WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama tried to revive his common touch on Thursday with a mainly light-hearted appearance on daytime television where five women hosts grilled him about his Blackberry, Lindsay Lohan and the Afghan war.
His appearance was the first by a sitting U.S. president on a daytime talk show. It allowed Obama to appeal directly to a targeted audience as he fights flagging poll numbers while he and his fellow Democrats try to avoid big losses in the November congressional election.
“The View” typically draws 3-4 million viewers and is particularly popular with women who are home at its late-morning air time.
In a wide-ranging interview, Obama defended his Afghan war strategy and efforts to lift the country out of recession, but said he expected things would get better, if over time.
“If we get our mojo back over the next several months, then I am absolutely confident that we are going to be doing terrific, but we’re going to have to make some fundamental structural changes as we go along,” he said.
He said he was frustrated with the anger of political debate, and blamed the media for a recent “phony controversy” that led to the firing of a black Agriculture Department employee who appeared to be making racist comments in an edited videotape that was shown repeatedly by conservative media.
“When you feel as if every single initiative that we’re doing is subject to Washington politics instead of ‘is this good for the country,’ that can be frustrating,” he said.
The Afghanistan war is worth fighting, Obama said, when asked about the recent leak of documents painting a bleak picture of the unpopular conflict, which bitterly divides his own Democratic party.
“If you’ve got chaos ... in this region where there’s no functioning government and warlords and terrorist affiliates are able to operate, that is going to be that much tougher for us to make sure that they are not attacking us,” Obama said.
Obama also showed he has some grasp of popular culture. He knew that actress Lindsay Lohan had been sent to jail, although he said he had not heard of “Snooki,” the star of a popular reality television show, and dodged a question about tapes of angry telephone calls by actor Mel Gibson.
Obama also lamented his inability to enjoy technology.
He is the first president to use a Blackberry, but he can’t enjoy the jokes and pictures that fill most inboxes.
“I have a Blackberry, but only 10 people have (access to) it,” he said. “And I’ve got to admit it’s no fun, because they think it’s going to be subject to the presidential records act, so nobody sends me the juicy stuff.”
Editing by David Storey