Transcript: Barbara Walters Interviews the Obamas

ht_obamas_barbara_Walters_101124PlayOfficial White House Photo by Pete Souza
WATCH Obamas Reflect on Life in White House

The following is an edited transcript of Barbara Walters' interview with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, as broadcast on "A Barbara Walters Special: A Thanksgiving Visit with President and Mrs. Obama," Nov. 26, at 10 p.m. ET on ABC. The interview was conducted in the White House on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010.

****

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Well hello.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Hello, Barbara.

BARBARA WALTERS: Well hello! …Fancy meeting you here

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So nice to see you, how are you?

BARBARA WALTERS: I'm just fine, thanks.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Welcome.

BARBARA WALTERS: Thank you so much. It's good to see you.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: I'm very happy to see you, and you look beautiful.

BARBARA WALTERS: Well you're very kind to welcome us at this time, when you're, you're so busy, you've got Thanksgiving…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Ah, this is a fun time.

BARBARA WALTERS: Is it a good time?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: The house is being prepared, so at least it's clean.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: [CHUCKLES]

***

BARBARA WALTERS: Mr. President, I want to speak to you about something very serious.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yes.

BARBARA WALTERS: I understand that it's a custom to pardon a turkey?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: [LAUGHS]

BARBARA WALTERS: This year there is also a vice turkey?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There is a vice turkey.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Oh, I didn't hear about the vice turkey.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, we think that it's always appropriate that not only do we have the official turkey, but a backup turkey, just in case.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: How's he doing. Hi, you. Hi, you.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: How you doing, buddy.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Hi.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Doing okay? You look pretty cute.

BARBARA WALTERS: Does Bo-Bo do anything?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: He's clean. Let's see if he will.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well let's see, hopefully.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Come, Bo-Bo.

BARBARA WALTERS: Bo, do you shake hands? … Could you shake hands?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There you go.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: There we go.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There you go.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Good job! [CLAPS] Good boy.

BARBARA WALTERS: Yes, and then he gets his tummy rubbed, right?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah. Yeah.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Oh, he likes that.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Oh, goodness, oh Barbara, I love you, I love you so. I love you so. Okay come on, let's go.

BARBARA WALTERS: Almost like having a son, isn't it?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: I know. This is my boy…He's my dog.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It's more hers. I gotta admit.

BARBARA WALTERS: You know, when I walked in here…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: But the girls would be upset if we said that. It's their dog.

BARBARA WALTERS: I see. Maybe they won't watch.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: [CHUCKLES]

****

BARBARA WALTERS: When I walk in here, the first thing I see, of course, is the portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Mr. President, what does Lincoln mean to you?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Of all the presidents, he's the one I admire the most, and I think about all the time.

BARBARA WALTERS: Mm-hmm.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yeah, partly because, obviously, uh, the symbolism of a president who emancipated the slaves as the first African-American president, that's something I think about.

BARBARA WALTERS: Yeah.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: But he's also somebody who, I think, wrestled with the weightiest issues, the biggest crisis that our country ever went through. And yet, he never demonized the other side.

BARBARA WALTERS: Well, Thanksgiving is a time of healing, so…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Abraham Lincoln was the person who made…

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that nice.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: …Thanksgiving a national holiday.

BARBARA WALTERS: You know, I didn't know that.

BARBARA WALTERS: You know, when we talked two years ago, you said that you were not going to cook.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yes.

BARBARA WALTERS: And I know that you…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: I get that…

BARBARA WALTERS: …Probably, you're still not cooking….Everybody else, everybody else is bringing food in.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Well…the tradition was to bring everybody, when we were in Chicago. And that was a potluck, because rather than have us all cook…Every would bring some.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:…Yeah, everybody would bring something.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah, I have to say, we don't require people to bring food to the White House. In fact, the chef and the staff would be insulted, so…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well also, the Secret Service would have to taste everything.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: That's right. That's true.

BARBARA WALTERS: Really?

This year, the service event for the Obamas, their relatives and guests was helping out at Martha's Table --- an organization in Washington that feeds the poor. On Wednesday afternoon, the President of the United States and his extended family donned aprons and helped other volunteers feed less fortunate citizens of the nation's capital.

