In a rare move, President Obama will appear on the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" this Thursday as part of his larger tour through Southern California. The president seems to be pulling out all the stops to garner support for next year's federal budget. In addition to campaign-like talk show appearances, the Washington Post reports today that the administration also intends to use the extensive email list compiled over two years during Obama's presidential run to reach out to the grassroots.
According to the New York Times, the Leno appearance is unusual but not totally unprecedented:
Presidential candidates often appear on television shows when they're trying to get elected, but once successful, it is rare to find a commander in chief appearing on TV shows except as joke fodder. President Bush did show up on NBC's "Deal or No Deal" last year, but it was in a taped appearance in which he voiced support for a contestant who had served three tours of duty in Iraq.
As the Boston Globe notes, the Obama administration is fighting to quell public concern over the economy, which ranks far higher in public opinion polls than any other issue facing the nation. Writes the Globe:
Joined by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Obama will outline a package that includes lower fees for small-business lending and more guarantees for some Small Business Administration loans. It is the latest step by the White House to unfreeze credit so that businesses will expand and either add jobs, or at least not cut them.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corp. survey released this morning says that 63 percent of Americans believe the economy is the most important issue facing the country. No other issue makes double digits.
On Tuesday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs expounded on the reasons why the president has chosen to come on the show. Via Lynn Sweet:
While Obama will be doing two town halls in California--a state struggling with high unemployment and a state government funding crisis--Leno provides a "unique" audience, Gibbs said.
"We don't look at it as a process of demonstrating the president's sense of humor," Gibbs said, but rather a chance "to explain the economic situation we are in."