It was nothing more than a strange coincidence that just hours after President Barack Obama announced to the nation and the world that Osama bin Laden had been killed, his appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show alongside wife First Lady Michelle Obama aired.
But the long-awaited episode – which hit airwaves today and had been scheduled for weeks despite some early criticism that the president and First Lady should not have taken time to visit Oprah Winfrey – took on a decidedly new tone.
Before an excited introduction from a nervous – yes, nervous – Oprah (“Air Force One has landed in Chicagoooooo!” “Michelle Obaaaaaama!”) the host announced it was the first time a sitting president and First Lady appeared together on her show.
Although there were alerts throughout from ABC that the segment with the Obamas were “previously recorded,” last night’s historic turn of events made watching it feel somewhat different than it would have just a few days ago.
Case in point, during the chat the First Lady told Winfrey and her audience, “[Barack] can keep his eye on the prize in the midst of some craziness. That’s what makes him a special leader.” In another moment, Mrs. Obama told her that over Easter weekend, she had a dinner planned for their daughters Sasha and Malia, but President Obama had “other stuff to do.”
Even more relevant, the president shared again that he would be running for a second term in 2012. Said the First Lady of their joint decision to run again, “It’s an honor and its a duty. We take this responsibility very seriously – if there are things we can continue to do and I think this president has a lot more to get done.”
One of the major topics that came up during the interview was that of the controversial birth certificate debate that was recently re-launched by, among other skeptics, Donald Trump. The president said he felt “the line between entertainment and politics has been blurred,” adding, “reality TV is seeping into our politics.”
While the president never directly addressed Trump or others by name (he did again pull out the term “carnival barkers”), he did note that he tried to take it in stride – “I knew I’d been born [in Hawaii], I remembered it” – but noted Michelle was not nearly as okay with the questioning from the birthers. The president also discussed that one of his biggest regrets thus far has been not being able to change Washington’s “splintered” tone, but told Winfrey he still thinks he can with more time.
Obama stated that he wanted to change the overall shift in the feeling of the “American dream.” He explained: “The American dream is slipping away. I want people to once again feel like, ‘If I’m working hard and doing the right thing, opportunity is right there for me to grab.’”
Other tidbits we learned about the Obamas during their Oprah visit: Barack’s favorite president is Abraham Lincoln; he served as an assistant basketball coach for his daughter’s team; he can’t dance; Michelle has a strong bond with Elmo from her many visits to Sesame Street; misses shopping at Target; and shared her secrets to a long marriage (it’s “a true partnership.”)
It was a mostly low-key chat with the president and the First Lady, but ultimately turned out to be a charming and overly positive one. From their family anecdotes (a tired Sasha and Malia sitting on the floor of the Sistene Chapel) to political conversations, it wasn’t a groundbreaking hour of television, but it did have an overall feeling of, for lack of a better word, hope.
What did you think of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’s interview with Oprah Winfrey?