Barack Obama broke it down Thursday night on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." No, not the way you’re thinking. The Commander-in-Chief chopped it up with Jay and made plain a lot of the nation’s biggest worries like bank collapses and AIG bonuses. He also dished on everything from "American Idol" to Air Force One.
Jay started the night with a comment on the president’s newness. "Now it’s only 59 days now right? And so much scrutiny. Is it fair to judge so quickly?" Jay asked. Barack was ready with a funny answer, "I welcome the challenge…I do think in Washington it’s a little bit like ‘American Idol,’ except everybody is Simon Cowell."
Jokes aside, the president was there with a mission: explain the AIG bonuses to the American people. He called the bonuses that went out to top-level executives at the insurance company "a problem."
"But the larger problem is we’ve got to get back to an attitude where people know enough is enough, and people have a sense of responsibility and they understand that their actions are going to have an impact on everybody," said Barack.
Jay then quipped about AIG’s CEO’s offer to give half of the bonuses back to the government. "Now, if you rob a bank and you go into court and you go, ‘Your Honor, I’m going to give you half the money back.’ And they seem stunned that we’re not jumping at this wonderful offer," Jay joked.
"Well, you know, the only place I think that might work is in Hollywood," was Barack’s retort.
The prez was also quick to defend Timothy Geithner, his treasury secretary, who is currently managing the funds the government is doling out to financial institutions.
"I don’t think people fully appreciate the plate that was handed him," said Barack. "This guy has not just a banking crisis; he’s got the worst recession since the Great Depression, he’s got an auto industry on — that has been on the verge of collapse… And he’s doing it with grace and good humor."
Once the hard stuff was out of the way, Jay asked the things everybody really wants to know: how are the first daughters and what March Madness team is Barack rooting for?
"Malia and Sasha, my daughters, they’re just not as impressed [with Air Force One]," Barack said. "The first time we went on Marine One -– right, you’ve got the Marines in front and they’re saluting you. And we go up and we’re passing the Washington Monument, circling around on the way to Camp David –- and Sasha looks over and she says, ‘Are those Starbursts?’ There’s, like, the candy in the little canister. So they’re splitting up the Starbursts and we’re flying over the Lincoln Memorial…So they got a whole ‘nother level of cool." Oh, we already knew that about those two.
Barack, who played high school basketball, also revealed that he’s "got North Carolina Tar Heels" as his pick for the college basketball final four. Jay quickly asked "do you look at the whole picture when you do that? For example, isn’t that a swing state?"
"I mean, the fact that teams from North Carolina, Indiana, Iowa, all seem to do well in my bracket," Barack joked. "I think is a complete coincidence. Absolutely."
The interview ended with this remark from Jay: "Mr. President, I must say, this has been one of the best nights of my life. Thank you very much, sir."
It almost sounded like he was starstruck.
Watch the full episode below.
– Whitney Teal
Barack Obama stays up late