NEW YORK –
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's tete-a-tete with Stewart on the Comedy Central program was even more unlikely than the much-anticipated meeting between Musharraf, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Bush, planned for Wednesday.
As a gesture mirroring Pakistani hospitality, Stewart welcomed Musharraf with a cup of jasmine green tea, and offered the more American delicacy of a Twinkie. Musharraf chuckled and thanked the host, though Stewart promptly changed the subject.
"Where's Osama bin Laden?" he asked suddenly.
"I don't know," replied Musharraf. "You know where he is? You lead on, we'll follow you."
Musharraf's appearance on "The Daily Show," which was taped late Tuesday to air Tuesday evening, was the first time a sitting head of state appeared on the program, a show spokesman said. The comedy show, though, has frequently drawn major political figures, including former President Clinton last week.
The Pakistan president, who is on tour of the U.S., appeared on the program to promote his new memoir, "In the Line of Fire." The book has drawn headlines for, among other things, the Pakistan president's claim that after the Sept. 11 attacks he had no choice but to support the U.S. led war on terror groups or face an American "onslaught."
On balancing the wishes of the U.S. and Pakistan, which is largely anti-American, Musharraf told Stewart: "I've had to learn the art of tightrope-walking many times, and I think I've become quite an expert of that."
Stewart, himself, has also proven deft at balancing both humor and seriousness on "The Daily Show." At one point, he asked Musharraf if he had omitted any mention of the war in Iraq in his memoir because it has "gone so well."
Musharraf again laughed, but said: "It has led certainly to more extremism and terrorism around the world."
To conclude the interview, Stewart put Musharraf on the "Seat of Heat," a new feature for the program in which red lights flash around the studio and the guest is asked a final question.
"George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden — be truthful — who would win a popular vote in Pakistan?" asked Stewart.
"I think they'll both lose miserably," replied Musharraf, an answer met with raucous laughter by the "Daily Show" audience.