Barbara Walters conducted an interview with Barack and Michelle Obama on ABC the night before Thanksgiving, and, once again, I gave thanks that we finally have a president who can string a noun, a verb and several adjectives together without making a fool of himself.
Barbara elicited the comment from Obama that, “On January 20th, we come out of the gates full force, but we have to make sure that we don’t see any further weakening.” Obama continued, saying, “One of the things that happened during this campaign is that you saw the American people grab hold of this democracy and say, ‘We want a democracy that works for us.'” If Barack would only have credited this line to the man who made it his rallying cry during his “sleepless summer” campaign, (Dr.) Howard Dean, former Governor of Vermont, who urged many of us, that summer and afterwards, as Chairman of the DNC, to “take our country back.”
Obama commented, in response to questions about the auto industry bailout that they need to come to Washington, D.C. with a plan (“What we need is a plan from the automakers where it is a bridge to somewhere, not a bridge to nowhere. They’ve gotta’ get their act together.”) Much has been made of the Big Three automakers coming to D.C. unprepared to present a structure plan before asking for a bailout and flying in 3 separate private jets. Said Obama of this faux pas: “Maybe they’re a little tone deaf to what is happening in America right now. This has been a problem for captains of industry, generally. When people are pulling down $100 million dollar bonuses on Wall Street, they are out of touch.” Obama urged “a return to an ethic of responsibility” and said that these captains of industry should forgo their bonuses, this Christmas season. (“If you are already worth tens of millions, the least you can do is forgo your bonuses and realize that there are people going through some pretty tough times.”)
While repeating that he was “going to scrutinize the way that money is spent very carefully,” Obama did offer some help to Main Street, rather than just Wall Street, noting the large numbers of people who want to pay their mortgage but just can’t. He reiterated that he planned to “cut taxes for 95% of working families and, in order to restore some balance, make sure that people like you and me, Barbara, pay a little bit more. There’s a question as to whether we do it through actual repeal or just let the (Bush) tax cuts lapse.”
When asked about sacrificing for one’s country, Obama said, “The first thing is to draw on that reservoir of confidence and persistence and stick-to-it-iveness and not be wasteful when it comes to energy.” He said he would be evaluating the use of energy in his new home, the White House.
When asked about concern(s) for his safety, Obama replied, “I have a deep religious faith and a deep faith in people that carries me through the day. My just is to just get through the day and I can’t worry about that.” He also commented on the difficulty of breaking through the isolation that surrounds the office of the president. (Presidents are not supposed to use blackberries or personal e-mail.)
Walters asked about Obama’s attempts to quit smoking and he responded, “I’ve said that there have been a couple of times that I fell off the wagon during the campaign but part of this role that goes with being president is that…not that you’re perfect…but that you’re setting a good example.” He then went on to say that he tries to live healthy and that the tennis court within the White House might double as a basketball court and “there’s one at Camp David.” It has long been known that Obama likes to loosen up with an impromptu game of basketball.
When Walters asked if Obama’s mother or grandmother would have been surprised to see him become President of the United States, he smiled broadly and noted that his grandmother, who recently died in Hawaii, was able to vote for him for president. He said, “I have to say that my grandmother never would have imagined it. My mother…she wouldn’t be that surprised because her son and daughter, whatever they want to do, they can do. I think she’d be proud of how we did it. That, I think, would please her quite a bit.”
When asked about his early career ambitions, which include an early essay wherein he said he wanted to be president some day, Obama named architect, basketball player and judge as three early desires.
Michelle Obama joined Barack for the final portion of the interview and commented on how even-tempered and hard to rattle he is. Both agreed that, if they argue, she has the last word, and Obama used the phrase, “When Momma’s happy, everybody’s happy.”
When asked about how she views her role as the nation’s first black First Lady, she said she did not view it as a burden but, rather, “I look forward to it. I’m excited about it.”
The Inauguration party was discussed and Barbara Walters commented that, once again, as in Grant Park, Obama has vetoed fireworks. He said, “I want to rebuild that sense that we’re in this together…that we rise or fall together. If that can be accomplished, then I will have succeeded.”
What are their Thanksgiving Day plans? “We are going to have at least 60 people at our house, like we do every Thanksgiving. You walk down the street and you’ll run into a Robinson or a Shields. Fortunately,” commented Obama,. “I love them. They’re all wonderful people. We do a kind of potluck.” This year, said Michelle, “I’m giving the house. This is the one year I should have an ‘out’.”
In closing, Obama said, “I want to remind people that, as tough as times are right now…and they’re a lot tougher for others…that we have been through tough times before and the extensive blessings of being an American, of having a government that eventually responds to the people, of having a nation that has a tradition of pulling together. A nation where someone like myself or Michelle has a shot…that is the greatest of gifts. Here’s what I hope. I hope a year from now people will say, ‘We’ve been through the worst of it. The economy is starting to rebound and pick up. (I hope) that businesses are beginning to come back. That people will get a sense that they’re (the Obamas) fighting for us. If we can rebuild that sense of trust in our institutions, I will feel that we have succeeded.”