Obama: That I think is fair … over the last two years in an emergency situation, our basic attitude was we’ve gotta get some things done — in some cases quickly … in order to do that, basically worked with the process as opposed to transform the process and there’s no doubt that that frustrated folks. It frustrates me. Look I would love not to have a 60 vote requirement, which is not in the Constitution, but is in the Senate rules right now that apply to everything we do so that I can’t get a Deputy Secretary of Treasury in the middle of financial crisis because somebody is holding it up and is filibustering the appointment. There are all kinds of things that happened during the course of these two years in terms of process that I’d like to see changed. Keep in mind that those areas where we had control over process, we actually made changes. We’ve got a whole bunch of rules about lobbyists interacting with the White House that are very different from any White House before. If somebody wants to come to visit the White House, now that list is given out to everybody. That’s a change.

Stewart: Did you just invite me to the White House?

Obama: No, no — because we’d have to disclose it.

Stewart: 2014 is when these exchanges kick in and there will be some sort of price controls, but up until that point, there’s really nothing in this bill that doesn’t allow these insurance companies to raise rates …

Obama: Not true … in fact what we’ve done is we have empowered state insurance commissioners to review the rate hikes that are taking place in states. In some states like North Carolina they have already used it and rolled back premium increases by 25%.

Stewart: Doesn’t that only trip on egregious raises?

Obama: If the point, Jon, is that overnight we did not transform the healthcare system — that point is true.

Stewart: Well when you put it that way, it seems so petty.

Obama: When we promised during the campaign ‘change you can believe in’ — it wasn’t change you can believe in — in 18 months. It was change you can believe in — but you know what? We’re going to have to work for it.

Likens to Social Security and Civil Rights Law

“We have put a framework in place that allowed us then to continue to make progress.”

Stewart: “I remember very clearly you said — we can’t expect different results with the same people and I remember when you hired Larry Summers …

— Laughter —

Stewart: I remember thinking well that seems like the exact same person and why would you … so in some respects I get your frustration with this idea that ‘Well jeez, are you never satisfied?’ But again, the expectation I think was audacity going in there and really rooting out a corrupt system and so the sense is has reality of what hit you in the face when you first stepped in caused you to back down from some of the more visionary … like bringing a guy like Larry Summers …

Obama: First of all … if you look at how we have handled this financial crisis — if you had told 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% of GDP … I’d say we’ll take that because we saved taxpayers a whole lot of money. And in fairness, Larry Summers did a heck of a job trying to figure out how to …

Stewart: You don’t want to use that phrase dude.

Obama: Pun intended. Larry was integral in helping to think through some really complicated stuff.


Stewart: If they had told you the same thing — stabilize the banks, stabilize the Dow — unemployment will be near 10% — would you have taken that deal?

Obama: If I had the capacity to have prevented the unemployment that happened basically before we put our economic plan into place – obviously, we would have done that. The problem was we lost 4 million jobs before I was sworn in — 750,000 jobs the month I was sworn in, 600,000 the month after that, 600,000 the month after that so most of the jobs that we lost were lost before the economic policies we put into place had any effect.


Obama: The one other thing that might have made a difference is if you had held the Rally to Restore Sanity two years ago.

Pool reports:

Daily Show taping

This is a rough, as-it-happened psuedo-transcript/rundown:

The taping began around 5:30 at the Harman Center for the Arts. Pool held outside of auditorium in a hallway with a live feed of the event in progress.

No news — mostly talking points. A few laughs — from Stewart. This is chronological. Everything in “quotes” is a quote — everything else is paraphrased. General vibe: a little dry, not high-energy, although the crowd was very enthused.

Open: Stewart alone on the stage (which looks like a Grecian temple) jokes that tonight’s guest is White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Austan Goolsbee’s boss.

Steward debuted a new segment called “Let’s Keep the President Waiting,” while he doodled on a pad and made faces. He played with his pen. “You must pay the rent…I can’t pay the rent.”

A paper football was produced, and a bowl of M&Ms. Finally, Obama introduced:

The president entered the auditorium stage, strode out to “Hail to the Chief.” He waved to the audience, big sustained cheers.

“Thank you,” Obama said (a few times).

“This is a nice set,” Obama said. “It reminds me of the convention.”

Stewart: “We actually bought it, it was in a warehouse.”

To questions — Stewart asked, “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?”

Obama: “I am feeling great about where the American people are, considering what we have gone through. We have gone through two toughest years of any time since the Great Depression….”

“There is still a lot of good stuff happening, but people are frustrated,” Obama said.

Stewart: You are coming from a place, you ran on very high rhetoric — Democratss are now running on ‘Please baby one more chance.’ Are you disappointed, surprised?

(Obama said he was told around the election time to enjoy the moment, that in two years people would be frustrated. And that is turning out to be true.)

He mentioned home foreclosure, “the economy is growing,” but not as strong as it needs to.

Obama said he looks over the last 18 months and sees how he prevented a second Great Depression, stabilized the economy, passed historic health care reform, financial reform…

“We have done things that people don’t even know about,” Obama said.

Stewart: “What have you done that people don’t know about? Are you planning a surprise party for us?”

(Obama listed his familiar accomplishments) “Is it enough? No,” Obama said. “So I expect and I think most Democrats out there want to see more progress.”

“We have done an awful lot that we talked about in the campaign and we are going to do more,” Obama said.

Commercial break

And we’re back. Stewart asked, How do convince your own party that you have done enough?

“Let me say this about members of Congress,” Obama said.

“Are you going to curse?” Stewart asked.

“No,” Obama said. “I know people feel frustrated about Congress — the fact is there are a bunch of folks who took really tough votes they knew were bad politics….” (he talks about Democrats in swing districts or even Republican districts, doing what they thought was right despite the political consequences, and he hopes they will be rewarded on Election Day)

Obama complained about “millions of dollars of independent money” pouring into the campaign.

He said people want the issues he ran on, and “that is what we delivered.”

Stewart asked, Is the difficulty that you have here the distance between what you ran on and what you delivered? You ran with such, if I may, audacity…..yet legislation has felt timid at times.

Obama takes umbrage:

“John, I love your show, but this is something where I have a profound disagreement with you,” he said. “This notion that health care was timid.”

Obama listed the reasons health care is consequential: 30 million now covered, patients bill of rights, kids on their parents policies, cuts the deficit, etc.

“This is what most people would say is as significant a piece of legislation as we have seen in this country’s history,” Obama said.

“What happenss is it gets discounted because assumption is we didn’t get 100 percent of what we wanted, we only get 90 percent of what we wanted — so let’s focus on the 10 percent we didn’t get,” Obama said.

He took issue with the policy being not consequential, and Steward reminded him that he didn’t say it was not consequential.

“The suggestion was that it was timid,” Obama said, pointing a finger at Stewart.

Stewart: You ran on the idea that this system needed basic reform. Feels like some reform was done in political manner that has papered over a system that is corrupt.

(Obama sort of agrees)

“Over last two years in emergency situations, our basic attitude was we have to get things done, in some cases quicker,” Obama said.

They worked within the process in stead of transforming the process. “It frustrates some people, it frustrates me,” Obama said.

Some things have changed — rules about lobbyists, the White House visitor logs.

“Did you just invite me to the White House?” Stewart asked.

Obama responded that no, because then they would have to disclose it.

Stewart asked about the higher costs associated with health care reform, and how rates are going up.

“If the point, Jon, is that overnight we did not transform the health care system, that point is true,” Obama said.

“When we promised during campaign ‘change you can believe in,’ it wasn’t change you can believe in in 18 months,” Obama said.

He said Social Security started out as a program for widows and orphans, and later grew into a massive social safety net. Also Civil Rights — that expanded over time. So it will be with health care reform, Obama said.

“The point was we put a framework in place,” Obama said. “That is what we have done over the last 18 months.”

Commercial break

Stewart — were people being naive about expectations? Obama used to complain that you can’t get new results with the same old people — then he hired Larry Summers. “The expectation was audacity,” Stewart said.

(Obama defended his administration’s handling of the financial crisis, talked about difficult choices and how it looked two years ago)

“We saved taxpayers a whole lot of money…”

Summers did “a heckuva job,” Stewart observed. Obama said “You don’t want to use that phrase, dude.”

(He defended Summers) “Larry was integral in helping us,” Obama said.

Stewart tried not to laugh. Obama spun out a hard-to-follow hypothetical about closing this bank or that bank and added another defense of Summers.

He said most of the jobs lost in this economy were gone before his economic policies were in place.

“This notion that we could quickly transform Washington,” Obama said. “It’s a work in progress, it’s just not going to happen overnight.” But he doesn’t regret promises about change made during the campaign.

“I guess on all these issues, my attitude is if we are making progress step by step and inch by inch, then we are being true to the spirit of the campaign,” Obama said.

“I would say yes we can — but it’s not going to happen overnight,” he added.

Does government still have ability to be agile enough to do change, Stewart wondered.

“There are a couple of things,” Obama said. He wants to change the rules on filibustering. He conceded that Democrats used it when Bush was president, but Republicans are now using it more.

“That makes it very difficult for us to move forward,” Obama said.

Similarly, the way congressional districts are drawn ought to change, Obama said. “So many are so safe,” he said. “It helps to polarize the electorate.”

“Having said all that, we have made a lot of progress over past 18 months that from a historical perspective ranks up there with any 18 months in our history,” Obama said.

More to do: immigration, jobs, education, energy, infrastructure.

Time to wrap it up. Obama slid in a joke about how it would have been more helpful to hold a “Rally to Restore Sanity” two years ago. Agreement among the pool: We don’t get it. The audience laughed, though.

Obama made a plug for everyone to vote on Tuesday. Stewart said he thought maybe Obama had an album drop to plug.

Motorcade back to White House uneventful.


The White House says the Daily Show says this is the first time in the history of the show that an episode consisted of a guest interview for the whole show.


Please note:

“heckuva job” with regard to SUMMERS came from Obama, to which STEWART replied, “You don’t want to use that phrase, dude.”

Also, we have a lid.

Related Topics: Democratic Party, Midterm Elections, News, Video, White House

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