Barack Obama photo

Interview with Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show"

April 21, 2008

STEWART: How are you, sir?

OBAMA: I'm doing great. How're you?

STEWART: Very well, thank you. Very well. How is the sojourn through Pennsylvania going? Are you just on a mad dash through the state in these final hours leading up to the Tuesday primary?

OBAMA: It is a mad dash, but the people of Pennsylvania have been terrific and the weather's been good and we think there's gonna be high turn out. We've been seeing the same kind of enthusiasm and energy we've been seeing across the country.

STEWART: Today you did say you weren't sure if you were going to win, but you started out what? About 20 points down in Pennsylvania?

OBAMA: We started off twenty down. The polls are now showing us 6 to 8. We're just kinda creeping along, but what we've been seeing is that folks are a lot more concerned now about the economy. They're not talking as much about Iraq, but they see a connection between us spending $10 billion a month there and the lack of investment here at home. They're concerned about the situation in terms of the housing market and the mortgage crisis. They know we've got a lot of work to do. What they're hoping for is some significant change in Washington. Hopefully enough...

STEWART: When you leave Pennsylvania, can you forget their concerns and move on to another state or are these people... Are they going to hound you now for the rest of the time? Because you've been there for six weeks. Most places you stop in, there's a quick primary. In Montana, you show up for two hours. "Hey, how's it going? Nice to see you. That's a beautiful mountain." These people probably have your email now.

OBAMA: [laughs] You know the folks in Pennsylvania have gotten a lot of attention. They deserve the attention, just like the people in Iowa deserve the attention.

STEWART: Everybody you feel like in this whole country, the people you've met... You've had a chance to meet Americans throughout the land. Are we nice? What do you think?

OBAMA: Yeah. You know, there's a core decency and a generosity that actually makes you feel optimistic. Sometimes you feel less optimistic about the political process. Sometimes you don't feel as optimistic about needing to bring the country together and the ability of folks to get past some of the old politics. But people have good instincts.

STEWART: That's interesting because Senator Clinton's sort of response to you is if you have not been vetted in the way that she has and that ultimately in a general election, the Republican attack machine, the big question was, they would just go crazy on you. Now that you have been attacked so much, the fear that in a general election the Republican attack machine wouldn't have anything left to pick over. Is that a problem, do you think, for the Republican attack machine?

OBAMA: [laughs] Well there's no doubt that Senator Clinton has done me a favor. She's put me through the paces. This has been like spring training, so should I get the nomination, I think everything is going to be old news by October.

STEWART: I'm going to cut through the spin for you, sir. This is what I'm here for. There's a lot of insinuation amongst the pundits about these controversies. The Reverend Wright controversy, the flag pin controversy. By the way, I am wearing mine. It's just pinned directly to my chest. I can tell you what the real concern is. You can answer this question right here, right now and put it all to bed.

OBAMA: [laughs] Go ahead.

STEWART: Sir, we are concerned that ultimately at the end of the day, if you are fortunate enough to get the Democratic nomination, fortunate to become President of the United States, will you pull a bait-and-switch, sir, and enslave the white race? Is that your plan? And, if it is your plan, be honest. Tell us now.

OBAMA: [laughs] That is not our plan Jon, but I think you're paranoia might make you suitable as a debate moderator.

STEWART: Thank you very much. I appreciate that. We're going to take a break. When we come back, we'll talk about your plans for the future and some of other things. Thank you for joining us. We'll be back with more of Senator Barack Obama.


STEWART: We're back with Senator Barack Obama. He joins us now from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Sir, thanks for joining us. I want to ask you, do you think that the process of running for President is... correlates in any way with the job of being President? I keep wondering if the process we're putting candidates through - and I think we have three impressive candidates this time - yourself, Senator Clinton and Senator McCain - is this like Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" where it just has no bearing on actual business? I keep wondering if the process is completely removed from being President.

OBAMA: There are a couple things that the process does do. Number one, it lets you talk and listen to the American people. And so it does give you a sense of the country. I've campaigned in 47 states now, and spending that much time with people on the ground talking to them, listening to them, I think, does put you a better touch with what's going on in the country and as I said, makes you a little more optimistic about the country.

STEWART: Have you seen a divide, they speak so much about the red-blue divide. You gave that speech at the Convention I guess in 2004 where you talked about...

OBAMA: You know, I really haven't. One of the striking things about the country is that people basically have the same hopes and dreams and the same attitudes about what they want for their kids and what they want for their lives, so that makes you optimistic, that's one thing. The second thing is, it is true you've got to put up with a little stuff when you're president. And as a candidate, you're put through the paces and folks are throwing stuff at you JSuick and I think it does test how people handle stress, how they manage a big organization, and in that sense the America people probably get a pretty good sense of is this somebody who gets flustered under pressure, is this somebody who ends up having problems making decisions, or is this somebody who can stay steady in a crisis.

STEWART: Do you feel like you've run on a platform of change? Is it... you know, I keep thinking the Democrats are so set up this year to re-take the White House. Have they overshot their change agenda? Here we are, if they had just thrown out another boring old white guy, just put him out there. But they put yourself and Senator Clinton, two historic candidates. Too much change? Is it too much change for the American people? Will they be thinking then, oh my God, will gravity still be here? Are we able to digest this much change?

OBAMA: What's been interesting is watching how people have been responding all across the country. Not just on the democratic side. I think Independents, Republicans have been crossing over. We've been seeing higher registration rates in every state and higher turnout rates in every state in every state than any previous campaign that I can remember. I think we're going to be just fine. The problem right now is that the party feels divided; we've got two strong candidates going at it. I'm confident though that when they take a look at John McCain's agenda they'll say there's a big difference between where he wants to take the country and where Democrats want to take the country. I think that will serve us well in November.

STEWART: Do you have a concern that you could win the nomination at the Convention and defeat John McCain in the general and, you know, go to the inauguration and Hillary would still be running? Do you feel... Do you have any concern that Senator Clinton would continue the campaign?

OBAMA: She is a formidable candidate. She is tough - she's working hard out there and I respect her for it. I think hopefully I'll be a stronger nominee as a conseJSuence of it.

STEWART: You've both been very impressive. I've watched the debates and enjoyed the things that have gone on. There's only one last thing I want to do. There is something I find when you speak it is incredibly inspiring and brings a lot of hope. I'm just wondering. Those are your words, sir. You can bring hope with your words. Can you bring hope with nearly any words? If you could, I'd like you to "hope up" some of these very common phrases that people hear. "I'm calling to ask if you're happy with your cell phone service."

OBAMA: I'm calling to find out if you're happy with your cell phone service. [cheers and applause]

STEWART: Very good, sir. Here's my final one. "Ladies and Gentlemen, Edie and the New Bohemian." Hope it up.

OBAMA: Ladies and gentlemen, Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians.

STEWART: I like it. Nicely done, sir.

OBAMA: Thank you.

STEWART: That was a good touch. Senator Obama, you're in Pittsburgh right now?

OBAMA: I am.

STEWART: Can I make a quick recommendation?

OBAMA: Go ahead.

STEWART: Pamonty Brothers, a crazy good little food place in Pittsburgh. They serve sandwiches with their potatoes inside. I played a couple of gigs there and ate there. Tremendous.

OBAMA: I'm going to try it out.

STEWART: Thank you, sir. Senator Barack Obama. [cheers and applause]

Barack Obama, Interview with Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives