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Obama talks Afghanistan, jobs, race, media on "The View"

From NBC's Athena Jones
President Obama talked Afghanistan, jobs, race in America and down time in a conversation with the women of ABC's "The View," which aired Thursday morning. He also played media critic, blasting the media for focusing too much on controversy.

Obama, who taped the appearance Wednesday during a trip to New York for two big-dollar fundraisers, last appeared on the program during the presidential campaign, in March 2008. First Lady Michelle Obama was a featured guest co-host in June of that year, according to an ABC release.

When asked to sum up the most difficult issues he has faced as president -- the "thorns," as Barbara Walters put it -- the president joked that he didn't know where to begin, before going on to list the economy, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the swine flu pandemic, and the oil spill, among other matters. But he said despite those challenges, his term so far had been satisfying.

Pressed on the economy and the continued high unemployment rate by Elisabeth Hasselbeck, one of the more conservative members of the group, the president defended the actions his administration had taken to get the economy back on track and emphasized that there had been five straight months of private-sector job growth.

"You're absolutely right that it's not enough," the president said, "and if you don't have a job right now, the only answer that you want to hear is, 'I'm hired'."

America still has a lot of work to do in Afghanistan, Obama replied, when Walters said that since there were only 50 or so members of al Qaeda in Afghanistan, "Why don't we get out?"

The president talked about having campaigned on ending combat operations in Iraq and giving more attention and resources to the fight in Afghanistan.

"The problem that we've got is that although al Qaeda right now is primarily in Pakistan in those border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said, "it's not hard for them to move in and out across those borders. These are uncontrolled borders, and the folks who perpetrated 9/11 and their allies are still congregated there. That is still the epicenter of terrorism targeting the United States and what we need is to have a stable Afghanistan and a Pakistan that is not a sanctuary for terrorism."

He repeated the commitment to "start thinning out our troops" in July 2011 once the Afghan government and security forces gain strength and stability, but said that America had "real security interests" in the region and that it was important for the coalition troops there to prevent what he called "Chaosistan."

"I'm not interested in an open-ended commitment," he said. "At a certain point, we've gotta focus on building the United States -- do some nation-building here in the United States and not overseas. That's gotta be a priority, but we've gotta finish the job that we started."

As is the case in many of his public appearances, the president shared his views on the media and what he called "pundits on the news," saying he focuses on things the media doesn't. He said the speed of the news cycle had influenced the events surrounding the unfair firing of USDA employee Shirley Sherrod after remarks she made were taken out of context.

"What I do think happened in that situation is that a 24/7 media cycle that's always looking for controversy and oftentimes doesn't get to the facts first, generated a phony controversy," he began. "A lot of people overreacted, including people in my administration and part of the lesson I want everybody to draw is: let's not assume the worst of other people, let's assume the best. Let's make sure that we get the facts straight before we act, and when it comes to race, let's acknowledge that of course there are still tensions out there."

Obama said he was not invited to former first daughter Chelsea Clinton's wedding, because the Clintons had chosen to keep the focus on their daughter and her friends, which he said was appropriate. He also acknowledged the security challenges his going to the wedding would have presented.

"It would be tough enough having one president at a wedding," he said. "You don't want two presidents at a wedding."

On pop culture, Obama allowed that he did not actually write the Tweets that appear under his name, a revelation that was a surprise to no one. He said he had all sorts of artists on his IPod, including Jay-Z, Frank Sinatra and Maria Callas, but no Justin Bieber. And for the 'Jersey Shore' fans out there, the president reported that he did not know who Snooki was, but that he did know that the actress Lindsay Lohan was serving jail time.

He also said that while he still has a Blackberry, "only 10 people have" his email address.