Stewart kicks off the interview by showing two pictures from the debate, one of Michelle Obama look irritated and one of Michelle Obama smiling and going to the President for a hug — Stewart jokes that he’s not sure which debate picture is which and President Obama chuckles.
“Obviously, I had an off night,” says the President. “The presentation wasn’t the way it needed to be, but the issues haven’t changed. They didn’t change after the first debate and they didn’t change in the second debate. The stakes in this election are really big.”
“Governor Romney makes a good presentation, but the fundamentals of what he’s calling for are the same policies that got us into mess that we’ve been fighting against for the last four years. Trying to dig our way out of an economy that was good for a few folks at the top but wasn’t working for ordinary Americans,” President Obama continues. “After 31 months of consecutive job growth, we’ve seen 5.2 million jobs created, manufacturing’s starting to come back, the auto industry recovering, housing starting to rise again, I want to make sure we’re not going back to those policies and I want to make sure that over the next four years we’re building on the progress that we’ve already made to create jobs right here in America for folks and to make sure that middle-class families have some security.”
Stewart then poses a question about whether President Obama has a better positive argument for his re-election or a better negative argument against electing Governor Romney.
“I think I’ve got a strong case on both ends,” the President responds. “Four years ago, I said I’d end the war in Iraq, we did. Said I’d pass health care reforms, make sure people don’t go bankrupt when they get sick, we have. Said that we would refocus our attention on al-Qaeda, we have. Made sure that we saved an auto industry that was on the brink of collapse, we’ve done that. We’ve got a very strong story to tell whether it’s on social issues like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, or economic issues that matter for middle-class families.”
“I do think that part of the President’s job is not only moving forward on things that will work but also preventing things that won’t work,” he continues. “So you want a President in the Oval Office who’s gonna say no, we’re not going to amend our Constitution for the first time to restrict rights for gay and lesbian couples. We’re not gonna pass a budget where all the work that we’ve done to make college more affordable for young people gets wiped aside so that suddenly lends and banks are getting extra tens of billions of dollars. we’re not going to roll back health care so millions of people are thrown off the rolls. We’re not gonna turn Medicare into a voucher system.”
“But when you think about it, it is two sides of the same coin. The question is what kind of vision do you have for this country?” posits the President.
“The most important thing is when you think about the economy, I’m absolutely convinced when you look at the historical record, that when middle-class families do well, when there are ladders of opportunity for poor families to get into the middle class, the entire economy does well. And when a few folks are doing very well at the top and everybody else is getting squeezed, the economy grows slower. And that is the central issue in this election,” President Obama finishes.
The interview ran much longer than a typical “Daily Show” interview. Read about the second half of the interview here.