March 4th, 2008 by Rightsideup

So, Hillary Clinton was on the Daily Show last night. And John Stewart opened the interview as follows:

John Stewart: Senator, let me get right into this. This election is about judgment. Tomorrow is perhaps one of the most important days of your life. And yet you have chosen to spend the night before talking to me. As a host, I’m grateful, but as a citizen I’m frightened. Your response?

Hillary: It is pretty pathetic…

Now both John Stewart’s line and hers got a good response from the audience. But aren’t both actually pretty close to the truth? Shouldn’t we be worried that this is how a candidate chooses to spend the last few hours before a major election? And isn’t it a bit pathetic that she does? At least with Leno (and possibly Letterman) you get tossed softballs. But Stewart’s whole point, as Hillary pointed out, is to “make fun of” his guests (same goes for Stephen Colbert). Is there any way you can win in that situation? Is there any way you actually get something positive out of that experience that helps you in your campaign?

There was at least a certain cool factor to Bill playing his saxophone on the late night circuit. But what does Hillary get out of this? And it’s not Hillary alone – anyone without a great on-the-spot comic brain and good one-liners well prepared and well delivered is going to flounder and come out second best on a show like this. The deck is stacked against the guest and in favor of the host just as much as tables in Vegas or Atlantic City. It really does say something about the candidates’ judgment (and desperation) when they’re willing to do it anyway.