At the White House on Thanksgiving, family and friends gathered for dinner here in the main rooms on the first floor. But the President planned to spend some time upstairs, in what he calls his favorite room.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The treaty room which is my office, because it's also where I can watch football.

BARBARA WALTERS: Ah, yes, yes! I have to ask you about football.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: We should have something more deep than that to say. How about in there you go to contemplate life.

BARBARA WALTERS: Well now, now, now, please, I want to talk to you since we're here, because we forgot about football, because all the big games are coming up.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Absolutely.

BARBARA WALTERS: You're going to watch.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I will watch, absolutely.

BARBARA WALTERS: Do you watch alone, or does…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No, I've got…

BARBARA WALTERS: …Anybody watch, the girls?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: …I've got my brother in-law, I've got my nephew.

BARBARA WALTERS: Yeah, so far I haven't seen any girls.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I've got Michelle's uncles.

BARBARA WALTERS: Yeah, wait a minute.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: I pop in and out.

BARBARA WALTERS: I'm…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: But I don't watch the whole game.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, hey now, I will say, Michelle actually knows her football. Because when we work out in the mornings, we always have it on Sports Center. And she has now become…

BARBARA WALTERS: Hmm.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: …An expert on sports. She doesn't care about it, but she knows about it, whether she likes it or not.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: I do care. I care deeply.

BARBARA WALTERS: Deeply. Do the girls watch?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: No, no.

BARBARA WALTERS: No.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Mm-mm, no, not at all.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, but Malia the other day came and sat and watched.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: That must've been…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It was just to be nice to her daddy, yeah.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah.

BARBARA WALTERS: I have, I have one more sports question. LeBron James, how do you feel about the Miami Heat that they haven't done better?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, yeah, it takes some time for a team to come together. There's no I in team, so no matter how good a, a player is, no matter how good a group of players are, if they haven't played together before, they're not going to be as good as a team that's played together a long time.

BARBARA WALTERS: Sounds like politics.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Same thing.

****

BARBARA WALTERS: You know there is news now of a Royal Wedding.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Oh yes.

BARBARA WALTERS:…yes, in April. You have not met Kate or…?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: No.

BARBARA WALTERS:…or William…?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: No, mm mm.

BARBARA WALTERS: Do you want to give them a little message?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: We sent congratulations. Congratulations. And hopefully you will be as happy, as happily married as Barack and I.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: There you go.

BARBARA WALTERS: Awww, that's very nice.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: But they look like good friends, and that's a good thing.

BARBARA WALTERS: They look as if they are happy, don't they?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Mm hmm.

BARBARA WALTERS: Your husband has said that you are his chief advisor. So what did you say to him the night of November 2nd, when he was -- as he put it -- "shellacked"?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: I said, "Let's, let's get to work. There is a lot to do." There… I, I think for, for us, it's always the focus on what we need to get done, the work ahead.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Now keep in mind, that election night, I think she went to sleep. So.

BARBARA WALTERS: Did you really?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: She, she, she goes to sleep early.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: I go to bed early. I can't stay awake for the returns… I gotta get up, work out.

BARBARA WALTERS: So you didn't care less that the Democrats took over the House?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: I absolutely care, but I figured…

BARBARA WALTERS: And you did not… You had to find about it the next day…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: And it was gonna be whatever it was gonna be the next day. So I did, I did go to sleep.

BARBARA WALTERS: This man who was considered such a great communicator. What did he do wrong?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: It's a tough time. I mean, my understanding is that, number one, every president in history has lost Congress at the midterms. Maybe that's overstating it, but it's happened for every president in, in my lifetime.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It's the norm.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: It's the norm. But unemployment is high, folks are hurting. There is nothing that I would look at in this year. I wouldn't look at not giving this country healthcare, I wouldn't I wouldn't want to take back any of the investments that we have made in education. So I think from a policy perspective, he has done an outstanding job.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: She is a little biased.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: You know, what…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: That's OK.

BARBARA WALTERS: You are watching him…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: I am, I am here watching him.

