Image Credit: Steve Fenn/ABCPresident Barack Obama visited The View today, and depending on your worldview, his pop-culture cred either took a major hit, or went up a few points after responding to a series of silly questions from Joy Behar. “I’ve got to admit that I don’t know who Snooki is,” the President said, laughing, after being asked if the Jersey Shore firebrand should run for mayor of Wasilla, Alaska. Obama was also forced to admit he doesn’t have any Justin Bieber tunes on his iPod, just moments after saying if you could name a song, it was probably on one of his playlists. And later, when asked about his Twitter account, Obama conceded that “some 20-year-old is doing a lot of the tweeting.”
Still, the President’s freewheeling, hour-long appearance — the first-ever visit by a sitting U.S. president to a daytime talk show, Whoopi Goldberg proudly noted — wasn’t all air-kisses and softball questions. The View‘s own commander-in-chief Barbara Walters, pressing pause on her recovery from heart surgery to appear on this special episode, point-blank asked Obama why the U.S. doesn’t get out of Afghanistan, while panelist Sherri Shepherd, discussing the Shirley Sherrod imbroglio, wanted to know if Obama thinks America is “still racist.”
And then, of course, there was The View‘s conservative poster child Elisabeth Hasselbeck, whose first question to the President — which followed Behar’s query about the right wing and Fox news “hijacking the [political] narrative” in the country — was surprisingly softball: “I want to ask you about the country, too, because you know, seeing you here truly is an honor to have you here as the President of the United States. It does seem as though we are a very Divided States of America right now on so many issues, and I think even those who did not vote for you felt a hope that there would be a uniting factor when you took office. Are you frustrated that this country still feels so divided and you have not been able yet to bring back unity?” Obama responded that indeed he was frustrated, explaining that for starters, the “politics of the economic recovery” became more “controversial” as the depth of the financial crisis became understood by the public. What’s more, he added, we’re currently in a climate where the focus is sometimes more on “the next election” rather than “the next generation.”
Hasselbeck got more aggressive the next time it was her turn to speak, questioning Obama’s rhetoric and facts about the current state of the economy: “You had promised that the stimulus bill would cap unemployment at 8 percent. We’re at 10 percent across the country, 12 percent in my home state of Rhode Island. We are in a state of chronic joblessness. Yet we heard in the beginning of the show as well, you claimed that there’s ‘saved jobs,’ a standard that’s not been used before by any administration. [Sigh.] It’s frustrating to hear that saved jobs boasting, because it doesn’t feel that way to Americans when they don’t have jobs and they’re losing jobs. How can you continue and your administration continue saying you’re saving jobs when in fact people are losing jobs?”
Obama, who later in the interview explained that the reason he seems “calm all the time” is that he prefers to take “the long view,” responded by pointing out gains in private-sector jobs over the past five months, and noting that federal aid to struggling state economies helped avoid layoffs of teachers, firefighters, and police officers. He also refuted Hasselbeck’s criticism over his use of “saved jobs,” noting that John McCain’s former economist had recently used the same terminology in discussing Obama’s stimulus plan.
Hasselbeck fired her final and yippiest jab in response to Obama listing his accomplishments during the first half of his first term: health-insurance reform, stricter rules for credit-card companies regarding hidden fees, a tough financial regulatory reform law, avoidance of the next great depression, and a range of education reforms. As the President noted that more kids are going to college and studying math and science, Hasselbeck interjected,”Will they have jobs when they’re out of there?” To which Obama responded, “They’re gonna create these jobs.”
Did you catch Obama on The View today? Did you notice how the show’s hosts were color-coordinated: Whoopi, Barbara, and Sherri in black-and-white combos, Joy in all black, and Elisabeth, naturally, in all white? How do you feel the hosts handled themselves on this much-buzzed-about episode? And was Obama smart for accepting their invitation? Sound off in the comments below, and to get all my pop-culture commentary, follow me on Twitter @EWMichaelSlezak.