On Tuesday night, President Obama sat down for his final interview with Daily Show host Jon Stewart before the comedian steps down from his post on August 5. In the 30-minute broadcast, the pair touched on the president’s successes and shortcomings as well as what he still hopes to accomplish in the 18 remaining months of his term. As many news outlets predicted, the president also used the opportunity to convince Stewart’s audience of the merits of the recent nuclear deal with Iran.
Right at the outset, Obama warmed up the audience when he jokingly issued what could have been the most popular executive order among millennials ever: for Stewart to stay on as host. He remarked, “I can’t believe you’re leaving before me,” and the audience erupted in cheers. Stewart returned the favor when he hit Obama’s highlight reel, reminding the viewer how much the president had accomplished in office. The mutual respect between the two was evident, firmly planting viewers on the president’s side as the pair moved into current events.
Stewart has a knack for simplifying complex issues and framing them in a way that liberals can rally behind, making The Daily Show a perfect platform for Obama to talk about the Iran deal, an immensely complicated topic that perfectly embodies the confusion Americans feel about Middle Eastern affairs in general. Stewart captured this confusion well when he asked, “Whose team are we on in the Middle East? We’re fighting with Iraqis to defeat ISIS along with Iran, but in Yemen we’re fighting Iran with Iraqis and Saudis…who are we bombing?”
Obama seized on the opportunity to explain Iran his way, saying, “With this deal I can say that Iran will not be able to get a nuclear weapon. We’ve cut off the four major pathways for getting a nuclear weapon. We have mechanisms in place to makes sure that if they’re cheating, not only are we much more likely to catch them, but we can put those sanctions back in place.” His narrative was unpretentious and simple, exactly the kind of explanation Stewart’s audiences love. In response to those critics who feel Iran cannot be trusted, Obama had this to say: “You don’t have to make peace with your friends, right?”
When Stewart was not pressing President Obama on Iran, the pair jumped around to topics that included veterans’ affairs, the power of the media, and the goals the president has for the time he has left in the Oval Office. After speaking in Pittsburgh earlier that day at a Veterans of Foreign Wars conference, the president admitted that he had not achieved the gains for vets that he had promised at the beginning of his term. Obama also mentioned climate change as an area where more progress needed to be made. Despite his growing list of successes, the president’s plate is as full as ever.