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Monday, December 14, 2009


President Obama tells Oprah Winfrey: I deserve a B+

President Obama tells Oprah Winfrey: I deserve a B+ for my first 11 months in White House

David Hinckley

Monday, December 14th 2009, 4:50 AM


President Obama with Oprah Winfrey in the Blue Room of the White House earlier this month. Souza/White House

President Obama with Oprah Winfrey in the Blue Room of the White House earlier this month.

On what was billed as Oprah's "White House Christmas Special," Obama credited his administration with getting the economy on track, winding down the Iraq war and making the right call for a temporary surge in Afghanistan.

He also said America has "reset" its prestige in the world and made progress toward halting development of nuclear weapons in Iran and North Korea.

Passage of health care reform would boost his grade to an A-, he said. Until Americans get back to work, he said, "I can't give myself the grade I'd like."

Oprah interviewed the President and First Lady Michelle Obama separately and together on the ABC special.

Michelle Obama discussed the White House's 390-pound gingerbread house and showed Winfrey how First Dog Bo has been trained to give high-fives.

Obama handled the policy issues and seemed noticeably more relaxed with his old friend and admirer Winfrey than he did discussing some of the same issues earlier with Steve Kroft on CBS' "60 Minutes."

He cut Kroft off at least twice when he disagreed with the premise of a question.

Winfrey at one point asked about his temper, and Obama said that when he is displeased he gets an edge in his voice - exactly what happened when Kroft suggested his speech on Afghanistan had left his plans unclear.

While Winfrey noted Obama had heard some criticism, she mainly tossed softballs, like queries about the importance of his family and whether he "agonized" over the decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.

The less-than-illuminating answers were: family is "the most important thing in my life" and "yes."

Obama did try to dribble around Oprah's observation that his hair was grayer than before he took office. He said he's just at the age when that happens.

He also declared himself unconcerned that his approval ratings have fallen.

"It was inevitable," he said. "We have 10% unemployment. I told Michelle when we got here that in six months my poll numbers will start crashing, so we can't play to the polls. I'm concerned with where we'll be in two to three years."

The interview concluded with the First Couple good-naturedly sparring over who gives better Christmas gifts. Whatever ends up under his tree, President Obama won't get a better Christmas present than a sitdown with Oprah.


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