Letterman gets to the heart of it all

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The Independent US

On jetting into New York last night ahead of this morning's climate change talks, Barack Obama did the important stuff first: appearing on the late night television show hosted by David Letterman. There he was able to ponder such things as heart-shaped potatoes and the role played by race in recent attacks on his healthcare plan.

"First of all, I think it's important to realise that I was actually black before the election," Mr Obama quipped when prodded again on the race question. Not to be outdone, Mr Letterman responded: "How long have you been a black man?"

The appearance on the Late Show did have a serious purpose of course – Mr Obama is still trying to boost popular support for his healthcare overhaul – now at a critical stage of negotiation in the US Congress. But he mostly kept things light-hearted. Before he came on the set, Mr Letterman rehearsed 10 reasons why Mr Obama would have agreed to come on the show. Among them: because he said yes without thinking about it, rather like George Bush did when he invaded Iraq.

But Mr Obama had overheard from offstage an exchange between Letterman and a woman in the audience who had come with a heart-shaped potato. "The main reason I'm here?" Mr Obama began. "I want to see the heart-shaped potato." The woman tossed it to him and told him he could keep it. When Mr Obama sees that I "heart" NY logo in future he will immediately think spud.