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President Obama tells Jon Stewart about first debate: 'Obviously, I had an off-night'

Comedy Central

President Barack Obama and Jon Stewart.

After weeks of listening to Jon Stewart cheer, cajole, criticize, and generally fuss over the state of his campaign, President Barack Obama showed up to “The Daily Show” on Thursday and got the chance to speak for himself in person rather than through cable news soundbites.

The president and Stewart talked about issues domestic and foreign, with jokes mixed into the generally serious conversation. But Stewart started by asking what he’s asked on the air since the day it happened ... what went wrong for Obama during that first debate?

“Sometimes I’ll go onstage and have an open-faced turkey sandwich and a shot of NyQuil, and halfway through I’ll look up and say 'Are we on?'" Stewart said, offering his own excuse for the occasional sub-par night.

But Obama wasn’t blaming his diet or big pharma.

“Obviously I had an off night. The presentation wasn’t what it needed to be,” he said. “But the issues haven’t changed -- the stakes of 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 this mess, that we've been fighting against for the past four years, trying to dig our way out of.”

Obama stressed the accomplishments of his first term, such as ending the war in Iraq, health care reform, bailing out the auto industry, and aggressively fighting al-Qaeda. He placed some of the blame on the Republicans for not being able to do more.

“We could be growing even faster than we have if Governor Romney’s allies in Congress would move on some of the things we’ve recommended.”

“We ended the war in Iraq. We’re ending the war in Afghanistan. We’ve gone after al-Qaeda and its leadership. It’s true that al-Qaeda is still active, at least sort of remnants of it are staging in other parts of North Africa and the Middle East. Sometimes you’ve got to make some tough calls, but you can do so in a way that’s consistent with international law and with American law,” Obama said.

Stewart also asked about the recent attack in Libya that killed the American ambassador, and Romney’s assertion that the White House came back with a confusing response.

“We weren’t confused about the fact that four Americans had been killed. I wasn’t confused about the fact that we needed to ramp up diplomatic security around the world right after it happened. I wasn’t confused about the fact that we had to investigate exactly what happened so it gets fixed. And I wasn’t confused about the fact that we’re going to hunt down whoever did it and bring them to justice,” Obama said.

“What I have always tried to do is make sure we get all the facts, figure out what went wrong, and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We’re still in that process now. Every piece of information that we get, as we got it we laid it out to the American people. The picture eventually gets fully filled in and we know exactly what happened, and then we know how to make sure we prevent it in the future,” he added.

Not surprisingly, the President treated the interview like a stump speech, and he closed with a plea for people to go to the polls.

"Here’s what I’ll say to everybody who’s watching -- the stakes on this could not be bigger. War, peace, the Supreme Court, a woman’s right to choose, whether we’re creating jobs in this country or whether they’re getting shipped overseas, whether our kids are getting the best education they can. All that stuff is at stake. There is no excuse not to vote.

Of course, there was some humor mixed in with the political discourse.

Stewart expressed concerns about the president’s plan to ask the rich to pay more taxes to help lower the deficit.

“Wait, this is the first I’m hearing about this. What is this about billionaires? What are you doing to us?” Stewart said. Clearly, being the host of “The Daily Show” pays well.

For his final question, Stewart noted that the interview had taken somewhere around 14 minutes. How many e-mails, Stewart asked, had the Obama campaign sent him during that time?

“It depends on whether you’ve maxed out,” Obama said.

Come on, Jon! If you’re a billionaire, what are a few thousand bucks among friends?

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