HE’S NOT ‘PUNCH DRUNK’…. For a while, the lead story from Politico last night was the idea that President Obama chuckled a little too much during his interview with Steve Kroft on “60 Minutes.” The headline on the piece read, “Kroft to Obama: Are you punch-drunk?

“You’re sitting here. And you’re — you are laughing. 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–‘ How do you deal with– I mean: explain…” Kroft asked at one point.

“Are you punch-drunk?” Kroft said.

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

When Politico started promoting the piece at 7:04 p.m., I hadn’t seen the interview. Reading the headline and these paragraphs, I started wondering if the president had somehow laughed inappropriately at economic suffering. I imagined extensive discussion of “Laugh-Gate” on “Morning Joe” today. Drudge, naturally, ran with this, and far-right blogs pounced.

But then I saw the interview and realized the Politico‘s piece didn’t exactly capture the context.

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For most of the interview, Obama is dead serious. Occasionally, he’d chuckle at some absurdity — hardly an unusual reaction for, you know, humans — but for the most part, the president was hardly jocular.

About half-way through, Kroft brings up aid to the auto industry, and public opposition to additional government investment. The two share a laugh at the one-sided polling numbers, which led to Kroft’s question about “laughing.” As Steve M. explained, “[I]t’s obvious — the chuckling is mutual as they agree about the extraordinary unpopularity of bailing out the auto industry.”

When you see reports today about the president laughing at economic hardship, keep this in mind.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.