President Barack Obama's interview on 60 Minutes last night was characterized by the president's bizarre behavior while discussing the trials and travails of the U.S. economy. The president routinely interrupted himself with chuckling and outright laughter while discussing the current state of the economy and the effects that the downturn have had on Wall Street.
The president's demeanor in discussing the economy was so noticeably inappropriate that interviewer Steve Kroft confronted him about it, asking if Obama was, "punch drunk." (13:34) Obama explained his jokes at the economy's troubles as, "a little gallows humor to get you through the day."
According to the transcript, there were laughs and chuckles from Obama on subjects ranging from whether or not Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner should resign, to an additional bailout for the U.S. auto industry, to the idea of fixing the banking system without taxpayer money. In all, CBS notes that the president laughed or chuckled thirteen different times during the interview. Some were innocent, such as when the president joked about the size of the swing set his daughters have on the White House grounds. But the others may be viewed as evidence of an inappropriately cavalier attitude in the midst of what President Obama calls, "the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression."
When he wasn't laughing, President Obama did make some news in his interview. He said that he has not had any discussions about replacing Geithner at the Treasury Department, saying he would not accept Geithner's resignation if it was offered to him. Obama also admitted that he has not given Geithner, "as much help as he needs;" a reference to the lack of appointees in under-secretary positions at Treasury. Obama also indicated that he does not believe that the bill passed by the House last week to tax the bonuses of AIG executives is constitutional.
The president also seemed to indicate that he sees no concrete limit to the amount of money the United States can borrow to finance his agenda. Asked directly if there was a limit to the amount of money the U.S. can spend, Obama said, "The- the limit is our ability to- finance- these expenditures through borrowing." Obama explained that as long as foreign countries are willing to buy U.S. Treasury securities, the amount of the debt was secondary. He did allow, however, that growing U.S. deficits could cause foreign investors to shy away from buying U.S. debt, which would put a damper on spending.
President Obama had some harsh criticism for former Vice President Dick Cheney in reaction to Cheney's recent comments that Obama's decision to close the Guantanamo Bay terrorist detention center was making the country less safe. "How many-- how many terrorists have actually been brought to justice under the philosophy that is being promoted by Vice President Cheney," he asked. "It hasn't made us safer. What it has been is a great advertisement for anti-American sentiment." Obama was non-committal, however, when pressed on how the detainees at Guantanamo should be handled. "I think we're going to have to figure out a mechanism to make sure that they not released and do us harm. But-- do so in a way that is consistent with both our traditions, sense of due process, international law," is as far as he would go.
President Obama is a very likable person, and his personal popularity poll numbers bear that out. But support for the policies he is advancing is not nearly as high as his personal approval. Some will view this interview performance and see a confident man at ease with himself and the course he is pursuing. But others will wonder just what the president thought was so funny about dealing with a crisis that has cost millions of people their jobs and thoroughly eroded the American public's confidence in the economy.
In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.