First the White House, then your living room
President Obama appeared on Jay Leno Friday night in the first TV talk show appearance by an active president, and managed to reassure the country while simultaneously charming the pants off of them. Or maybe that’s just me.
Leno, NBC’s late-night host whose interview tactics have annoyed the hell of out of me in the past, seemed at ease with the President as they discussed the country’s financial state, specifically AIG and corruption in big banks.
Obama, who said he believes Washington is like American Idol “and everybody is Simon Cowell,” said he was stunned when he heard about the scandal with AIG.
“Who in their right mind decides- when their company is going bust- that they’re going to hand out a lot of bonuses,” said the president.
When Leno suggested sending said people to jail (“it would make me feel good”), the ever-tactful Obama used a metaphor about home appliances to explain the situation.
“When you buy a toaster, if it explodes in your face there’s a law that says your toasters need to be safe. But when you get a credit card, or you get a mortgage, there’s no law on the books that says if that explodes in your face financially, somehow you’re going to be protected,” said the president.
President Obama went on say that we need “common-sense regulations” in the financial market so that American tax-payers aren’t taken advantage of.
“…One of the things that I’m trying to break is a pattern in Washington where everybody is always looking for somebody else to blame. And I think [Treasury Secretary Tim] Geithner is doing an outstanding job,” said Obama. “I think that we have a big mess on our hands. It’s not going to be solved immediately, but it is going to get solved. And the key thing is for everybody just to stay focused on doing the job instead of trying to figure out who you can pass blame on to.”
In an attempt to use “auto language” with Leno, the president explained that diagnostic tests were being run on banks to determine whether they were able to sustain lending or not. The government, Obama said, is also working to create separate credit lines outside of banks for small businesses, and a securitized market for student loans and auto loans.
“We’ve got to solve the banking problem and we’ve got to solve issues like health care, energy, and education that will put us on a pathway for long-term economic growth,” said President Obama.
After the final commercial break of the interview, Leno and the president got down to the nitty gritty. Flying in Air Force One (Obama “thinks it’s pretty cool”), basketball and bowling were all on the agenda. (Am I the only one who heard Obama liken his bowling score of 129 to the Special Olympics?)
When Obama tells Leno that his pick to win in the final four is the North Carolina Tar Heels, Leno can’t help but mention that North Carolina is a swing state.
But Obama gets the last laugh after reassuring Leno and the audience that the White House dog will be arriving home shortly.
Said President Obama, “You know, they say if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”