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Laughing not to cry - Tom Purcell

How is President Obama doing as he enters the second half of his first term?

Late-night comics know better than pundits. Let's start with some of their earlier jokes:

* Jay Leno -- "President Obama plans on training 10,000 new math and science teachers. How about teaching math to that economic team of his?"

* Jimmy Fallon -- "In an interview with Rolling Stone, President Obama said he has Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones on his iPod. Unfortunately, the question was, 'Do you have a plan to fix the economy?'"

* Fallon -- "A year into Obama's first term in office, unemployment is higher, the national debt is higher and there are more soldiers serving in Afghanistan. When asked about it, Obama was like, 'Well, technically that is change.'"

The 2010 elections worsened the comics' tone:

* David Letterman -- "Voters didn't like how President Obama was handling the economy. Wait a minute -- he was handling the economy?"

* Leno -- "President Obama will be laying out a new economic plan. Apparently, we had an old economic plan."

* Leno -- "(President Obama and President Bush) had a cordial conversation. President Bush said for the last 19 months, he's been relaxing and playing golf. President Obama said, 'You too?'"

Obama's government expansion and increased spending -- trillion-dollar deficits making us more dependent on the Chinese -- have the comics worried:

* Conan O'Brien -- "At the state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao, Hu opened a fortune cookie that said, 'You will lend us another trillion dollars.'"

* Leno -- "Obama and Hu had a private dinner the night before. When Obama tried to pick up the check, Hu said, 'Your money is no good here.' Obama laughed, and Hu said, 'No, really, your money is no good.'"

* Letterman -- "China's President Hu is visiting the United States. If he likes what he sees, he may put down a deposit."

With unemployment stalled at nearly 10 percent, comics are unimpressed with Obama's economic promises:

* O'Brien -- "President Obama met with the CEOs of top companies about creating more jobs for Americans. After the meeting, the CEOs went home to China."

* Fallon -- "China is expected to overtake the United States as the world's biggest economy in the next two years. Americans couldn't believe it. They were like, 'That hasn't happened already?'"

* Leno -- "Barack Obama's daughters are very smart. They told him they will take the same responsibility for their dog that he is taking for the economy. That way, if the dog leaves a mess in the White House, it'll be cleaned up by future generations."

There's a comics' consensus that Obama's chances for a second term aren't good:

* Craig Ferguson -- "President Obama is getting ready to leave Washington. Not leaving for good -- he'll do that in a couple years."

* Seth Meyers -- "President Obama's recent speech to a women's conference was interrupted when his presidential seal on the podium fell off -- two years early."

* Fallon -- "President Obama is going on a 10-day vacation to Martha's Vineyard in August. Obama was like, 'This is my longest vacation ever,' and voters were like, 'Wait'll you see the one we're planning for you!'"

If there is truth in humor, little about Obama's first two years as president is funny. One senses Obama sees little to laugh about, too:

* Leno -- "According to a new poll, 51 percent of Americans feel that their lives were better two years ago before President Obama took office. To which President Obama said, 'Join the club.'"

Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.