June 17, 2011 — -- President Barack Obama had words of encouragement for disgraced former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner, who resigned yesterday in the wake of a sexting scandal.
"I think it was just important for him to be able to focus on his family. And what's most important, I think for all of us, is, how do the people we love … how are we interacting with them? And this gives him some time to do that," the president said in an exclusive interview with "Good Morning America" co-anchor Robin Roberts.
The interview, which aired on the program today, touched on the economy, taxes, and jobs, but was focused on fatherhood.
Weiner, whose wife, Huma Abedin, reportedly is pregnant with the couple's first child, has announced he would seek treatment, but hasn't given details about what that would entail.
Earlier this week the president indicated he believed the embattled Weiner should resign. Following days of fierce denials and outright lies, Weiner -- a Democrat representing New York's 9th Congressional District -- admitted on June 6 that he exchanged lewd photos with six women on Twitter and Facebook.
His resignation came on the heels of intense pressure from within his party and from some of his constituents.
"I wish Rep. Weiner and his lovely wife well," Obama told Roberts. "Obviously, it's been a tough incident for him, but I'm confident that they'll refocus and he'll refocus, and they'll end up being able to bounce back."
With Father's Day drawing near, the president answered questions about fatherhood submitted to him via video from members of the public.
The questions came from, among others, a Little League player, a father serving in the military in Afghanistan, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat.
Obama and his wife, Michelle, 47, have two daughters, Sasha, 10, and Malia, 12.
The president, 49, opened up about what it was like to become a father for the first time, describing a scene that he says unfolded like the "the classic comical father situation."
When his wife told him she believed it was time to go to the hospital, he said his reaction was "like out of a sitcom.
"You know, I jump up and I'm looking for the bag. And fumbling for the car keys … ."
But, when he saw his daughter for the first time "it was love at first sight," he said.
He chuckled as he recalled being up with her at 2 a.m., "feeding her and burping her. And changing her diapers. And now she's 5'10"."
As a father, the president said his chief worry was for his two daughters' health.
"One of my worst days was when Sasha, when she was 3 months old, got meningitis. And we rushed her to the emergency room. And … there was a stretch of time where we didn't know whether it might do permanent damage," he said.
Sasha had to have a spinal tap.
"You know … your world narrows to a very small point. That's all you care about," he said.
He shares the concern of every parent, he said.
"As president, I end up meeting a lot of parents who have sick kids" and "who are worried about health care costs.
"I mean, part of my motivation for making sure that we reformed our health care system was, I cannot imagine being in a position where my child was sick and I could not make sure they got the best possible care," he said.
Asked whether he and the first lady were ready for what could happen when the girls became teenagers, he was very much the proud father.
Potential Boyfriends: Beware?
"Number one. Malia and Sasha, for whatever reasons – and I think Michelle gets the lion's share of the credit – are right now just wonderful kids. They're smart, they're funny. But most importantly, they're kind, they're respectful, they're responsible, they're well-behaved. I could not ask for better kids. And so, I'm not anticipating complete mayhem for the next four, five years," he said.
He jokingly added: "I should also point out that I have men with guns that surround them often … ," adding that that security was "a great incentive" for running for re-election.
Any potential future boyfriends might want to take note.
"I might invite him over to the Oval Office," Obama said of any boys who could be in the girls' future, "ask him for his GPA. Find out what his intentions are, in terms of career.
He added: "Malia, Sasha, if you're watching this, I'm just joking."
Brees wanted to know how the president balanced his responsibilities with being a family man.
Obama said that he has struggled with that balance throughout his career, but said he and his wife make sure that they set aside time every day for the family.
"As president, I have this huge advantage. I live over the store. At 6:30, no matter how busy I am, unless there was an actual national emergency, at 6:30, I'm up and I'm having dinner with the kids. And we're sitting around that dinner table. And so, for an hour to an hour and a half, my only focus is them."
Spending time with his daughters is important to the president, who was raised without his own father.
While the first lady had what the president describes as a "Leave It to Beaver" upbringing -- in a traditional family unit -- Obama was raised by his mother, Ann Dunham, with help from her parents.
Despite those differences, he and his wife have the same values with respect to parenthood, he said.
"She comes at it base on what she had. I probably come at it based on, to some degree, what I didn't have. Although … the love, the attention, the unconditional interest in a child, I got from my mother. And I got from my grandparents," he said.
"A lot of my parenting skills come from thinking about, you know, what would my mom do in this situation? But obviously it's a little different from me, not having had a father. And you know, some of that stuff I had to learn on my own," he said.
For him, being a father is "a combination of complete and total affection and devotion to that child, but also structure and limits and understanding that your child isn't your friend, at least when they're young. You're the parent. And you've got to set limits for them. And provide structure for them. And say 'no' to them. And tell them when they're wrong and tell them when … some things are more important than other things. And imparting values. You know, my mother was pretty good about that."
It was only later in his life that Obama realized that some important interests in his life were due to the influence of his father, the late Barack Obama Sr.
"You know, he gave me my first basketball," said the president, who plays basketball regularly. "He took me to a Dave Brubeck concert. And suddenly, you know, shortly thereafter, magically, surprisingly enough, I was interested in jazz."
Basketball star Wade, who has full custody of his two sons, asked if Obama had any advice for single dads.
'I Can't Say I Miss My Father'
"Make sure you're not bashful about asking for support and help from friends and family that you love," he said, adding that that's what his wife did when he was away campaigning and she had to take care of their children by herself.
Responding to another question from Kyle Mazer, an 11-year-old Little League player from Millburn, NJ, who wanted to know whether the president missed his father on Father's Day, he replied: "You know, I can't say I miss my father, because I just didn't know him. And so, I don't have enough of an emotional bond there to miss him. I profoundly miss my grandfather. You know, I profoundly miss my mom. And my grandmother."
One father, Col. Steve Curda from Chicago, Ill., who is serving in Afghanistan, and who has missed two Father's Days with his daughters, asked the president what he would consider the most perfect Father's Day.
Spending time with his daughters – while they're still young enough to actually want to spend time with him -- makes a perfect Father's Day, the president said.
"It is not the big spectacular things," he said. "It's not the lavish birthday parties. It's not the big gifts. It is those moments when you're just together and you are enjoying each other's company. And that's the stuff that lasts. And I suspect that's what's going to last for them. You know, when they think back to their childhood. I think that's going to be probably what's most important."
He added that the White House and the First Lady's Office were committed to supporting military families. On Wednesday, the administration launched "Strong Fathers, Strong Families," a special initiative to draw on public and private sector resources to help men overcome the challenges of fatherhood.
Military families will get special attention, he said.
"One of the things we've been doing is talking about how every father who's deployed out there has access to Skype so that they can see and talk to their kids," he added.
During the interview, Obama also expressed his desire to see the struggling American economy rebound, and reiterated his commitment to pushing for an extension of this year's payroll tax cut.
"Whatever incentives we can provide for businesses to hire more people and provide an investment climate where more businesses are out there trying to expand, the better off we're going to be. And so I'll be working with leadings in both parties, hopefully, to make the right decisions for the American people," he said.
"We've got to put more people back to work," he said.
National unemployment rose in May to 9.1 percent, up from 9 percent in April. Economists had expected unemployment to fall, so the May numbers were met with disappointment.
There are an estimated 13.9 million unemployed people in the United States.