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Jay Leno becomes part of Barack Obama's bailout

The president will pull up a chair on the late-night talk show.

March 18, 2009|TINA DAUNT

Governing is turning out to be a lot harder than Barack Obama thought it would be, so he has turned to what everyone knows he's good at: barnstorm-style campaigning across the country to rally public support for his economic program and budget.

From a Hollywood perspective, the interesting thing about that is that one of the first stops on his national tour will be "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno." Since Bill Clinton's now famous saxophone set on Arsenio Hall's show, the talk shows have emerged as favored political venues, with Leno's NBC show the venue candidates prize most.

Leno's got the numbers and is a smart but sympathetic questioner.

In fact, he may be TV's only real master of good-natured humor when it comes to public affairs.

Obama's decision to go on Leno makes a kind of political sense, but some members of the media have questioned whether it's appropriate in these dire times.

"No sitting president has every appeared on any comedy show," noted U.S. News & World Report columnist Mary Kate Cary, a former speechwriter for the first President Bush. (She added that Bush went on "Saturday Night Live" only after he left office.)

"The president sets the tone of the conversation in America. As much as President Obama would like to be a man of the people, a 'regular guy,' he's not anymore. . . . Doing Jay Leno lessens the stature of the office."

But veteran Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman disagreed.

"The most provocative journalism of this whole recession has been done on a comedy show -- that fact is not lost on President Obama and his advisors," Bragman said. "When you look at the reasons for doing Leno you need to look at what President Obama gets and what he gets to avoid. What he gets is a great audience of 5 million-plus people -- nothing to sneeze at; he gets someone he already knows and is comfortable with; he gets a warm reception."

When a reporter asked Tuesday if Obama would be funny, a White House official replied: "As funny as the times allow."


Rebuilding, one iPod at a time

So you passed on the chance to help revive the music culture of the Gulf Coast by bidding on Clinton's personal red iPod. (Maybe you don't like Van Morrison -- or Bill Clinton.)

This week, you've got a chance to bid on iPods loaded with the personal favorites of Hilary Duff, Mandy Moore and Scarlett Johansson (no, Obama's BlackBerry address is not in Scarlett's device).

But she has some interesting tunes: Gnarls Barkley's "Going On," Panda Bear's "Bros," Pink Floyd's "A Pillow of Winds" and Depeche Mode's "Walking in My Shoes."

The proceeds benefit Music Rising, a group started by Bob Ezrin, Henry Juszkiewicz and U2's Edge to help rebuild the music community in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

The feel-good website is sponsoring the auction.

To bid: /musicrising/.


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