Coffee Talk

President Obama’s Whistlestop on The View

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

President Obama had barely finished delivering a sober oration to the United Nations when daytime television viewers saw him delivering a birthday basket to Barbara Walters and joking that he was “eye candy” for the ladies of The View.

In a joint appearance, taped Monday afternoon, with First Lady Michelle Obama—which the marketing-savvy Walters touted as a historic first for The View—the president committed zero news.

But, sitting on the curved sofa flanked by Walters and Whoopi Goldberg on one side, and by Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck on the other, he deftly repurposed sections of his stump speech while he and his wife held hands, finished each other’s sentences, gossiped about Sasha and Malia, made insinuating allusions to marital intimacies (“I’m not telling you THAT!” Michelle protested to Shepherd’s query about their bedtime rituals), fielded softball questions (even from Hasselbeck, the nominal Republican on the panel), and otherwise charmed everyone’s socks off.

Speaking of socks, one of Obama’s was drooping lazily during the first segment, revealing some unpresidential-looking leg-skin when he presented Walters, who just turned 83, with a basket of various White House knickknacks and joked that she otherwise might be stuffing them in her purse—but was properly pulled up during the rest of the show.

Other highlights:

  • The Obamas won’t celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary on Wednesday, Oct. 3, the night of the first presidential debate, but will wait until Saturday.
  • Michelle said her husband is “very loving, very giving ... very funny” but “I’m funnier.” Also, “I’m probably one of the few people who can really make him mad—any number of ways.” To which the president replied: “By being thoroughly unreasonable.”
  • Michelle wants to go on a “long vacation” when the presidency ends, possibly retracing their honeymoon—a car drive down the California coast. Barack, meanwhile, would like to mentor kids.
  • He thinks Michelle “would be terrific” in public office, “but temperamentally I don’t think” she’s suited for the politics. “I’m not that patient,” Michelle agreed.
  • Their daughters, who are 11 and 14, don’t have a lot of time for him. “Five minutes ... and then ‘Bye,’” he revealed.
  • Hasselbeck declared: “I wholeheartedly do really like you both.”

It wasn’t until 36 minutes into the chat that Obama talked about the murder of ambassador Chris Stevens (also a subject of his U.N. speech) and gave vague answers to Behar’s questions about what was behind the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

The president’s View appearance was bookended by serious speeches to the international forum on Manhattan’s East Side and the Clinton Global Initiative. But it is by now a campaign commonplace that presidents and aspiring presidents must pay tribute to the Gods and Goddesses of Likability by dipping their toes in the popular culture—even if it means skipping substantive bilateral meetings with world leaders during a period of shooting wars and global turmoil.

And The View—or the Red, White & The View, as Tuesday’s installment of the popular ABC daytime show preferred to call itself—is even more of a must drop-by (given its powerful viewership of voting women) than Letterman, Leno, Fallon, and Live! With Kelly & Michael, where the Romneys appeared last week to discuss the sorrows of improperly squeezed toothpaste tubes and the joys of peanut butter and jelly and chocolate milk.

If all this must seem trivial and irrelevant to concerned citizens, given the real-world problems faced by the country and the planet, it is no more trivial and irrelevant than a presidential campaign that harps on slips of the tongue, deliberately misconstrued assertions, and other fleeting ephemera that drive the endlessly repetitive negative ads paid for by Obama, Romney, and their respective super PACs.

But the show, after all, must go on.