BARBARA WALTERS: Yeah. How do you feel when he is attacked?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: It's, it's not personal, you focus on the work. The country has the responsibility—the, the right and the responsibility to, uh, critique their president. That's part of the job. So you know, you, you take in what, what you need to and you keep the stuff that doesn't apply out and you keep working every day.

BARBARA WALTERS: Mr. President, there are some folks who say that you squandered your political capital with the healthcare plan when you should have been focusing on jobs.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This notion that somehow you can only do one thing at once is simply not true. I mean, 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. And I am absolutely confident that when we fully implemented healthcare, 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. And there is no contradiction between that and improving our economy.

BARBARA WALTERS: Do your girls watch the news?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: They really don't. Our oldest daughter is in, hmmm, middle school and they talk about current events. And 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. And quite frankly, I think she said, "You know, that's on him."

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yeah.

BARBARA WALTERS: Really?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: You know, she said that at dinner one, one night, because there are some people who worry that a comment here or there might be problematic. People are very considerate. But she was…

BARBARA WALTERS: Yeah, but what are you gonna do? Are they gonna be hurt? What are you gonna do?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: She, she said, "You know, Dad, uh uh, no disrespect, but…that's what you do."

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yeah.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: And she said, "That doesn't have anything to do with me." I mean, so there is... And she is... She separates out. But you know, they, they don't listen to the news. They are not reading the, the front pages of the paper. They...

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They are not, they are not watching cable TV.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah, and they, they keep up with the main issues.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right. Well then, we talk about it around dinner.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So, so they'll say, "You know, Daddy, now, you know, why, uh, are we fighting in Afghanistan?"

BARBARA WALTERS: Really?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: "You know, how did that start?," or...

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Mm hmm.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...they'll say, "You know, uh, you know, people talk about a recession. What's a recession?"

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: So they're curious but 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.

BARBARA WALTERS: Are the girls still writing to Santa?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Hmmm. Well, one is.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Don't divulge anything for any families who are watching. Santa…

BARBARA WALTERS: Not a word. We all write to Santa.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: We're going to see where the letters go this year

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: …I will say when, when it comes to the Tooth Fairy, you know, there was a, a little dialogue that we had with, with Malia. Well, when Michelle forgot to…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Hmmm, I don't remember that.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...to signal the Tooth Fairy to come in...

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah, I know…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: ...failed to come in. And we came in and it was missing. And then we put the money in later.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Because we, we hadn't called the Tooth Fairy.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And here is, and here is what Malia said. She said, "You know, whether I believe in it or not, I sure like getting the money."

BARBARA WALTERS: Oh, OK. She knows. She knows. After your husband lost the Democratic Primary, um, candidate for Congress in the year 2000, you wanted him to give up politics.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Ah, yes.

BARBARA WALTERS: Yeah. And you talked about it openly.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Mm-hmm.

BARBARA WALTERS : It affected your marriage...

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Mm-hmm.

BARBARA WALTERS: ...You wanted him to get out. Is there ever a moment when you say to yourself, one term is enough?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: You know, I think that it's important for him to finish what he started. I mean, the thing that doesn't get talked about in that is that, any ambivalence that I felt was all personal. It was all the sacrifice that this life requires of one's family. But, if I had to pick the man I'd want to be in politics, the kind of person that we seek out in this country, somebody who's honest and sincere, and smart as a whip, he would be the person that I would pick and that's always been why I followed him into these escapades is because I would feel guilty to think that because of me that somebody like him didn't do what this country needed. And I still feel that way. And I'll feel that way until the job is done. But that's up to the American people.

****

President Obama on Policy

BARBARA WALTERS: Mr. President, your supporters say that you saved the banking industry from collapse. And you saved the automobile industry. You have cut taxes for the middle class. If you did all of these things, why are you so unpopular?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well…Well, first of all, Barbara, I am… I am not so unpopular…

BARBARA WALTERS: First I gave you the compliment…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Oh, I appreciate that. Well, first of all, I am not so unpopular. I mean, my…poll numbers are a little higher than Bill Clinton's were at this point in the presidency, or Ronald Reagan's were at this point in his presidency. And, we have gone through a really tough time. And so, no matter how much good stuff we have done, people still are looking at 9.6 percent unemployment and that's frustrating for people. And I don't make any excuses.

