Obamas Talk Chicago, Politics on 'Oprah'

The president called Chicago the "best city in America" on Monday's "Oprah Winfrey Show"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    President Barack Obama jokes with Oprah Winfrey just hours after releasing a long-form version of his Hawaiian birth certificate. (Published Monday, May 2, 2011)

    Before President Barack Obama announced Osama bin Laden's death on Sunday, he and First Lady Michelle Obama were in Chicago Wednesday to tape an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

    The episode aired nationally on Monday. It was the first time Oprah Winfrey had a sitting president and first lady on her show, she said, and after the Obamas walked on set to roaring applause, Winfrey declared their presence "such an honor for me."

    The Obamas traveled to Chicago hours after the president released his long-form birth certificate. But before Winfrey asked about his motivation and timing behind the release, she wondered whether Chicago still feels like the couple's home.

    "It still feels like home," President Obama confirmed. "Our closest friends our here. Our family is here, our house is here." 

    "And the house is very clean," he joked.

    The couple has been criticized for not returning to their Hyde Park house as often as they had hoped. A week earlier, Obama kicked off fundraising for his 2012 re-election campaign at three parties in the Windy City. 

    Chicago is the "greatest city in the world," he said.

    As for his birth certificate, Obama told Winfrey he didn't take birther claims very seriously when they first popped up more than two years ago. As accusations persisted and kept clouding political discussion, he said, he couldn't avoid the release any longer.

    "Two weeks ago, a huge debate was initiated over where our budget needs to go, [and] the biggest news was this birth certificate. We can't be distracted by side shows."

    "It's ridiculous," Michelle Obama said.

    "I think what's happened is the line between entertainment and politics has blurred," Obama said. "So reality TV is seeping into what we think about our politics."

    "Can I just say," he said, "I was there."

    The Obamas talked about a range of topics on "The Oprah Show." Here are a few:  

    On President Obama's re-election: "What I want is to make sure it doesn't get personal and the focus is on how to make the lives of the American people better."

    Barack Obama's favorite president: Abe Lincoln

    On what Michelle Obama misses most about her pre-White House days: "I can't go to Target. I guess I could, but it would mess up everyone else's shopping experience."

    On what President Obama misses most about his pre-president days: "What you can't do outside of the White House rounds: our things ... can't drive, can't take a walk. That's the single thing I miss most: Taking Sasha and Malia to the park. ... It's those kinds of moments that are so precious."

    On what Michelle Obama has learned about marriage: "It has to be a true partnership. You have to really like the person you're married too, because it's a hard road. In the end you [have to] look him in the eye and say, 'I like you.' "

    On whether Michelle Obama was surprised her husband won the presidency: "No matter what your parents tell you, [as kids] we never thought we'd be president. ... Am I surprised that he's doing a great job? No."

    On what the Obamas were thinking on Election Night: "I think she was saying, 'I can't believe we pulled this off," Pres. Obama said, laughing. "And I said, 'Yeah how about that?' "

    On what keeps President Obama "balanced": "It is this young lady right here and our two daughters. ... I know I've got people there that not only do I love but whose company I enjoy and who bring me down to a level of basic humanity and humor and making sure I don't take myself too seriously."

    On raising their kids in the White House: "You go back to the basics ... turn off the TV, you've got chores to do," Michelle Obama said. "You've got to get creative in the White House to do chores. ... We have real discussions about responsibility and taking things for granted."

    On critiquing his first term: "The first two years, we were so busy just trying to solve problems that sometimes I forgot ... to tell a story about where we're going and how we're going to get there. We did that well during the campaign."