Patrick rolls with the punches on ‘Daily Show’

By Michael Levenson
Globe Staff / April 13, 2011

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Governor Deval Patrick endured some friendly ribbing about the state’s health care law and his political future from Jon Stewart on “The Daily Show’’ last night.

But Patrick mostly stuck to script and let Stewart make the jokes.

Poking fun at the governor’s declaration that he is guided by conviction and idealism, Stewart said, “This politics of conviction, this idealism, have you ever thought of giving those up to run for national office?’’

“I’m not running for anything else,’’ Patrick said, laughing. “But I haven’t given up those ideals and those values for any job.’’

“I look forward to the system corrupting you,’’ Stewart quipped.

“Not gonna happen,’’ Patrick shot back in his eight-minute spot on the show, which he flew to New York to tape.

Patrick’s appearance was part of a flurry of national media appearances he is making over the next two weeks to sell his memoir, “A Reason To Believe.’’

Yesterday, he also appeared on NPR’s “Morning Edition,’’ CNN’s “In the Arena’’ with Eliot Spitzer, and MSNBC’s “The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell.’’

Almost universally, he was introduced to a national audience as a friend of President Obama, and was questioned about the Massachusetts health care law, which has emerged as a major vulnerability for the governor’s Republican predecessor, Mitt Romney, as he gears up for a second run for president.

Patrick, who is preparing to act as a spokesman for Obama’s reelection campaign, called the law “a huge success,’’ and praised Romney for working with Democrats to pass the measure five years ago yesterday.

Sparking applause on “The Daily Show,’’ he boasted that 98 percent of the state’s residents are now covered by health insurance, more than any other state.

Stewart joked that the law must amount to socialism. “Are you a Russian? Were you born in this country?’’ he asked.

“I’m a capitalist,’’ Patrick said. “I’m not a market fundamentalist, though.’’

Patrick also bragged that he has balanced the budget while increasing investments in education and health care.

That prompted Stewart to joke: “I just got dizzy. What did you say? Did you do that by breaking up the unions and firing some teachers?’’

Stewart also mocked Patrick’s slim, 227-page memoir. “Will it get bigger when it gets older?’’ he asked, holding up a copy of the book.

Patrick laughed, and later told the audience, “On sale today, everyone!’’

On CNN, Patrick delved, gingerly, into controversies he typically avoids at home. Pressed by Spitzer, he said “there might be’’ a racist element to the so-called birther movement that denies Obama was born in the United States.

“There is something kind of perverse about the notion of calling into question his background because he has had the experience of living in the world,’’ the governor said.

“There are people who are organizing around their anger rather than around particular issues,’’ Patrick added. “Anger and fear . . . [are] being used by the national Republican Party today.’’

Patrick also defended Obama against criticism from liberals who have said the president’s foreign policies — in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay — as well as Obama’s tax policies too often continue those of President George W. Bush.

Praising Obama as a “once-in-a generation’’ leader, Patrick declined to blame the president for losing liberal support. Instead, he said Obama’s staff could be “less timid.’’

Today, the governor flies to Washington, D.C., for an interview with Tavis Smiley on PBS, an appearance at the National Press Club, and a stop at a healthcare forum hosted by the left-leaning Center for American Progress.

Michael Levenson can be reached at