Obama Gives His `View' on Auto Bailouts, Race, War

President Barack Obama said in an interview broadcast today that the government will recover taxpayer money spent to bail out the auto industry and that the U.S. still hasn’t fully dealt with racial tensions.

The president, who appeared on the ABC program “The View,” also complained that no one sends him “real juicy stuff” on his BlackBerry because their messages might become public.

The auto industry “tells a good story” of how the U.S. has recovered from the worst recession since the 1930s, he said. In exchange for U.S. bailout money, the industry has been restructured, and “you now have all those auto companies showing a profit.

“They’ve re-hired 55,000 workers,” he said. “We are going to get all the money back that we invested.” The president is scheduled to visit General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC auto plants in Michigan tomorrow.

Obama appeared on a program aimed largely at college- educated women, a group Democrats are targeting in November’s congressional elections. “The View” is the No. 2 daily talk show, behind “The Oprah Show,” with 3.7 million viewers, and is first in its time period with women aged 18-49, said Karl T. Nilsson, an ABC spokesman, citing Nielsen Media Research.

The program was taped yesterday in New York. He appeared on “The View” twice before, in March 2008 as a presidential candidate and once as a senator from Illinois. He is the first sitting president to appear on a daytime talk show, according to ABC.

Question on Race

Obama, the first black U.S. president, was asked whether race is still a major issue in America.

“Of course there’s still tensions out there, there’s still inequalities out there, there’s still discrimination out there, but we’ve made progress,” he said.

He cited the episode with Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department official fired by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack after a clip from a speech showed her telling an anecdote suggesting she acted with bias in dealing with a white farmer 24 years ago. She was re-offered a job when a review of her full remarks showed the video was selectivity edited.

“A 24/7 media cycle that’s always looking for controversy” doesn’t always “get to the facts first” and generated “a phony controversy,” Obama said. “A lot of people overreacted, including people in my administration.”

Economic Stimulus

Obama defended the $862 billion stimulus package, even as he was reminded that his administration said unemployment wouldn’t rise above 8 percent. The unemployment rate was 9.5 percent in June.

“It makes a difference, though, if your job was one of the ones that was saved,” he said. He said the stimulus spending averted thousands of teacher, police or firefighter layoffs.

“If we get our mojo back over the next several months, then I’m absolutely confident that we are going to be doing terrific,” Obama said.

On Afghanistan, co-host Barbara Walters asked the president, “Why don’t we get out?”

Obama reminded Walters that he promised in the campaign to wind down the war in Iraq and refocus a strategy in Afghanistan which was “not working.”

Afghanistan is still “the epicenter of terrorism targeting the U.S.,” he said. “We’ve got to finish the job that we started.”

Lindsay Lohan

Not all the questions dealt with politics and policy. Obama said he knew actress Lindsay Lohan was in jail and ducked a question about actor Mel Gibson.

The president, who refused pleas from the Secret Service and CIA to give up his BlackBerry, said that now, 18 months into office, “it’s no fun.”

The law on presidential records means that any message set to him must be preserved and may be disclosed, “so nobody sends me the real juicy stuff,” he said.

Obama said he wasn’t invited to the July 31 wedding of Chelsea Clinton in Rhinebeck, New York, and didn’t mind, either, because former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “properly want to keep this as a thing for Chelsea and her soon-to-be-husband.”

It would cause too much commotion, anyway, with guests forced to pass through metal detectors and “all the gifts are getting unwrapped” by the U.S. Secret Service, he said.

“It would be tough enough having one president at a wedding; you don’t want two presidents at a wedding,” Obama said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Roger Runningen in New York at rrunningen@bloomberg.net

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