As a walk-up to this weekend’s “Rally To Restore Sanity,” Jon Stewart interviewed President Barack Obama, who on The Daily Show Wednesday night told the host, “The one thing that might have made a difference is if you held a ‘Rally to Restore Sanity’ two years ago.”

That’s as close as you’re going to get to hearing the President of the United States say, “These Republicans, they’re trying to do some crazy stuff.”

Both men were using each other. Obama, to reach Stewart’s younger, probably more Democratic demo to plug next month’s mid-term elections; Stewart, to prove he flexes influential muscle as he does his shows this week from D.C.

It’s hard to imagine the President saying to any American journalist, “I have a profound disagreement with you: This notion that health care [legislation] was timid.” That’s because it’s unlikely any journalist would use the accusation of timidity to Obama’s face, as Stewart did last night. (“There are times when I don’t even know what you want out of a health care bill,” said Stewart.) And it’s unlikely that any journalist who’s leveled the sort of criticism cast as caustic comedy as Stewart has would be granted an audience with the Commander In Chief. But, bridging the gap between critic and supporter, entertainer and commentator, Stewart was able to use his show to offer a glimpse of a President on the defensive, saying that he’d accomplished so much since taking office, there were things “some folks don’t even know about.”

“What have you done that we don’t know about?” Stewart shot back. “Are you planning a surprise party for us, filled with jobs and health care?”

The tone of the chat was a bit tense. This was not the relaxed President who’d done a cool-cat glide onto other shows such as The View and David Letterman. Obama was on The Daily Show with something to prove, and the urgency gave way at times to a one-sided filibuster. Stewart tried joking about it, saying, “it’s hard not to talk!” while the President spoke rapidly of accomplishments and change.

Obama couldn’t have had a more sympathetic audience — his comments were frequently met with applause. But the night was an example of a man speaking to the converted at a time when the converted may not show up in sufficient numbers to form a triumphant flock.

In other words, this weekend, proportionate to their respective audience-sizes, Stewart may be leading a larger congregation, a more enthused base, than Obama will be on Nov. 2.

What do you think of The Daily Show interview with the President?

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