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Review: Obama on ‘The View’

Say this for the president: He knows how to charm the ladies.

Obama’s sit down on “The View” this morning seemed to go about as smoothly as one could hope. POTUS stayed cool, confident, and charming as he answered questions ranging from “Why don’t we get out of Afghanistan?” to “Where is your message machine to combat the right’s?” to “Were you invited to Chelsea Clinton’s wedding?” (No. He was not.) His one clear moment of not knowing how to respond was when Joy Behar asked if Mel Gibson needed rage therapy. But refusing to wade into that mess can only redound to the president’s benefit.

In keeping with his audience, Obama played up the family stuff. He talked a lot about the adorableness of Malia and Sasha—even getting a bit feisty when asked if boys had yet entered the pictures—and brought up Michelle in a couple of humorous asides.

One overstep in this area: When explaining why he had agreed to sit down with the five yammering co-hosts, he told the group: “I was trying to find a show that Michelle actually watched.” Then he made some remark about how his wife just flips the channel on “all those news shows.”

How cute. The little woman doesn’t like hard news. Gag me.

More broadly, Obama achieved an important strategic goal by stressing again and again (and again) his focus on and efforts to shore up the economy. Asked by Barbara Walters to play The Rose and the Thorn (some game he apparently plays nightly with his family , in which they name the best and worst moments of the day), Obama started out by discussing the pain and suffering of Americans in these tough economic times. When Elisabeth Hasselback inquired if he was frustrated that, after all the hopefulness of his election, the country still remains deeply divided, he again mentioned the depth of the economic crisis and the controversial steps that had been necessary to address the problem.

He also made sure to cite specific steps that had been taken to stop the spiral toward a depression (such as the bank and auto bailouts), and he used Hasselback’s questions about how, with unemployment so high, he could claim that jobs had been “saved” to explain the difference between the ditch we’re still climbing out of and the depths to which we would have sunk without the stimulus and other measures. (Or at least, he tried to explain. From the look on her face, it was not clear Hasselback grasped how we could go from hemmoraghing private sector jobs to five months of adding them and yet still have a high unemployment. One must assume she was not the only person unable to understand, but what can you do?)

Just as important, Obama stressed legislation that his administration is currently hoping to pass to further help the situation. He mentioned his small-business aid bill more than once—making sure to toss in that he had stopped by New Jersey on the way in to sit down with a bunch of small business owners—and expressed his heartfelt hope that Washington politics wouldn’t somehow derail this effort to aid America’s entrepreneurs.

This is not to say it was all smooth sailing. The segment on Shirely Sherrod and race had me holding my breath, especially when the president commented that, while we’ve made tremendous progress, there is still a “reptilian” part of everyone’s brain that makes us “cautious” about anyone who looks or sounds different from us (which is, admittedly better than saying it makes us “suspicious,” which is where I feared he was going.) Still, my guess is that at least a few folks are going to self-righteously protest his assertion that there is none among us who doesn’t need to examine their racial attitudes now and again. Still, all things considered, he seemed to escape an absolutely no-win topic relatively unscarred.

Aside from that, POTUS hit all the points you’d expect: He praised American workers to the sky, took multiple swipes at the conflict-crazed media, and bemoaned the endless campaigning and politics-over-governing mindset of Washington.

The gals asked exactly the kind of direct but not hostile questions that most Americans are asking themselves, and Obama answered them in a way that most normal people who are neither policy wonks nor political hacks will appreciate, even if they don't agree with. It wasn't exactly must-see political tv, but neither was it an embarrassingly fuzzy gab-fest.

And, yes, he remembered to wear his American flag pin.