Obama laughter: ‘punch drunk’ or ‘gallows humor’

March 24, 2009

The Internet is abuzz over what to make of President Barack Obama’s laughter during a CBS “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday.


Interviewer Steve Kroft, as they discussed the ailing automobile industry, said to Obama: “You’re sitting here, and you’re — You are laughing about some of these problems.  Are people going to look at this and say, ‘I mean, he’s sitting there, just making jokes about money’.”

He went on to ask Obama how he explained his mood and laughter.  ”Are you punch drunk?” Kroft asked.

“No, no. There’s got to be a little gallows humor to get you through the day,” Obama said.

What do you make of Obama’s laughter?

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I thought his chuckle was completely appropriate and thought Steve Kroft’s reaction, particularly the “punch drunk” comment, strange. I didn’t think the President was making light of the problem but underscoring that if people are reluctant to bail out the banks they want to bail out the car companies even less. That people feel this way is a bit irrational as the car companies make a product that can be exported, provide jobs, and help the trade deficit.

Posted by Liz | Report as abusive

I am only concerned with what his actions are to aid the economy, immigration, etc. He can laugh all he wants…I laugh all day when I hear Limbuagh and the Right Wingers.

Posted by Robert Mills | Report as abusive

He does not have a mood congruent affect. It concerns me.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

I thought the headline meant he was hysterically laughing. The man is in complete control and he deserves to laugh for comic relief over what he was handed over by the Bush administration — we have all had to laugh to keep from crying when we found out the mess they truly made of this country.

Posted by Carolyn Rader | Report as abusive

O just leave him alone.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

I can’t imagine why Obama would see this as a humorous time. Am I the only one who sees the demonic spirit in his eyes? I mean, watch the video again. He honestly scares me. I fear for the future of this country every time I see his face.

Posted by Josalyn | Report as abusive

I’m a lot more interested in what he is doing rather then taking always taking somber tone like he is Moses from up high. You can do a lot of stupid things with a straight face.

Posted by wombat | Report as abusive

Since because kroft is not smiling, it doesnot mean president has to be serious.In such a economic mess, i am happy to see him laughing which encourages me, rathern than letting me worry. It shows his team’s strength behind him and the confidence to resolve the crisis.I want the president to crack all the tensions being built across the nation by republicans and would like to see and hear his optimism in all the possible way, which whole world deserves at this moment.

Posted by kathir | Report as abusive

The internet is abuzz? You mean the right wing of the internet?

This is so sicko, how people are trying to find ANYTHING about Obama to say “see I told you so!”. If anyone is whacko it’s Limbaugh. I agree with Florence… Get a Life! The man is an intelligent human with wonderful emotions. Gobama!


Posted by Frank Schwerin | Report as abusive

It’s clear from the interview that he is laughing at the insanity of the situation he is in. He is not laughing at anyone.

Who can blame him? Can anyone imagine inheriting a mess of this magnitude?

Thankfully he is out in public, making an effort to talk to and connect with America. This serves the important purpose of rallying the troops. It’s the team-building side, to go along with the policy side that he’s been hammering away at.

Maybe we all need to have some humor during trying times and remember that our laughs and humanity connect us all, and that we will get through this.

Posted by Uri | Report as abusive

Maybe it’s because he’s beginning to understand the full gravity of the job of President. The man is completely overwhelmed – too bad he doesn’t have any executive experience other than running an election campaign. Perhaps he’s starting to understand that he won’t get private sector support until people are confident that laws won’t change after the fact.

Posted by ian | Report as abusive

Exactly right Florence. Except he’s not laughing enough. A small laugh does not suit the situation. Falling off his chair, holding his sides, laughing like a crazy loon then walking off the set doing the duck dance – thats a bit closer to the mark

Posted by zytron | Report as abusive

Are you for real? He’s acting like a real human.

Posted by Jake | Report as abusive

The situation the president was describing when he laughed was laughable. There are so many perspectives from so many factions who are all violently opposed to any move the administration makes that might give someone something they think they don’t deserve or doesn’t give themselves something they think they deserve.

The interview was 20 minutes long and the so-called “liberal” media, among all the intelligent and thoughtful answers Obama gave, chose to pick up on a few seconds where the president laughed at, again, a laughable situation.

President Obama’s reaction was natural and sincere. He is a real human being. And he is going to fix the economy in spite of all the whining and crying and gnashing of teeth by his opposition. Asking if the president was “punch-drunk” was inappropriate and uncalled for.

Posted by Kathleen | Report as abusive

It was one of the MOST disrespectful questions I have ever heard come out of a reporter’s mouth.

The questions shouldn’t be what do we make of President Obama’s laughter.

