Exclusive: President Barack and Michelle Obama Reflect on Tenure


"This notion that somehow you can only do one thing at once is simply not true. The fact is, 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," Obama told Walters. "I am absolutely confident that when we fully implemented health care, and we started to see those costs go down and we have seen people who don't have health insurance get health insurance, and we have seen families who have health insurance more secure and they are not being jerked around by arbitrary rules from their insurance companies, that that's gonna be a lasting legacy that I am extraordinarily proud of."

Walters also asked the president about his decision to lift certain trade and travel restrictions on Cuba, and if he would consider ending the Cuban trade embargo. The president said he is monitoring Cuba's reform effort, but progress must be made before the embargo is lifted.

"We haven't seen all the progress that they said they were going to engage in. So part of what we're doing right now is monitoring: have, in fact, all the political prisoners who they said were going to be released, have they been released?" Obama explained. "Step by step, we're exploring other ways that we can break the impasse. But my watchword is how do we assure freedom and dignity for the Cuban people? And if in fact Cuba's ready to turn a corner, I think they will find a welcome partner in the United States of America. But we're not there yet."

A Personal Look at Life in the White House

While the president has become hardened to the constant criticism on the left and the right, the nation's first kids are not immune to those critiques. For Malia, the Obamas' 12-year-old daughter, her father has come up in a classroom discussion of current events.

"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," Michelle Obama explained. "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."

For the most part, the Obamas said their daughters don't listen to the news or read the newspaper headlines; they prefer to just be kids.

"They are not watching cable TV," Obama said. "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."

Despite living at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Malia and her 9-year-old sister Sasha have maintained as relatively normal a childhood as possible. Sasha still writes to Santa, the first lady said, and like other kids, eagerly awaits the arrival of the Tooth Fairy when she loses a tooth.

"There was a little dialogue that we had with Malia when Michelle forgot to… [Malia] signaled that the Tooth Fairy failed to come in," Obama said with a laugh. "And we came in and it was missing."

"Because we hadn't called the Tooth Fairy," Michelle Obama interjected.

"And then, we put the money in later," Obama explained. "And [Malia] said, 'You know, whether I believe in it or not, I sure like getting the money.'"

When asked by Walters what he does when he's under stress, Obama said along with exercise, it's spending time with the kids that keeps him grounded.

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