Oh, come on. The guy bowed to him. How could he say no?

In the segment, shown on “Tonight” late Tuesday, Mr. Williams asked Mr. Obama whether he almost canceled his overseas trip this week “to stay and watch” Mr. O’Brien’s “first week as host of ‘The Tonight Show.’’’

Mr. Obama was fully game and, referring to Mr. O’Brien’s succession this week of the former “Tonight” host Jay Leno, joked, “This is something we discussed several times in the Oval Office, how to manage this transition between Leno and Conan. And I think he’s up to the task. But I just want him to know that there is not going to any bailout coming out from Washington if he screws it up.”

There was a time when such cross promotion between a network news division and its corporate entertainment sibling – during a presidential interview, no less — would have caused rebellion in the newsroom. It will be interesting to see what reaction, if any, there will be to this bit of stunt programming at NBC News.

Yes, let’s batten down the hatches for the outrageous outrage that’s sure to erupt from NBC News. If anything, Olbermann and Matthews will be angry that they weren’t included in the bit. What’s amazing about this isn’t that Obama’s willing to do it — it’s free publicity for him — but that Williams is willing to do it, especially given MSNBC’s notoriety for kissing The One’s ass in ways great and small. He had to know how bad this would look, and yet he followed through anyway. The heart wants what it wants, I guess.

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