The question is where does this man get off talking to the President of the United States like that? It was rude and totally inappropriate. Since when is there anything wrong with the president laughing? Get real.

Posted by Jeanne Tomlin | Report as abusive

Laughter is a way of dealing with stress.

Get used to it, laughter is probably the only sign of stress you will ever see from Barack Obama.

Stress is one of those things which is impossible to bottle up completely without eventually exploding.
The man is corked tighter than anyone I have ever seen before. Cut him some slack.

Posted by cyberbian | Report as abusive

He looks perfectly normal to me. What’s the big deal??

Posted by James | Report as abusive

I think he is beginning to realize that he is the joke that millions of Americans already knew he was.

He may be human but he is far from a President of the United States. He should stay at the White House and work out the problems the Democratic Party have created. His popularity is going down. And by November 2012 he will have a worse approval rating than George Bush. He is not my President.

Posted by BruceVB | Report as abusive

I am a psychologist, this is not inappropriate or mood incongruent affect as earlier posts suggest. It was a funny comment on the absurdity of the mess Bush and cronies left him, I am glad he has the perspective to see the bigger picture, gallows humor included.

Posted by BR | Report as abusive

The point is that we are no longer in a ressesion but have moved on and are now in a depression era.Obamas plan will only harm us even more as since he has been in office we have sunk ever deeper into debt and with his plan we will be in debt double as to what we are now within the decade or less so his plan is worhtless for helping the economy

Posted by Charles Queen | Report as abusive

Have you ever seen a child react when his mischief is discovered? He may laugh involuntarily when you’re getting close. Could Mr. Obama’s gallows humor betray a near discovery of his real plan for the economy, namely the destruction of its capitalistic basis?

Posted by Bert McBerty | Report as abusive

He’s laughing at Kroft’s comment that only 18% of people want to prop up GM. He knows he can’t let companies implode right now, so he’s got to keep all these balls in the air.

I think he is getting overtired, he’s working 7 days a week for pity sake. I’d rather have him working and good humored.

Go look at Cheney sometime. A little inappropriate overworked giggle doesn’t look so bad now, does it?

He should take a long weekend off soon.

Posted by rayclay | Report as abusive

To the person only concerned about Obama’s actions:Do you mean those actions like including thousands of “earmarks” in the stimulus package when he ran a campaign denouncing earmarks? Maybe that was what Obama was really so cheerful about.After all, politics is kind of a funny business…

he needs to be careful of the dangers of laise majeste – he may be undermining respect for himself and office

once elected the president has many of the powers of a monarch for four years – a leader who rules – as was the intention in the constitution

Posted by tim armstrong | Report as abusive

Gallows humor, obviously.

Posted by STS | Report as abusive

I’ve never so many racist people come together on any comments forum as i have on this article

one person said “he’s not my president”

wow, i wonder if the President’s skin color had anything to do in evoking that comment

Posted by truthseeker | Report as abusive

If you “don’t see nothing wrong with his reaction”–it means that you DO see something wrong (double negative).

Posted by Peggy | Report as abusive

Let’s put George back in the saddle and see how he would fare. The fact is he’d STILL be saying how good things were, as he did for the eight years he pulled the country down into the quagmire it is in currently.

The fact is, it is doubtful he’d have even allowed the reporter (a rather disrespctful wannabe “serious” journalist, btw) to have even asked the question as they would have all been pre-screened.

Barack inherited a big, long-cooking mess and it will take him and his folks a while to sort it all out. That he can strategize cleanimg up the mess with a pleasant optimistic outlook shows that he recognizes that people want their President to have a hopeful, can-do demeanor…better that than the continuous fear-mongering and “terrorists, terrorists, terrorist” chatter of the previous administration.

Posted by Dallas Guy | Report as abusive

I wish the news media would quit trying to create stories where there is no story. Most people watching 60 min did not see it as anything but a reaction to Steve Kroft. Of course there is an element i our society that loves created stories against Obama. I don’t believe the news media is partisan as much as it is opportunistic. Scandals in shallow puddles.

Posted by Galttom | Report as abusive

I would like everyone to read the last sentence of the comment posted by BruceVB about Obama: “He is not my president.” I suffered through eight years of Bush idiocy, but never did I say he was not my president. The plain fact is that the hard right is and has always been un-American. Underlying its depraved interpretation of the Constitution and Christianity is a weak-minded craving for authoritarianism, which, unfulfilled, makes wingnuts suffer like abandoned children. I pity them, but I do not regard their ravings as representative of thought.

Posted by qualowarm | Report as abusive

It’s a disturbing question. How dares he ask the President of the USA an utterly disrespectful question like this??!! I will never watch his program again, and I encourage all of you patriots to do the same: boycott Kroft !