BARBARA WALTERS: Because you took what you called a shellacking, will you make specific changes in your policies…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yeah.

BARBARA WALTERS: …or your personal, your personality I guess is what I am getting at. What were the changes?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: First of all, I think that -- no matter what happened in the election -- the first two years were all about saving the economy from a crisis, and we have done that. The economy has now stabilized. …We have gotten the economy to grow again, our focus now has to be on issues like education, issues like investing in research and development, issues like infrastructure development…. So my hope is is that new Republican leadership -- those who are coming in -- that they welcome the opportunity to work together…with me and other Democrats…to focus on solving the country's problems instead of focusing on politics. And, and I am confident that we are gonna be able to do that.

BARBARA WALTERS: Mr. President, the Republicans, many of them have said that what they want most is to make sure you only have one term. So what areas do you think they're going to be willing to compromise?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We've actually taken a whole series of steps to reform the education system, that are unprecedented, and have gotten compliments from Republicans, including people like Newt Gingrich. So, that's one area where I think we can make a difference right away…We're going to have to do something about the deficit and the debt. And the problem is that historically, at least lately, there's been a lot of rhetoric on all sides that, that pretends that somehow we can have something for nothing. That we can, you know, fund all our important programs, maintain our safety net, make sure social security and Medicare are safe, have, you know, a defense department that gets everything that it wants, and we don't end up having to pay for it. And that's going to be an area where I think we've got to have an honest conversation. …I'm looking forward to Republicans, and Democrats, working together to actually solve the problem, instead of trying to score political points.

BARBARA WALTERS: Many people this Thanksgiving are unemployed as you know, almost 10 percent. Some of them can't even afford a turkey. What do they have to be thankful for? What can they hope for?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, we have gone through two of the toughest years we have seen certainly in my lifetime and yours. The worst recession since the Great Depression. And so, you are right. All across the country, people are hurting. People are losing jobs. And sometimes with that, they have lost hope. …I think the important thing for all of us to remember though is that first of all, we have been through tougher times before as a country and we have always come out on top…I am confident that if…we are investing in research and development that continues to make us an innovation leader for the future… that we are gonna do great. …I am very, very confident that our best days are still ahead of us.

BARBARA WALTERS: You have consistently said that you want to end the Bush tax cuts for people who earn over $250 thousand a year and now there are signs that you would compromise. Why?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, what I've said is, we should extend the tax cuts that affect middle class families.98 percent of American people make $250 thousand a year or less. And what Democrats and Republicans agree on right now, is that their taxes shouldn't go up on January 1st, which right now, if Congress doesn't act, they are slated to do.

BARBARA WALTERS: But in the spirit of compromise, would you extend the tax cuts for everyone, for one year?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I'm going to be meeting with the Republican leadership next week. And I'm looking forward to hearing what their ideas are. We need to get this resolved. I, you know, expect that I don't end up getting everything I want. I think, hopefully they come to the table understanding they're not going to get everything that they want.

BARBARA WALTERS: So is the answer yes, maybe?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I think the answer is, I'm not going to negotiate…

BARBARA WALTERS: With me.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: …With you. …I'm going to sit down and negotiate with them.

BARBARA WALTERS: I thought you were going to give me a Thanksgiving present.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: [LAUGHS]

BARBARA WALTERS: No such luck. Well let's talk politics.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yeah.

BARBARA WALTERS: You may have heard that Sarah Palin told me just last week…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Mm-hmm.

BARBARA WALTERS: …That she could beat you.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Mm-hmm.

BARBARA WALTERS: If she ran. Could she?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I don't speculate on what's going to happen two years from now. I'm right now focused on making sure that we're doing everything we can to improve the economy and put people back to work. And if we're doing that people will want to see a continuation of the progress that we've made. And if I don't then it probably really won't matter who's running against me…

BARBARA WALTERS: Mr. President.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Mm-hmm.

