Jon Stewart asks Obama: whose team are we on in the Middle East?

Published July 23rd, 2015 - 01:53 GMT

US President Barack Obama made a final appearance on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, Tuesday, joking with the outgoing host about his looming retirement and the messiness of the Middle East.

The politically savvy comic will host his final show Aug. 6, after a decade and a half in the job.

In 2010, Obama became the first sitting president to appear, and Tuesday marked his third appearance since entering the White House. Obama has been on the show seven times in total.

“I cannot believe you are leaving before me,” Obama said, joking that he would issue an executive order to stop Stewart from leaving.

“It’s being challenged in the courts,” he added, a wry reference to his repeated legal battles with Republican rivals.

“It’s a states’ rights issue,” Stewart joked.

Obama told Stewart that critics of his Iran deal think he should have sent former Vice President Dick Cheney to the negotiations with the Iranians. He said those critics think if only Cheney had been there, “everything would be fine.”

When Obama made a first pitch for his diplomacy with Iran, Stewart saw an opening, asking: “Whose team are we on in the Middle East?”

He then laid out the amalgam of alliances and enmities that criss-cross the region.

“That’s not quite right,” Obama joked, “but that’s okay.”

“Who are we bombing?” Stewart interrupted. Stewart pressed Obama on a number of government missteps that have attracted controversy, including the Veterans Affairs scandal and IRS targeting of some political groups.

Obama said he understands he will leave office without satisfying every one of his goals, but said the country is better off than it was when he took office. “If we lose sight of that,” Obama said, “then we’re feeding into this narrative that there’s nothing we can do.”

In Obama’s previous appearances, Stewart has challenged the president with hard-hitting questions about his drone policy, Benghazi and other issues. The White House has sought out Stewart’s show because of its vast audience and broad appeal to younger Americans.

The interview had an air of finality, coming just two weeks before Stewart signs off for the last time. For 16 years he has been at the helm of the show, roasting politicians and serving up a comedic take on the day’s news and political developments.

Stewart will be replaced on the show by Trevor Noah, a South African comedian who will take over Sept. 28.

During the Tuesday interview Obama returned repeatedly to the issue of Iran.

“This is an adversary,” Obama said of Iran. “They are anti-American, anti-Semitic. They sponsor terrorist organizations like Hezbollah.”

“Sounds like a good partner for peace,” Stewart replied sarcastically.

“Well, as has been said frequently, ‘you don’t make peace with your friends,’” Obama responded.

“The issue here is do we want them having a nuclear weapon? The answer is no.”

Obama urged citizens to engage with this debate by contacting their members of Congress.

“I really want people to pay attention to this issue,” he said. “If people are engaged eventually, the political system responds.”

“Is that the advice that you then bequeath to future President Trump?” Stewart shot back.

He then asked Obama for his take on the Republican presidential contender, who has made a series of controversial comments, ranging from criticism of Mexican immigrants to insults flung at Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

“I’m sure the Republicans are enjoying Mr. Trump’s dominance of their primary,” Obama joked.

“Anything that makes them look less crazy” said Stewart.

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