Last night I broke my boycott of the Tonight Show to watch the interview with President Obama. As annoying as I find Jay Leno to be, it was worthwhile viewing. No abundantly serious hardball questions, but a mix of light banter and non-threatening inquiries into the state of the nation, which the President answered in an engaging and thoughtful manner.
And then there are the naysayers. "It's beneath the dignity of the Presidency to be on late night TV." "Speaking with comedians diminishes the office of the President," "Yadda, yadda, yadda." I'm amazed that a) people still think that way, and b) that it's taken so long for a sitting President to do the late night circuit.
In an age when more people under the age of 40 get their news from Jon Stewart than from Katie Couric, what better forum is there for exercising the bully pulpit of the presidency than a show like Leno's?
That we have a president who wants to avoid the isolation of the beltway and engage the general public in an ongoing dialog about our nation's future is something that I find refreshing and inspiring. Having a leader who meets us where we are and talks with us, rather than over or around us, is reassuring and gives many of us hope.
Then, this morning, I heard a commentator complaining about the expense of Obama's Tonight Show visit. What? The President was already in California to meet with the Governor. The expense and trouble of having the Secret Service protect him at NBC was probably not much different than if he had visited a school or a factory, and I never heard anybody complain about any Presidents making those types of appearances.
But I guess the "serious news person" giving that analysis was simply upset at being bypassed for a washed up former stand-up comedian with an over-sized chin.
Late night TV appearances are no substitute for serious, in-depth interviews and news coverage. But if this is the worst complaint we have about this President, I'm pretty happy.
For those who missed it, here it is on NBC.com.