Obama on Auto Execs' Private Jets: 'A Little Tone Deaf'

Excerpts from Barbara Walters' Exclusive Interview: President-Elect Reveals He Is Negotiating to Keep His Blackberry

Nov. 25, 2008—

The following are excerpts from Barbara Walters' interview with President-Elect Barack Obama, conducted Tuesday in Chicago.

BARBARA WALTERS: How did you feel when you read about the three heads of the auto companies taking private planes to Washington?

BARACK OBAMA: Well, I thought maybe they're a little tone deaf to what's happening in America right now. And this has been a chronic problem, not just for the auto industry, I mean, we're sort of focused on them. But I think it's been a problem for the captains of industry, generally. When people are pulling down hundred-million-dollar bonuses on Wall Street, and taking enormous risks with other people's money, that indicates a sense that you don't have any perspective on what's happening to ordinary Americans. When the auto makers are getting paid far more than their counterparts at Toyota, or at Honda, and yet, they're losing money a lot faster than Japanese auto makers are, that tells me that they're not seeing what's going on out there, and one of the things I hope my presidency helps to usher in is a, a return to an ethic of responsibility.

That if you're placed in a position of power, then you've got responsibilities to your workers. You've got a responsibility to your community. Your share holders. That if -- there's got to be a point where you say, 'You know what, I have enough, and now I'm in this position of responsibility, let me make sure that I'm doing right by people, and, and acting in a way that is responsible.' And that's true, by the way, for members of Congress, that's true for the president, that's true for Cabinet members, that's true for parents. I want all of us to start thinking a little bit more, not just about what's good for me, but let's start thinking about what's good for our children, what's good for our country. The more we do that, the better off we're going to be.

WALTERS: Should bank executives -- it's almost Christmas time -- forgo their bonuses?

OBAMA: I think they should. That's an example of taking responsibility. I think that if you are already worth tens of millions of dollars, and you are having to lay off workers, the least you can do is say, "I'm willing to make some sacrifice as well, because I recognize that there are people who are a lot less well off, who are going through some pretty tough times."


Barack Obama: The Barbara Walters Interview -- Click Here to Watch the Full Special


WALTERS: How are you going to get along without your Blackberry?

OBAMA: (Laughs). This is a problem. I, you know, one of the things that I'm going to have to work through is how to break through the isolation ... the bubble that exists around the president. And I'm in the process of negotiating with the Secret Service, with lawyers, with White House staff ...

WALTERS: You might have a Blackberry?

OBAMA: Well, I'm, I'm negotiating to figure out how can I get information from outside of the 10 or 12 people who surround my office in the White House. Because, one of the worst things I think that could happen to a president is losing touch with what people are going through day to day.


WALTERS: There are a lot of people concerned about your safety, are you concerned about your safety?

OBAMA: No. I don't think about it, partly because I've got this pretty terrific crew of Secret Service guys that follow me every where I go. But, also because, you know, I have a deep religious faith, and a faith in people that, you know, carries me through the day. And, my job is just to make sure I'm doing my job, and if I do I can't worry about that kind of stuff.


OBAMA: I think a lot of it just has to do with making sure that they understand that, they're special to us because we're their parents. But they're not special, you know in terms of having to do their homework or having to do chores or having…

WALTERS:They have to do chores in the White House?

MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah. That was the first thing I said to some of the staff when I did my visit. Because of course, the girls, they're so good. I said, "You know, we're gonna have to set up some boundaries. Because they're gonna need to be able to make their beds and ..."

WALTERS: Really?

MICHELLE OBAMA: They do that now.

WALTERS: In the White House they're gonna have to make the beds and clean up their rooms?

BARACK OBAMA: Doing that since they were 4 years old.

MICHELLE OBAMA: That's gonna be one of my goals. Don't make their beds. Make mine. (Laughs)


MICHELLE OBAMA: But skip the kids; let 'em make their own beds. They have to learn these things.

BARACK OBAMA: And they have. That's the one thing that I'm most proud about my kids is that they're kind, thoughtful kids. And they show everybody respect. Everybody they meet. They're kind and sweet too, and they're thoughtful. And really, if they retain that the other stuff will take care of itself.



WALTERS: You're getting advice from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife, Cherie Blair. She warns that you will have to learn to take a back seat.


WALTERS: And that you will not be able to have any kind of a career.


WALTERS: She says that that will be a very difficult thing to do.

MICHELLE OBAMA: People used to ask me that during the course of a campaign, is it hard for you to have stepped off the track, and devoted your, your life to his dream? But the truth is, is that I believe in this man as our president and his vision for the country.

So I feel like every other citizen that, you know, I felt like I had to do whatever I needed to do to make sure we had somebody like him in the White House. And if that meant, you know, stepping away from my particular job for a year-and-a-half or for four or for eight years, if you do what you're supposed to do…


MICHELLE OBAMA: …then, ya know? That's a small sacrifice to make.



WALTERS: I have one final, very important question. I, Mrs. Obama, I sent you a picture of my dog, Cha Cha…


WALTERS: Who is a Havanese, and a very perfect dog, and…


WALTERS: Cha Cha. Cha Cha is a dog, he's a Havanese, he's from Havana…real name is "Cha-cha-cha."

BARACK OBAMA: Cha-cha-cha.

WALTERS: Yeah. (overlap)

BARACK OBAMA What is a Havanese?

WALTERS: Oh, it's like a little…it's like a little terrier. And they're non-allergenic, and they're the sweetest dogs in the world.

BARACK OBAMA: But, but it's a…it's like a little yappy dog.

WALTERS: Yeah, you don't want (overlap)…

MICHELLE OBAMA: Don't criticize.

BARACK OBAMA: Yeah, it like sits in your lap and things?

MICHELLE OBAMA: (Overlap) Yes, it's a cute dog. (Laughs)

BARACK OBAMA: It sounds kind of like a…a girly dog.

MICHELLE OBAMA: We're girls. We have a house full of girls.

WALTERS: We know… we…what about whatever you were saying?


BARACK OBAMA: Well…well, we're gonna have a big, rambunctious dog.

WALTERS: Okay. Well, what (Overlap)…

BARACK OBAMA: Of some sort.

WALTERS: What I was wondering, is are you being inundated with pictures of funny-looking dogs? I mean, is everybody like me? Is everybody sending you a picture of their dog?

MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah. I mean, yes, we are (overlap)…

BARACK OBAMA: As a matter of fact…

MICHELLE OBAMA: …getting lots of (overlap)…

BARACK OBAMA: We're getting more advice about this than my economic policy. (laughter)

No doubt about it.

More on Wednesday's "World News" and watch "A Barbara Walters Special: Barack and Michelle Obama," Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET