Late Night with Obama

Last night, Mr. Wired and I watched the President on Jay Leno. We had been wondering why on earth he would bother appearing on a purely entertainment show. Later, it hit me—I don’t normally watch Jay Leno (sometimes Nightline, more often the History Channel or NatGeo), and for that matter I don’t usually watch presidential broadcasts either. But this unlikely combination drew me into doing two things I don’t normally do. This is obviously a productive strategy for both Obama and Leno.

Obama did a pretty good job guesting—it would be interesting to know if he wrote his own material. And Leno had a really good serious question: should we be making federal tax policy by slapping a tax on anybody we suddenly don’t like? Obama didn’t exactly respond to it, but it was obvious this wasn’t the first time the issue had come up. My own feeling is that the hoopla about the AIG bonuses is populism on the cheap—a way of turning a substantive issue of public policy into an emotional safety valve for a lot of people angry at losing their jobs and going broke. It has been officially sanctioned by the media as something it’s okay to get angry about, that doesn’t require any serious thought. Fortunately it’s not likely to generate any real lynchings.

Jane Grey

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