As President Obama fights the lowest approval ratings of his career, he took a dramatic step to boost his Q ratings Thursday by visiting ABC's "The View." In a segment taped Wednesday and broadcast Thursday, the president entertained questions on everything from the war in Afghanistan to Mel Gibson's anger problems. He sparred with the show's resident conservative over his administration's economic policies, and he trashed the media for generating a "phony controversy" that led to former Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod's firing.
Speaking before a mostly friendly audience, Obama acknowledged that his time in the White House has been tumultuous. He ticked off crisis after crisis that his administration has faced, from the recession to the Gulf oil spill. While he admitted the nation has gone through a "tough stretch," Obama insisted he's working to make things better.
There was only one brief clash, when resident conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck pushed Obama on why his economic stimulus plan hadn't "saved more jobs." The president offered a full-throated defense of his policies, repeating his claim that had the administration not acted, more jobs would have been lost. Watch:
Asked about which features of his presidency recently stood out as "roses" or "thorns," Obama spoke favorably of the first family's vacation in Maine. Because his daughters, Sasha and Malia, are not yet teenagers, he remarked, "they still like you." He downplayed his administration's political troubles, though, saying that he focuses instead on the struggles of ordinary Americans. You can watch the exchange here:
[Family photos: Obama and the first daughters]
"I've got people, pundits on the news who may say things about me," Obama said. "[But] you think about what the American people have gone through, losing jobs, seeing their home values go down, their 401(k)s declining. Those are the folks who I draw inspiration from. … As tough as it's been, they remain hopeful, they remain optimistic about America, and so I don't spend a lot of time worrying about me. I spend a lot of time worrying about them."
Obama's visit marked the first time a sitting president has appeared on a daytime talk show. It was Obama's third time appearing on "The View"; he also visited during his 2008 presidential campaign and while promoting his memoir "Dreams From My Father." Asked why he agreed to a return appearance, Obama joked, "I wanted to pick a show that Michelle actually watches."
The president's motivation for doing the show is obvious: "The View" allows the White House to reach an audience of mostly women who don't necessarily watch TV news or follow Washington politics with bated breath.
Obama also sat for a "lightning round" quiz on pop culture trends. He impressed his "View" questioners by confirming that he did know that Lindsay Lohan had been jailed for a probation violation — though he couldn't say exactly how he'd come across that bit of news.
When he was asked about whether Snooki (the best-known participant on MTV's "Jersey Shore" reality franchise) should pursue a career in politics, he professed not to know anything about her — though vigilant review of the historical record shows that Obama delivered a Snooki-related joke at this year's White house Correspondents Association dinner.
And when quizzed about whether Mel Gibson needed training in anger management, Obama joked that he'd much rather field questions about the rocky course of war planning in Afghanistan. You can watch the pop-culture segment here:
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