BARBARA WALTERS: You will not tell me that you think you could beat Sarah Palin?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA : What I'm saying is, I don't think about Sarah Palin.

BARBARA WALTERS: OK. *****

BARBARA WALTERS: Are there any circumstances under which you would not run for president?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Oh well, yeah, that's a big hypothetical…

BARBARA WALTERS: Yeah…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I will tell you that I love the job…and it is an extraordinary privilege. Other than my commitment to my family, and my commitment to my faith, that there is nothing, that's more important to me.

*****

President on North Korea

BARBARA WALTERS: Mr. President, North Korea is getting more aggressive by the day. Beyond struggling, we did condemnation and sanctions, which haven't seemed to work. What exactly can you do about it?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well as you said, this is a…just one more provocative incident in a series that we have seen over the last several months. …We have strongly condemned the attack, as you mentioned. And we are rallying the international community once again to put pressure on North Korea. …We want to make sure that all the parties in the region recognize that this is a serious and ongoing threat that has to be dealt with.

BARBARA WALTERS: China?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, China is a country that has influence on North Korea -- one of the few. I have communicated before and will communicate again to China that it's important that they stand firm and make clear to North Korea that there are a set of international rules that they need to abide by.

BARBARA WALTERS: Is an attack on South Korea an attack on the U.S.?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: South Korea is our ally it has been since the Korean War, and we strongly affirm our commitment to defend South Korea as part of that alliance.

BARBARA WALTERS: Will we perhaps send warships, or are we to put U.S. troops on alert?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, that would be… and I am not gonna speculate on military actions on this point. I want to consult with President Lee, but as I said before, this is one of our most important alliances along with our alliance with Japan. This is the cornerstone of U.S. security in the Pacific region.

BARBARA WALTERS: You know, we have talked about Afghanistan in the past, and we'll continue to.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right.

BARBARA WALTERS: And now we hear that by 2014, we hope that we can turn things over to the Afghan people.

BARBARA WALTERS: Will by 2014, we will have accomplished our mission? We will have what we call "victory"?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, hmmm, you know, in, in this day and age, when you are dealing with not nation states but a bunch of thugs -- a bunch of shadowy networks of terrorists -- you never get a day when you declare victory. And you have to be persistent, you have to be relentless…how that plays itself out is something that's gonna be determined in part by our success over the next several years, not just on the military front, but also on the political front, making sure that all parties in the region, all actors in the region, recognize this is not just a threat to us but, uh, a threat to them as well.

BARBARA WALTERS: On this holiday weekend, one of the questions that people are asking is, "Did we need the kind of patdown that we have had at the airport?"

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right.

BARBARA WALTERS: What do you think? Has it gone too far?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This, this is gonna be something that evolves, we are gonna have to work on it. Well, hopefully technologies will improve where, uh, there are other ways of approaching it. I understand people's frustrations with it, but I also know that if you know, if there was an explosion in the air that killed a couple of hundred people…and it turned out that we could have prevented it possibly… that would be something that you know, well would be pretty upsetting to most of us -- including me.

****

BARBARA WALTERS: By many accounts, your wife is more popular than you are.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Mm-hmm.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: I've got an easier job.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, no, it, you know, understandably. She's a fantastic First Lady. There are issues that, that Michelle has strong opinions about, and there's some that she feels less strongly about. But she's always got an opinion. And it shapes how I think.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Because I think that, you know, she has great instincts, about, you know, how the American people are feeling.

BARBARA WALTERS: I want to talk to you about one of your own projects, that's very important to you, and that's fighting childhood obesity. What do you hope to accomplish?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Well, our goal is ambitious but simple. I mean, we want to end the epidemic in a generation. We're really aiming at children born today, 'cause our goal is that if we begin shaping habits, and shaping the conversation, and providing information to parents and teachers, and engaging all of our leaders in this conversation, that we'll change the habits of young people today,

BARBARA WALTERS: Sarah Palin recently brought cookies to a school in Pennsylvania…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Mm-hmm.

BARBARA WALTERS: To show her disapproval of the state's proposal to limit sweets in public schools. Many conservatives ask, well, you know, whose business is it? Is it the government's business?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah.

BARBARA WALTERS: Or the parent's business. So, what do you think should be the role of government in combating obesity.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Mm-hmm. Well we've always said throughout this campaign that this, solving this problem is going to take all of us. Parents, families, communities have the largest impact on how kids think about anything, particularly what they eat. But ultimately it requires all of us. And this campaign is about engaging all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike. I mean, the beauty about this issue is that it transcends politics. Because we all care about our kids.

BARBARA WALTERS: But government has a role in the schools?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: A government has a role to play in this issue, as does every other sector. And we reached out and engaged the grocery store manufacturers, and the restaurateurs. We brought in the mayors and governors of states and towns. We're calling on the faith-based community. There is no constituency that should be excluded from this call to action for our kids.

BARBARA WALTERS: Are you sick of people talking about your toned arms? I noticed you're not wearing a sleeveless dress.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: No, I will never get sick of people talking about my toned arms. If it's a positive compliment, I am a woman, just, like, bring it on. I'm, I'm cool with it. But no, I, you know, I still wear what I like and enjoy, and I thought this dress is pretty.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: And in fact, my, my husband is, he liked this dress.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It's a nice looking dress.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah. He, he said that several times today.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: She, she, she looks good, generally.

BARBARA WALTERS: Do you know one dress from another?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I do! I do. I, you know, I, I, I…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: …I notice what, uh, she wears.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: No, he actually does, and it, sometimes it's a little irritating. Because it's like, is that new?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: It's like, well, well—stay out of my closet! Still, we, I think he…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I'm not rifling through your closet, but I…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: But he'll, he'll definitely notice.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: …Will notice.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: He'll say that, that looks good.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: She's got to sneak in something, you know…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Like, that's not new.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: She's got that old strategy—no, no, that's old.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah.

BARBARA WALTERS: Yeah.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Meaning that she bought it a month ago, it's the first time she's wearing it, but…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Technically.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:…Technically it's not brand new.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: It's not new.

BARBARA WALTERS: But that's a problem, isn't it?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: What?

BARBARA WALTERS: Having to have, you know, different clothes, and, and, and black tie…?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: You know, that, that…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The black tie is probably not the biggest…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah, really, it's like…That is, that is not a, you know, I mean…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yeah. We, we, we, we don't spend a lot of time, uh, feeling sorry for ourselves…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: No, no.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:…In terms of, in terms of just life in the White House.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Right.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Because obviously, you know, the staff here does unbelievable work, and you know, our kids are happy and healthy, and well-fed, and we've got…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: No, we, we know how blessed we are.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We, we've got a pretty good deal, so we don't worry about it.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: You know, coming from, you know…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Coming from where we came from, we're doing fine.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: It's good.

BARBARA WALTERS: Yeah.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: It's good. No complaints.

BARBARA WALTERS: What do you do when you're under stress? Do you have a glass of wine? Do you…

BARBARA WALTERS: I don't know, what do you do? Exercise?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yeah, you know, I, I've been pretty religious about exercising.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And Michelle is too. And so that helps relieve stress.

BARBARA WALTERS: Mm-hmm.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Spending time with the kids…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah, that's the, the key.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: …I mean, when you're stressed. You know, they, they are just, they're funny, they're smart, they're happy…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: They rock you back into what's important.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, they tease ya. You know, they, they, they just refocus me. So…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: They laugh at the way you eat.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right, exactly. So, the most important things for me over the last two years, in terms of stress reduction, is the fact that if I'm here in Washington, I'm having dinner at 6:30, just about every night. And sitting around that table, listening to them, and trying to answer their questions, that keeps my bearings.

BARBARA WALTERS: Do you ever curse?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Oh yeah.

BARBARA WALTERS: You do curse.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Absolutely.

BARBARA WALTERS: When was the last time you cursed?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Let's see, what time is it?

BARBARA WALTERS: Mr. President, you pray.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I do.

BARBARA WALTERS: Every day?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Every night.

BARBARA WALTERS: Read the bible?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yes.

