By Dan Froomkin
9:34 AM ET, 02/ 2/2009
In a sometimes serious but mostly lighthearted pre-Super Bowl interview with NBC's Matt Lauer yesterday (above), President Obama -- looking boyish and relaxed in an open-necked shirt and no jacket -- vowed that a "substantial" number of American troops will have come home from Iraq within a year, joked about his new BlackBerry ("It's like Inspector Gadget, if you touched it, it might blow up... It turns into a car, if I have to make a quick getaway") and correctly predicted the results of the big game ("I think the Steelers are gonna eke it out in a close one.")
Here's the transcript.
Lauer extended the president an opportunity to indulge in Bush-style fear tactics, but Obama gently declined:
Lauer: "There are millions, tens of millions of people watching this broadcast right now, Mr. President. If they were to have access to the same information you have now on a daily basis, how much less sleep would we all be getting?"
Obama: "Here’s what I think is important for everybody to understand. We’ve got real threats. And we have to remain vigilant. But the quality of our armed forces has never been better. When you meet the people who are charged with keeping America safe, it gives you enormous confidence. They are on the case day in and day out with extraordinary profess — professionalism. But there is no doubt that — we have to make sure that we don’t let up because there are people who would be willing to do us harm."
Obama described what he called "sobering moments" such as "having to sign letters for troops... who have died and — and sending letters to their family, where you realize every decision you make counts. And, you know, you don’t have time to — you — you don’t have time to spend a lot of time on inconsequential stuff. You’ve gotta focus on, at this point, putting people back to work but also reminding yourself that you’ve got hundreds of thousands of people — around the world who are putting themselves in harm’s way and you are the commander-in-chief."
Asked how important it is to gain some Republican support for his economic stimulus package, Obama replied: "Well, look, the — the important thing is getting the thing passed. And — I’ve done extraordinary outreach I think to Republicans because they had some good ideas. And I wanna make sure that those ideas are incorporated. I am confident that by the time we actually have the final package on the floor that we are gonna see substantial support."
On being shown how he was cut out of a photo of his family on the cover of US Weekly, Obama replied: "It's a little hurtful." When Lauer pointed out it was in favor of a photo of Jessica Simpson, Obama wryly took note of the headline above the picture, adding, "who's losing a weight battle, apparently."
Obama also spoke warmly of his mother-in-law -- and of being able to spend more time with his family: "At the end of the day, yeah, I can come home, even if I’ve got more work to do, I can have dinner with them. I can help them with their homework. I can tuck them in. If I’ve gotta go back to the office, I can. But — I’m seeing them now more than anytime in the last two years."