Left pretty darned excited about this Jon Stewart rally

Well, he is the most influential man of 2010 or something. And yet, somehow, I still find their expectations a tad … unrealistic.

“This event, while originally intended for jest, could possibly become a ‘turning point’ … in our nation’s history for having immense impact on how political discourse is engaged in the future,” … writer and actress [Nanci Ponne] wrote on the event’s Facebook page this week. “You have created a political movement, intended or not.”…

The rally’s Facebook page is a hive of activity, much of it aimed at the political left, with posts about get-out-the-vote efforts and plugs for Democratic candidates mixed in with logistics advice. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 223,000 people indicated they planned to attend…

“To many, it might seem strange that a comedian could lead the march to change the level and tone of discourse in America,” said David Todd Agro, a 32-year-old project manager in Brattleboro, Vt. “However, at its best, comedy and satire reveal our foibles to us. We may chuckle, but then the absurdity sinks in and we may even begin to think.”

The anticipation for the rally, which will be broadcast live on Comedy Central and C-SPAN, speaks to the longing many Democrats and independents feel for the excitement of the 2008 campaign.

That’s one way to look at it, and the DNC is certainly trying to take full advantage. (Says a voting expert at American University, “For Stewart, sanity is a code word for Democratic.”) Another way to look at it is that the left is hot to top Glenn Beck’s rally in turnout and “prove” that they’re still the ones who Care The Most, notwithstanding the brutal beating they’re about to take next week. And a third way to look at it, I suppose, is as a reaction to what Shelby Steele identified today in his superb op-ed about the failure of Obama’s liberal Hopenchange redemption narrative. As George Carlin once said, inside every cynic is a disappointed idealist, and there an awful lot of disappointed idealists among the lefty base right now. Is it any surprise that they’d take comfort in a rally organized by two guys who’ve become superstars of cynicism, with a consoling chicken-soup theme of sanity and moderation and, heck, all-around niceness? (Plus, Sheryl Crow will be there!)

As for last night’s “Daily Show” interview with The One, the RNC is calling it “sad” and (some) media critics are calling it “dumb,” but young voters could save a few seats for the Dems next week, so it’s Politics 101 for Obama to show up and give them a pep talk. Gibbs kicked the White House press corps in the stones this afternoon by saying, “Jon Stewart is about as good an interviewer as there is in the public domain right now,” but I don’t think he’s alone in that impression. Many lefties, including lefty media professionals, would no doubt agree, and with some reason: Because Stewart doesn’t have to pretend he’s impartial, he’s free to ask questions from the sort of unabashedly liberal point of view that many journalists hold but aren’t permitted to voice (at least, not too explicitly). David Zurawik:

Maybe I was deluding myself because I like the intelligence of Stewart’s humor, but I really believed he had a more balanced and centrist take on American life. If the White House was looking for the court jester and mouthpiece of the folks senior White House officials described as the “professional left,” they found him. He was sitting across from the president Wednesday night prodding him with all the White House had not done.

And that’s the difference, isn’t it? The right feels Obama has done way too much without thinking it through — call it the the cash-for-clunkers style of governing with massive and misguided social programs. The left, meanwhile, thinks he hasn’t done enough.

If Stewart had a more balanced take, he wouldn’t be nearly as interesting to lefties. The “clown nose on, clown nose off” dynamic that he’s mastered — part comedian, part serious interviewer/commentator — paradoxically gives him cover to ask more biting questions than Katie Couric, say, could get away with. If Katie told Obama, “I feel like you let us down a bit,” it’d kick off a bunch of ponderous media pieces about objectivity and bias and whether she’s crossed the line, etc. If Stewart does it, hey — clown nose on. James Poniewozik:

In a typical network-news interview with the President, “getting tough” with him is defined as presenting him with the criticisms of his opposition. Obama is a Democrat, so the questioning of him is usually framed in terms of the Republican critique. And it’s fine and appropriate that reporters should try to get the President to answer his opponents’ charges—but in this binary system, it means that there’s a critique of the President that goes mostly unaddressed. Sometimes that critique is from the left (healthcare reform or the stimulus were too weak), sometimes it’s not ideological at all (the administration didn’t act boldly enough to remake a corrupt system).

Stewart’s interview, like The Daily Show itself, wasn’t a replacement for the work of the rest of the news media but a supplement to it. A comedian has certain advantages straight reporters don’t. He can call the President “Dude.” When Obama referred to Larry Summers as having done a “heckuva job,” directly recalling George W. Bush’s unfortunate praise of his FEMA head after Katrina, Stewart pounced, “Dude, you don’t want to use that phrase.” (Obama tried to recover with, “Pun intended.” Yeah, I don’t think so, and it wasn’t actually a pun.) And a comedian can laugh when Obama says, “Yes We Can, but…” a moment that probably encapsulated better than any gotcha question or editorial the disparity between the campaign promise and the administrative reality of the Presidency.

Exactly. Stewart can giggle in The One’s face; Jake Tapper, no matter how much he may want to, can’t. Who has the advantage in terms of producing interesting TV?

Rather than give you the full interview from last night, which is long enough that most people won’t have time to watch, here’s a telling clip from Verum Serum in which Obama hints at the inevitable expansion of ObamaCare. Stewart doesn’t call him on it, but then why should he? To his audience, expanding O-Care is the only sane option, and we already know what “sanity” is a code word for. Exit quotation from the Journal, summing up Obama’s calculus about health-care reform and the midterms: “You have to break a few careers to make a European entitlement state.”