Posted by gijo | Report as abusive

Apparently nobody remembers the fit of smarmy chuckles G. W. Bush used to get when he talked about dead marines in Iraq. I do. And I also don’t remember any reporter asking why the h*** he was laughing.

Posted by hani | Report as abusive

He may be human but he is far from a President of the United States. He should stay at the White House and work out the problems the Democratic Party have created. His popularity is going down. And by November 2012 he will have a worse approval rating than George Bush. He is not my President.

- Posted by BruceVB

“Problems that Democratic Party created”? Bruce where have you been for eight years? Sure both parties had a hand in putting us where we are but the leadership, if that’s what you want to call it, has been from the Republicans.
For eight years those of us opposed to Bush, not necessarily Republicans but Bush, watched the country head down a path that we did not agree with. I may have wanted Bush impeached, I may have wanted Cheney arrested, I may have wanted Gonzales and Rumsfeld flogged on the Mall in front of the Capitol but never did I disavow my loyalty to the country by claiming that W was not my President. For years we lived with a President who believed “if you’re not with us then you’re against us” and I was against a lot of what Bush did but those of us opposed to him did what people in a democracy do. We nominated who we felt could change things both in Congress and in the 08 Presidential election and we won. If you are that upset with the way things are going then leave, I’ll but you a ticket. Where do you want to go? I guessing you don’t want to go to Socialist Europe, Canada or Latin America. You’ll want to go somewhere with religious freedom so that rules out a lot of places right there like the Middle East and some of Asia. Of course you want some place with all the comforts of the US, I think what you’re left with is Australia, so get your visa, book the flight, pack you bags and I’ll pay for the ticket to get you the hell out of here.

Posted by Eric H | Report as abusive

Nobody remembers it ’cause it never happened, Hani. What you’re thinking of is when a network ran the list of those killed in Panama over a presidential press conference while reporters were asking unrelated subjects on another matter, without the president’s knowledge. And they did ask, which is why you remember — albeit you remember it wrong, as many people misremember history. I understand. In the age of Obama we can laugh at the disabled, the economically depressed, the jobless, and it’s all a big joke. It’s a gaffee. He’s a rookie — and he’s certainly not a war hero like George H. W. Bush, but that only means something when Democrats run a veteran, even one that lied about his record or had a body guard during the war.

Posted by Chico | Report as abusive

Dont be angry of a joke he heard and tried to pass it on to you, actually it is funny, and for people to act all high and mighty and say heyy!! i have never made a loose joke about anything that was serious. you are kidding only yourselves. he has pressure but he gets the situation he is in. Its obvious the court appointed president (bush) should have been chastized for his incompetence. do you remember the world summits he attended, Of course you dont. the world leaders would laugh at him when he tried to sound like he knew something.check out the videos if you dont believe me. Putin of russia pretty much told bush he was a moron to his face and GWya didnt even recognize he was slapped with the russian glove.Obama is a smart man. and i dont agree with the bailout, if they rally want to make this country more safe.. break up all these massive corporations that have destroyed our economy. example exxon/mobil (monopoly)how can u be the producer and seller of your goods and not charge whatever you want for fuel.remember in the old days a fuel called petro white.. people it was unleaded.. soo when they went from leaded gas back to unleaded they charged you more for removing an ingrediant they had to put in.and leaded gas was only there to stop engine knock before the invention of hardened valve seats. food for thought!!

Posted by mike | Report as abusive

I’m gonna have to take both sides here.

There’s nothing wrong with a little gallows humor, as a firefighter, I once found myself laughing at a ‘no smoking’ sign on a rack of propane tanks in a burning building. Sometimes all you can do is laugh, and I give a ton of credit to our president for admitting that.

On the other side of this debate, Kroft did nothing wrong in asking Obama what he did. He’s a reporter, and it is his job to ask the tough questions that some Americans may be wondering. Contrary to popular belief, Obama is not a god, and the president is just as accountable as any other man. I think Robert Frost proved that.

If you really want a nation where reporters must walk on eggshells around your leader as not to offend them, I hear there is some prime real estate available in North Korea…

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive

You guys must be racist!

How can you question his good intentions? Obama is a man of such great integrity and intellect.

He just exudes great confidence and will bring the world to the promise land.

xoxoxo Obama forever!

Posted by DivadVox | Report as abusive

Its gallows humor relax ladies. You know, laughing about disturbing stuff. Like for example being able to laugh about the Bush era. Or the fact that the president of Sudan has an international arrest warrant for crimes against humanity, Bush and the Zionists in Israel do not and probably never will. Guess the president of Sudan should have made better friends or got in bed with more influential international corporations.

