Jay Carney: The toughest interview Obama had in 2012 was with ... Jon Stewart

Via RCP, think of it. In an election year, by his press secretary’s own admission, the most hard-hitting interview of a sitting president of the United States was conducted by a guy whose show used to follow a show about puppets making crank calls. I wonder if Carney intended this as a giant middle finger to the White House press corps or it just ended up that way while he was focused on pushing his real agenda, namely, denying seasoned reporters more access to Obama. The White House is already spare with that, preferring to do sitdowns with Zach Galifianakis and “Pimp With a Limp” because those people can give them a pipeline to key constituencies in a way that, say, Jake Tapper or Sharyl Attkisson can’t. The more the White House can convince the public that comedians and entertainers are fair substitutes for real reporters, the more they can justify bypassing those reporters and sticking to comedians and entertainers — nearly all of whom, let’s face it, are Obama sympathizers.

But then, so are most of the “impartial” newsmen who’ve interviewed him so let’s not complain too much. Ask yourself: When was the last time you saw a professional journalist get something really interesting out of O during a conversation? Why wouldn’t Stewart, whose job requires him to follow the news closely every day, ask questions that are as challenging as the average reporter’s? To believe otherwise is to agree, implicitly, with the media’s pretense that what it does requires an exalted skill that’s beyond the layman’s grasp. Stewart, frankly, enjoys a freedom that most big-media reporters don’t — he can afford to irritate the White House with tough questions because he knows they covet his young audience and they’re naturally loath to antagonize a guy who gets paid to goof on people in power. (Mostly conservative people in power, but not always.) If you’re Joe Schmo from Reuters, embarrassing O in a tough interview might cost you or your agency your sources in the White House. If you’re Jon Stewart, you can relax knowing that Joe Biden or Michelle Obama or whoever will be back later this year to make the GOTV pitch to twentysomethings on your show. Same goes, say, for Spanish-language media — which is far deeper in the tank for Obama than Stewart is. As American media fragments, politicians will find they get more electoral bang for their buck in dealing with key niche providers than in dealing with mass media. This is one byproduct of that.