Obama shares sofa with TV's daytime divas

With his approval ratings diving and the outlook for his party in November's mid-term elections dimming, President Barack Obama shifted into campaign mode yesterday as the guest on The View, a daytime talk show with five co-hosts including Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters. It went pretty well until the Jersey Shore question.

"I don't know who Snookie is," he responded flatly when asked about the curvaceous star of this season's most-watched – and possibly most crass – American reality show. He may have recovered himself somewhat with a follow-up about music. Mr Obama assured his interrogators that he has a packed iPod where Maria Callas sits alongside Jay-Z.

Although he has appeared on The View twice before – as a candidate and an author – this was the first time that a sitting American president has visited a daytime talk show. The hour-long appearance was taped on Wednesday, when Mr Obama was in New York for two fund-raising dinners, one at the home of the Vogue editor Anna Wintour. With all-female hosts and an audience that is mostly women, the programme offered the President an opportunity to reconnect with a segment of the electorate that has shown him affection in the past but which, like independents, another pivotal constituency, has shown signs of souring on him as he reaches the half-way mark of his first term.

Alternatively, his going to Ms Walters et al may be interpreted as a sign of political desperation. A new Ipsos-Reuters poll showed Mr Obama's approval rating at 48 per cent, down two points from June. Since 1962, any sitting president scoring less than 50 per cent has seen his party lose an average of 41 seats in the House of Representatives in mid-term elections. The Republicans need a net gain of 39 in November to take control.

Seated on a curving couch with his hosts, Mr Obama seemed relaxed but willing to accept that the going recently has been hard, noting that the US not only is trying to struggle out of a deep recession but has had to deal also with two wars and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He also accepted that if there was a "sense of hopefulness and unity" after his election, it dissipated very rapidly.

Mr Obama sought to blame that shift first on the media for preferring to report conflict than harmony. The steps he took to try to right the economy were also unavoidably contentious, like bailing out the car industry, he said. More than that, he went on, the partisan struggle never stops. "Unfortunately, we live in a time when people are thinking about the next election instead of the next generation," he said.

Not all Democrats were sure The View was the right place for him to be. Among the critics was Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. "I wouldn't put him on Jerry Springer too, right?" he said. "I think the President of the United States has to go on serious shows. I'm not sure he has to go on The View to be open to questions."

But the White House defended the decision. "Given the difficulty of reaching people in this hyperactive media environment, we look for opportunities to reach people in environments that are not traditional forums for political newsmakers," explained Dan Pfeiffer, a White House spokesperson. Mr Obama himself, meanwhile, gave a less sophisticated (and possibly rather less convincing) reason for the choice. "I was trying to find a show that Michelle actually watched," he said.

Some questions were more on the frivolous side: no, Mr Obama was not invited to Chelsea Clinton's wedding this weekend; no, his daughters are not dating boys yet; and his official Twitter account was not his own work but was maintained by "some 20-year-old". But Ms Walters and her friends pitched more serious questions on everything from the recovery, to controversies about race and Afghanistan. On race, he became thoughtful.

"There is a reptilian side of our brain," he began. "If someone who looks different or talks different, there is a part of us that is cautious and we have to fight against that. It's a constant struggle... there is nobody in America who does not at some point have to think about their racial attitudes".

Political broadcasts (US style)

* Political historians will never agree on a single moment that propelled Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992, but surely most would mention his appearance in June of that year on The Arsenio Hall Show when he played "Heartbreak Hotel" on his saxophone, breaking through with younger voters. The syndicated show ended production two years later, but by then Clinton had won the White House, where he remained for two terms. His other big TV moment in that election year was more tricky – a poignant attempt to deflect allegations of infidelity on 60 Minutes, with Hillary by his side.

* John McCain had a reputation for doing well at town-hall type meetings because of his so-called "straight-talk" banter on topics like the war in Iraq and government overspending. So putting him on The View in September 2008 seemed like a good idea. Wrong. He was mercilessly grilled by its co-hosts for running TV ads against Barack Obama that perhaps weren't entirely accurate. Joy Behar asked McCain: "There are ads running from your campaign... Now we know that those two ads are untrue, they are lies. And yet, you at the end of it say you approve these messages. Do you really approve these?"

* She had been skewered week after week by Tina Fey on Saturday Night Live, so finally in early October 2008, with the election just two weeks away, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate, accepted that the only possible course of action was to appear on the show herself to demonstrate that she had a sense of humour. Anyone hoping to see the real Palin and the faux Palin (Fey) collide on the set was disappointed. But there were some good moments, not least when the actor Alec Baldwin mistook the then Alaska governor for Fey. Apologising he said: "You are way hotter in person".

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Data Analytics Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading organisation...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Data Scientist

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A data analytics are currently looking t...

Insight Analyst Vacancy - Leading Marketing Agency

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency have won a fe...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices