During NBC’s Super Bowl pre-game show, a very casually dressed President Obama sat for a 12-minute interview from the Map Room of the White House with the "Today Show’s" Matt Lauer. The full transcript can be read here. Here are some excerpts:
Asked if a substantial number of troops in Iraq will be home in time for next Super Bowl Sunday, the president said his administration would "roll out in a — in a very formal fashion what our intentions are in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan. But in conversations that I’ve had with the Joint Chiefs, with — people — the commanders on the ground — I think that we have a sense, now that Iraq has just had a very significant election with no significant violence, that we are in a position to start putting more responsibility on the Iraqis. And that’s good news for — not only the troops in the field but their families who are carrying an enormous burden."
On the Economy:
How much worse is the economy going to get before it gets better?
"I think we’re going to be in for a tough several months," the president said. "We’ve got to get this economic recovery plan passed. We’ve got to start putting people back to work. We’re going to have to straighten out the credit markets and make sure that credit is flowing to businesses and individuals so that they can start investing and — hiring people again."
He said, "As soon as Congress moves forward on the recovery plan, we are going to be also releasing our plan for — the financial sector and regulating the financial sector. I have confidence we’re going to be able to get the economy back on track. But it’s going to take — a number of months before we stop falling and then — a little bit longer for us to get back on track."
On GOP Support for Stimulus Package:
Asked how important it is to gain some more Republican support for his stimulus package, the president said, "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 want to 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 going to see substantial support. And people are going to say this is a serious effort. It has no earmarks. We’re going to be trimming up — things that are not relevant to putting people back to work right now."
He wouldn’t predict the number of Republican votes. "House Democrats actually adopted a number of the ideas that the House Republicans had offered," he said. "Obviously the House Republicans wanted to make a statement. Now it moves to the Senate. We’ve got 535 people who feel it’s their responsibility to represent their constituents and make their voices heard. … Democracy is always a somewhat messy process. But the thing I want all of them to remember and the thing I’m thinking about every single day is the thousands of people who are being laid off of their jobs right now. They can’t afford politics as usual. And old habits are hard to break. But now is the time to break them ’cause we’ve got an urgent situation."
Asked how it’s going living with his mother-in-law, the president said the first lady’s mother "defends me whenever I screw up. So, Michelle, you know, she’s about to come down hard, my mother-in-law comes in, intercedes. So … the longer she stays, the better off I’m gonna be."
Asked about Malia and Sasha, the president repeated what he told George Stephanopoulos a few weeks ago, "People think I’m cool. Nobody’s cooler than my two girls." He added that they take whatever comes with "happiness and steadiness. And they’re loving school. They’re making friends. In fact, they’ve got a — they’ve got some friends from school over — today and — they’ve already joined some clubs. And Sasha, you know — I think maybe to endear — myself to her, she — she decided she wanted to join a basketball team. So — what more could I want?"
"The best deal — of — of this whole thing is it turns out I’ve got this nice home office. And — 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 got to go back to the office, I can. But — I’m seeing them now more than any time in the last two years. And — and that’s been great for the whole family."
On his College Football Bowl Playoff Proposal, the president was Challenged by Lauer to tell Floridians that their team isn’t the true national champion since there was no playoff system for its bowl championship. The president said, "Congratulations, Gators, on an outstanding season. … Wouldn’t you feel better if you had beat — every team that was out there through a playoff system? … I love you. But — I — I think they could have — I — they could have taken on anybody through the — the playoff system. By the way, one of our Secret Service guys, his son is a tackle on the, on the Florida Gators. So, you know, I’ve got a soft spot for" the Gators.
On backing the Pittsburgh Steelers even though the Arizona Cardinals are the underdog: "I love Kurt Warner’s story. I love — Larry Fitzgerald seems like just a — a wonderful young man. It’s a great story. But (team owners Dan) Rooney didn’t just endorse me. That guy was out going to steel plants campaigning for me. (Former running back) Franco Harris was out waving towels at my rallies." He said he thought the Steelers would win, narrowly, but "I’m not going to be rubbing it in. We’ve got some Arizona congressmen here. And I may need their vote on the — recovery package."
On his BlackBerry, the president said he didn’t bring it to the interview. "It’s kind of like Inspector Gadget, you know? … If you touch it, it might blow up." He said it has "the works" in technology. "It turns into a car if I have to make a quick getaway."
Only a "handful" have his email address. "There are security issues involved. And so we’ve got to make sure that I’m not creating a situation where, you know, potential people can compromise our system…"
He rejected Lauer’s entreaties to get his email address. "I like your son. I might give it to him. I’m not going to give it to you."
On being cut out of an Obama family photo on the cover of US Weekly to make room for a shot of Jessica Simpson: "It’s a little hurtful. … (Simpson’s) losing a weight battle apparently. Oh, well."