Why is our 44th president so happy? Probably because he got the chance to discuss everything from the recent violence in Libya to the tasty, honey-based beer the White House has been brewing on David Letterman’s Late Show tonight.
We’ll update with video from CBS once clips beyond this one are available. In the meantime, here’s an abridged list of highlights from Obama’s second trip to Letterman’s studio:
Letterman hit the ground running by complimenting Obama’s looks, then immediately asking how much he weighed as soon as POTUS had taken his seat. (For the record: Around 180.) That led to this exchange:
Obama, complimenting Letterman in return: “You look sharp.”
Letterman: “You haven’t seen me naked.”
Obama: “We’re gonna keep it that way.”
And then Letterman facetiously asked if Obama wanted to “say something to the empty chair” sitting next to him. Bruce Vilanch himself couldn’t have scripted it better.
On the First Lady
Obama cited the DNC as yet another occasion for people to realize “how much better Michelle is than me.” He also needed a minute to think when Dave asked when he’d be celebrating his upcoming 20th wedding anniversary — but only because the president was having trouble remembering today’s date.
On Sasha and Malia
Yes, they’re growing up, which worries Obama. Then again, “they’re surrounded by men with guns.” The girls also took time before their dad’s DNC speech to explain how his big moment was, like, totally the same as a climactic scene from the Hannah Montana movie. Somewhere, Miley Cyrus is grinning even bigger than usual.
On the national debt
And then came an actual discussion of policy. Obama explained how he hopes to reduce the national debt by cutting government programs that aren’t working and by asking the wealthy to give back a little more: “If you and I are paying the same tax rates we were under Bill Clinton,” the president told Letterman, “that helps.” He believes this approach should make sense to the majority of citizens: “The American people are a lot more thoughtful, decent, and full of common sense than we’ve seen out of Washington over the last several years,” Obama declared.
On who to blame for our nation’s issues
Letterman jokingly suggested using the vice president as a scapegoat. Obama answered with a quip of his own: “I’ve tried that.” But seriously, folks, he “love[s] Joe” — and he thinks “there’s more than enough blame to spread around. These problems have been around for a decade or more.” You know who else has been around for a decade or more? Joe Biden. Coincidence?!
On that Romney “secret tape”
When Letterman first brought up the topic before a commercial break, Obama broke into a wide grin. But once it was time to discuss his opponent in earnest, the president resisted the urge to gloat over the Republican’s recent misfortune. Instead, Obama calmly recalled Election Night ’08, when he told the 47 percent of Americans who had voted for John McCain, “Even though you didn’t vote for me, I hear your voices, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to be your president.” That’s just what a Commander-in-Chief has to do: “If you’re going to be president, you’ve got to work for everybody.”
He also rejected the idea that some Americans think they’re victims or entitled to handouts. Still, said Obama, “We’ve got some obligations to each other, and there’s nothing wrong with us giving each other a helping hand.”
On Libya and Innocence of Muslims
Obama called the inflammatory movie an “offensive” film released by a “shadowy character.” It’s also a straw man; the president thinks “extremists and terrorists used this as an excuse to attack a variety of our embassies, including the consulate in Libya.” But those extremists “don’t represent what the Libyan people think,” and “as offensive as this video was … that’s never an excuse for violence.”
From there, Obama went on to explain how the incident illustrates why “we can’t just withdraw our presence” in Arab nations. Elaboration: “We can wind down our military activities in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, but we have to remain engaged because whether we like it or not, America remains the one indispensable nation. And even countries that criticize us end up looking to us for leadership, because without our presence, without our involvement and our engagement, things would be an awful lot worse.”
The bottom line
Is it harder or easier to campaign as an incumbent? Harder, according to Obama: “You’ve got two jobs.” Then again, there are a few perks to being the president: “The plane’s nicer now.” USA! USA! USA!
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