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Jon Stewart jokes, then criticizes

From NBC's Mark Murray
DENVER -- Chatting this morning with about two dozen political reporters here, comedian Jon Stewart cracked plenty of jokes.

On the reporters in the room: "It is very difficult to fake what you do."

On which candidate would be the better source of laughs for the next four to eight years: "Mr. T."

And on which candidate is funnier: "Neither," he answered. "You know who makes me laugh? Chris Rock. But I don't want him as president."

Yet not everything was a joking matter for Stewart, whose Daily Show is here covering the Democratic convention and will report on the GOP one in Minnesota next week.

In his roundtable with reporters, he criticized the way the presidential race has been covered, especially on 24-hour cable news. He said cable had dumbed-down politics, comparing it to gerbils racing on a wheel. He even drew upon the Steinbeck story "Of Mice and Men" to emphasize that point.

"'Hey, Lenny, why don't you be the leader?'"

For example, Stewart said the press has gone overboard asking if Obama is too arrogant (how can we know the answer to that? Stewart replied.) Or whether McCain is too old (McCain isn't Wilford Brimley, he observed).

Stewart even argued that if Franklin Roosevelt were running for president today, he'd be painted as an elitist and news analysts would ask: "Can he bowl?"

So which networks did he consider the worst? "They are all pretty bad," he said before citing FOX News as perhaps the best of the bunch because it knows what it is doing. "They are an appendage of the Republican Party," he added. "Barack Obama could cure cancer, and they would paint it as an economic disaster."

Stewart also talked about the presidential race and candidates. On whether comedians like found it difficult to make fun of Obama: "I think that there will be plenty of jokes to be had."

On joking about McCain's age: "It is already trite." He later said of the Arizona senator, "We are having to introduce him to 20-year-olds who are smoking out of apple bongs."

And on which candidate -- McCain or Obama -- would make the better president: "I think they would both be decent presidents," he said, arguing that both would govern in a "far less imperious" manner that George Bush has.