Friday, November 26, 2010

Obama 'extraordinarily proud' of health care reform

Obama 'extraordinarily proud' of health care reform

November 26, 2010 02:32 PM EST

President Barack Obama, in a wide-ranging, reflective interview with Barbara Walters, staunchly defends his controversial policies — including sweeping health care reforms and the massive economic stimulus package — as bold but necessary steps to help transform an economy that was at the brink of collapse to one that is "growing."

"The notion that somehow you can only do one thing at once is simply not true," Obama tells Walters in the interview, scheduled to air on ABC Friday evening. "The fact is, that we stabilized the financial system...we turned an economy that was contracting to one that was growing. We have added a million jobs over the last year to the economy."

And despite the intense criticism and political costs, the president says the health care overhaul will be "a lasting legacy that I am extraordinarily proud of."

In the interview, which covers an array of topics from North Korea, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the 2010 midterm elections and family life inside the White House, Obama weighs in on traveler outrage over the Transportation Security Administration's new enhanced airport screening procedures.

Obama says the system — in which passengers must pass through bomb-detection scanners that penetrate clothing or undergo aggressive pat-downs that some compare to molestation — is "gonna be something that evolves."

"We are gonna have to work on it," the president says. "I understand people's frustrations with it, but I also know that if there was an explosion in the air that killed a couple of hundred people ... and it turned out that we could have prevented it possibly ... that would be something that would be pretty upsetting to most of us — including me."

The president appears in the interview with first lady Michelle Obama, who revealed to Walters that she told her husband to "get to work" after the so-called shellacking Republicans doled out to Democrats during the midterm elections.

"I said, 'Let's, let's get to work. There is a lot to do.' ... I think for, for us, it's always the focus on what we need to get done, the work ahead," the first lady says in the interview, taped on Tuesday at the White House.

But Obama said the advice from his wife came after election night — because the first lady had gone to sleep before all the results had come in.

"She goes to sleep early," he acknowledged.

"I go to bed early," the first lady said with a laugh. " I can't stay awake for the returns... I gotta get up, work out. I was gonna be whatever it was gonna be the next day. So I did, I did go to sleep."

But Michelle Obama said she thinks her husband has done "an outstanding job" guiding the nation.

Still, she conceded, "It's a tough time. My understanding is that, No. 1, every president in history has lost Congress at the midterms. Maybe that's overstating it, but it's happened for every president in my lifetime. It's the norm."

The Obamas say their children have heard criticism of their father, especially during discussions on current events in daughter Malia's classroom.

"There are issues of the day that come across the conversation. But I have to say that the school is very good about handling it. ...People are very considerate," the first lady said. "But [Malia] said, 'You know, Dad, no disrespect, but ... that's what you do.' And she said, 'That doesn't have anything to do with me.' She separates [it] out."

Still, the Obamas that their daughters don't watch cable news.
"If they have got an option of watching the news or watching SpongeBob, I think it's pretty clear the choice that they are gonna make," the president said.

They also say the daughters live relatively normal lives at the White House, admitting that youngest daughter Sasha, age 7, still writes letters to Santa and waits for the tooth fairy when she loses a tooth.

The president said he enjoys spending time with his daughters to help him relax.
"When you're stressed, they are just — they're funny, they're smart, they're happy," Obama said. "...The most important things for me over the last two years, in terms of stress reduction, is the fact that if I'm here in Washington, I'm having dinner at 6:30, just about every night and sitting around that table, listening to them, and trying to answer their questions, that keeps my bearings."

The Obamas, who have not joined a chuch in Washington, told Walters that their family says grace together before dinner.

"It's interesting listening to the girls, what they pray for," the president said. "They'll talk about family and thanking God for blessing us, but they'll always add a little twist: 'I hope we have a great Thanksgiving, I can't wait to see the cousins.' They used to pray for a dog, until we got a dog."

The first lady added, "But in the end, we always say, 'We hope we live long and strong."