Obama on The View: From The Hard-Hitting Questions to Snookie

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U.S. President Barack Obama appears on the daytime TV talk show The View in New York City July 28, 2010. From left are Whoopi Goldberg, Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ENTERTAINMENT)

Barack Obama became the first sitting president to appear on a daytime talk show today when the pre-recorded interview with the ladies from The View aired. He has been on the show two previous times, but they were before he was elected. To make the interview more interesting, Barbara Walters came back for the first time since she had heart valve surgery earlier this year. She wasn’t the only one with hard-hitting questions, making the interview quite interesting.

Obama On Current Issues

Barbara Walters started off by asking Barack Obama to describe what his current “roses and thorns” were, an evening game that he and Michelle play with their daughters. When he described his current rose, he talked about a recent trip to Maine with his family. When asked about his thorns, he mentioned everything he has had to deal with since becoming president -- the economy, the oil spill, two wars, a pandemic and a whole host of other issues.

Walters pressed him further, to pick just one thorn. Obama said that the media picks what they want to be the big-ticket issue of any given time. But ...

I have to sign letters to parents of children who have been killed in Afghanistan or the husbands and wives of people who have been killed in battle. And that gives you a sense of perspective that is just different from what is going on on cable TV on any given day.

Perspective indeed.

On a Nation Divided

Elizabeth Hasselbeck then brought some hard-hitting questions about his campaign of hope and how we now find ourselves a nation that is very divided. Obama acknowledged that in the immediate aftermath of the election, the nation was filled with hope and unity. But we also had no idea how bad the economy would get.

As a consequence, the politics of the economic recovery, the steps we had to take to make sure that the banking system didn’t collapse, what we had to do for the auto industry so that didn’t collapse -- a lot of those became controversial. Unfortunately we live in a time when a lot of times people are thinking of the next election instead of the next generation. My hope is that I have tried to set a tone in the debate that says we can disagree without being disagreeable.

On Racism in America

Not ones to let the questions get too easy, too quickly, the ladies of The View then began a series of questions about the Shirley Sherrod case. The questions boiled down to one: “Do you think America is still racist?”

We are Americans. We share common hopes, we share common dreams, we share common aspirations, we are going through common struggles. I mean the fact of the matter is that everybody here is connected in some fashion. And our success and our children’s success is tied up together. I think most Americans feel that way.

But what is still true is that there is still a reptilian side of our brain. That part of our brain that if someone looks different or sounds different that there’s a part of us that is cautious. And what we have to do is fight against that, and that’s part of what Shirley Sherrod was trying to say in the speech if you actually read the whole speech. She was acknowledging, “I have my own biases based on my own experiences, but if I am able to look inward and reflect, I am able to get beyond my biases.” And that’s an exercise that all of us have to undergo day in, day out. It’s a constant struggle. There’s nobody in America that doesn’t have to at some point think about their own racial attitudes.

Expanding on that line of questions, Walters then asked President Obama why he didn’t call himself a black president. After making a joke about having written a whole book on the subject, he began to talk about his experience with racial identity.

Part of what I realized, if the world saw me as African American, then that wasn’t something I needed to run away from; that’s something I could go ahead and embrace. And the interesting thing about the African American experience in this country, we’re kind of a mongrel people. I mean, we’re all kind of mixed up. Now that’s actually true for white America too, but we just know more about it. I’m less interested in how we label ourselves. I’m more interested in how we treat each other. And if we’re treating each other right, then I can be African-American, I can be multiracial, I can be you name it. What matters is am I showing people respect.

On Unemployment

Hasselbeck then began a good rant about joblessness in the country, questioning why they kept talking about “saved jobs.” He mentioned a recent report that came out that included one of John McCain’s economists that stated had they not taken the steps that they had taken, millions more jobs would have been lost and we would be in the midst of a Great Depression. Elizabeth then interrupted him, questioning why they kept focusing on the “saved jobs.”

It makes a difference if your job was one of the ones who was saved. I’ll just give you a very specific example. The states got hammered as a consequence of this financial crisis. If we had not provided immediate assistance to the states, they would have had to lay off teachers, police officers, teachers, firefighters. This was not just a matter of the jobs for those people, it’s also the services that would have been lost, kids who would not have had teachers in the classroom.

On The War

When asked about the recent 59 billion dollars being used in Afghanistan and how 100 Democrats did not vote for the plan, Obama had some positive points.

From 2004 onward, Afghanistan was under-resourced, we took our eyes off the ball, we were distracted with Iraq. Now, here’s the good news. We are ending our combat operations in Iraq because of the incredible heroism of our troops and because of the Iraqi people, we are now in a position to end our combat operations. In Afghanistan, we still have a lot of work to do.

He went on to talk about how the uncontrolled borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan are making for a difficult fight to find the original perpetrators of 9/11. The plans include helping the people with their corrupt government and thinning out troops by July 2011.

On Pop Culture

Then things took a light-hearted turn as the ladies of The View asked a series of funny questions. President Obama admitted to knowing that Lindsay Lohan was in jail, declined to comment on recent Mel Gibson antics and got teased for not knowing about Snookie and her Jersey Shore crew. He does not tweet, but he does email on the sly with his Blackberry. His iPod contains songs from artists ranging from Jay-Z to Sinatra, but no Justin Bieber.

When asked if he was attending Chelsea Clinton’s upcoming wedding, he replied, “You don’t want two presidents at a wedding!” He then went on to say that he was not invited but did not view it as a slight. “I think that Hillary and Bill -- properly -- want to keep this as a thing for Chelsea and her soon-to-be husband.” Then he told the ladies of The View that they were most likely not invited to Malia and Sasha’s weddings. However, he assured us that boys are not yet on the scene for his daughters. It will be awhile yet.

On His Ratings

Whoopi then asked President Obama if he ever felt that he could “win” as president. He mentioned the changes to health care, allowing even those with pre-existing conditions to soon receive coverage. He mentioned changes to education, allowing more kids in the next ten years to attend college. And then he talked about how he views the hard times.

I feel very optimistic. I do think the reason is that I seem calm all the time, even if sometimes we’re going through some turbulence, is I try to take the long view. I try to say, if I wake up today and I know I’m doing a good job, somewhere down the road, that’s going to pay off. And people are going to be able to look back and say, “He made that decision based on what’s best for the country as opposed to short-term politics.” I think that’s the best way to govern.

I think that’s a good view whether you’re president or a mom or a wife or a friend. Don’t get bogged down with the current battles. Make decisions that will come together for ultimate good, even if that means a little hardship in the meantime. Oh? And ignore your approval ratings.

Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom), from Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land, is a freelance writer and newspaper photographer.


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