BARBARA WALTERS: Why do you think it is that so many people think you're a Muslim and…why is there that confusion?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, the internet has a powerful effect, these days. And so you know, the way rumors can take on a life of their own ends up being very powerful. But, you know, the, the thing obviously that's important to me is what I believe, and you know, and Michelle and I, you know, have not only, you know, benefited from our prayer life, but I think the girls have too. We, we say grace before we have dinner every night, we take turns. It's interesting listening to the girls, what they pray for, 'cause they…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Mm-hmm.

BARBARA WALTERS: What do they pray for?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, they'll talk about family and, you know, thank, thanking God for…

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: …Blessing us, but they'll always add a little twist, you know. I hope we have a great Thanksgiving, I can't wait to see the cousins, or…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Mm-hmm.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: They used to pray for a dog, until we got a dog. They've always got their little twists and variations.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: But in the end, we always say, we hope we live long and strong.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Long and strong. And then that we give back.

******

BARBARA WALTERS: You have a children's book out.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We do!

BARBARA WALTERS: Which it just so happens I have.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Yes. Just happen to have it.

BARBARA WALTERS: When the heck did you write a children's book?...In your spare time?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, I actually wrote this before I was…sworn in.

The book, released last week, is called "Of Thee I Sing, Letters to My Daughters." It contains lessons Mr. Obama drew from some meaningful American lives.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: All the proceeds are going to the children of those who've fallen in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's a nice way for us to make a contribution to military families who make so many sacrifices each and every day, on our behalf.

BARBARA WALTERS: You know, when we've been together, I have asked you about, something you do at dinner, most nights, and that is, you describe the rose -- the good things that happen -- and the thorn.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Right.

BARBARA WALTERS: So this Thanksgiving, look back. What's been rose, and what's been the thorn?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Well, I've got a lot of roses. My family's happy and healthy, and they're doing wonderfully. Now, on the thorn side…

BARBARA WALTERS: The Republicans.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA : No, you know, the fact that we haven't been able to make a bigger dent in unemployment during the course of this year. And that's something that, you know, will keep poking me, until, until we solve it.

BARBARA WALTERS: Mrs. Obama, the rose, the thorn?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: I think the rose is always my children, my family. Going to the bases, military bases, visiting the families. I mean, that's some of the best work that I do and it keeps you focused on what's important. And then you understand what real sacrifice is. I don't come back and feel sorry for anything going on with me here. I don't have a lot of thorns. I've got the thorny-less part of this gig and I tease him about that. Sometimes I walk away from the calls I hear him on and I think whew good luck with that.

BARBARA WALTERS: You mentioned visiting families of servicemen.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Mm-hmm.

BARBARA WALTERS: What do you tell the mothers?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: You know, that's… Not much you can say. Yeah.

BARBARA WALTERS: What do you say?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: I hug 'em.

BARBARA WALTERS: Yeah.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA : I cry with them. I tell them how sorry I am, or feel for their loss, that there's no way on earth that I could possibly know how they feel…. These are proud families, so they're not looking for sympathy, they're just looking for that hand to ensure that they can keep going, particularly when their kid's involved. So, I figure all I can do is come back here and keep working.

BARBARA WALTERS: Do you have a Thanksgiving message that you'd like to give to the country?

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I just want to remind people of how incredibly resilient this country is, how we have been through wars and depressions, and great turmoil and yet, we've always been able to pull together, and make our way towards a brighter future for our kids and our grandkids. And this time's going to be no different.

BARBARA WALTERS: As First Lady Mrs. Obama, do you have a Thanksgiving message for families?

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: I would urge people to use this time to come together, as families and community, and don't, don't take it for granted. Be kind to each other and laugh a little bit. Yeah. And don't worry about how much you eat. Just enjoy it.

BARBARA WALTERS: You mean you're not going to…

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: This is the time! Eat pie! Eat the dressing!

BARBARA WALTERS: I thank you for welcoming us in your home.

FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA: Thank you for being here. Thank you so much.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you, Barbara.

BARBARA WALTERS: Mr. President, thank you, thank you.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Thank you.

*****