Posted by Chris | Report as abusive

Too bad tough questions were not asked of Dick Cheney…

Posted by Estel Cooper | Report as abusive

As a cop in the 90′s I responded to a plane crash where a bunch of people got killed. Later several of the first responders gathered together and a joke was told where we laughed. I nosey media person heard the laughter and believed we were laughing about the crash. He was wrong. Sometimes in the face of extreme adversity you either have to laugh or blow your fing brains out. Give OUR president a little slack.

Posted by Jeff Rowland | Report as abusive

Why don’t you watch this clip, Chico and anyone else who worships at the altar of G. W. Bush and the neo-cons.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4 722740n%3fsource=search_video

The reporter realizes he is discussing grave matters and composes himself approriately. I wonder why he doesn’t ask G. W. Bush whats so funny about putting US troops in harms way.

And btw Chico, please save your innuendos, because they might just turn back on you.

Posted by hani | Report as abusive

For all you people out there who are in the tank for this sorry excuse for a sitting President. You do not know when you have been conned. This guy is neither an intellect or a moral man. He is a Marxist. I know because I was one once myself but thank God I grew up.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive

you libs are idiots!!!!!! the country started having a huge down turn not eight years ago but when the democrats took over congress just over 2 years ago. face facts…a country can’t function under liberal policies, at least it can’t if you want a prosperous country. get the dems out and the conservatives back in and this country will be back to economic greatness again. democratic policies destroy ambition and tell people we the government will support you. we will just get the money from the people who work hard and we’ll give it to those that are too lazy to work. do your research people. check out how great the economy was before the dems controlled congress (they were elected in nov. 2006) and how far and fast it went down hill after they came in. but, of course most of you don’t do the research because you are all liberal drones for the democrats running…i mean destroying this great country. 2 more years of this bacause there is no way the dems will keep control after the next congressional elections and obama will be out in 4.

Posted by I HATE LIBERALS!!! | Report as abusive

obama has wonderful support from his followers and divad vox like many, are automatically suggesting wonderful results in the next 4 years.the policies obama is proposing will certainly produce some sort of results,but i think that they are potential disasters ahead.there is real concern as people realize spending vast amounts of money might make matters worse.building peoples expectations is not wise and as history has shown, people change quickly when things don,t work out as planned.i hope for all our sakes that this depression will be short lived,but all our prosperity has proven not to be guaranteed as a lot has evaporated,i think we could be in real trouble.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

I have criticized the President on many occasions of late, but in this instance the man was being sincere and was frustrated obviously. We had our body language expert go over the video frame by frame, and the results were fairly interesting.

President Obama is not the problem, the expectations and limitations put on him are immense. Here is an article we did about this incident.

http://www.pamil-visions.net/obama-body- language/

Phil Butler

I also understand him totally. He is the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. With the support of an uncritical press, he became president of a nation despite any real proof of being qualified. The only thing he has accomplished in his less than 100 days in office is his attempt to spend more than all the previous presidents combined. He only cares about popularity and power. He may characterize his laughter as “gallows humor”, but this is only more evidence that we still don’t know which face he will show us next. His campaign and election began with doom and gloom with a sudden shift to irrational optimism. So the laughter is not really even newsworthy as nastassja08 says.

Posted by Stephen | Report as abusive

i see you have taken bush out of the closet again,eric h,yet you only mentioned him 5 times.perhaps the therapy is working.we need therapy in, ca property tax is due and they are demanding we pay,yet the back taxes that are due to us they say they have no money.incidentally the 95%of americans tax rebate obama promised in the campaign vaporized as well,so we cannot depend on that.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

I know I’m late… but PLEASE… the RACE CARD… those who play it betray their own racism as they project it onto others.

As I wrote to Eric Holder, I don’t give a flying fart what color any of the players are in DC!

One must remember that many colors put President Obama in office. Undoubtedly his plummeting approval rating (Dec. 09) includes some of those folks, now disenchanted, and they’re not all non-black citizens.

I deeply wish that I could deeply regret not voting for Barack Obama.

I deeply wish that the many African Americans who stood in line with me on voting day had cast an informed, non-racist vote.

I deeply wish that my two daughters (and they were not alone) had been informed voters and had cast a vote with more purpose than to claim credit for putting the first black American into the Presidency.

I sincerely believed that I’d live to see the day when a black/African American was my President. I predicted that s/he would be a conservative, much like Ronald Reagan, and I would gladly vote for her/him.

When Barack Obama won, I realized that my beloved country had turned a corner: a die-hard anti-America socialist had charmed and wooed his way into office (of course with the help of mainstream media).

Posted by SpiritOfSarah | Report as abusive