Bloomberg News

Obama Tells Leno Qaddafi’s Last Moments Shouldn’t Be Relished

November 01, 2011

(For more on the 2012 presidential campaign, see {ELECT}.)

Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said no one should take enjoyment from the images of Muammar Qaddafi’s final moments after he was captured while trying to escape his besieged hometown in Libya last week.

"That’s not something that I think we should relish," Obama said yesterday on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” He cited his refusal to release photographs of Osama bin Laden after the al-Qaeda founder was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in May in Pakistan.

"There’s a certain decorum with which you treat the dead, even if it’s somebody who has done terrible things," Obama said. Still, Qaddafi’s death "sends a strong message around the world to dictators that people long to be free."

On a three-day trip to Western states to raise money and promote his policies, Obama sat down for his fourth interview -- and second as president -- on the popular late-night show.

Obama, 50, used the opportunity to reach potential voters who may not tune into traditional news programs to talk about subjects such as the revolution in Libya and the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, as well as lighter matters such as first lady Michelle Obama’s preference for giving healthy snacks to Halloween trick-or-treaters.

“I said, ‘The White House is going to get egged if this keeps up,’” Obama said.

Republican Race

The president also said he hasn’t been watching the debates among the Republicans seeking their party’s presidential nomination to oppose him in 2012.

"I’m going to wait until everybody’s voted off the island," Obama said, comparing the Republican contest to the TV show "Survivor" to the delight of the studio audience. "Once they narrow it down to one or two I’ll start paying attention."

Public officials and candidates for decades have turned to such programs to reach beyond their core supporters. Then- presidential candidate Richard Nixon sought to soften his staid image with cameos on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” in 1968.

Since taking office, Obama also has appeared with Leno’s competitor, David Letterman, on CBS, on ABC’s daytime interview show “The View” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.”

"Americans are busy" and they get their information "in a variety of ways, in a variety of media," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with the president. "We’re interested in reaching folks where they are."

Political Targets

Politics and politicians are frequent targets of jokes by Leno, who is averaging 3.61 million viewers a night since the new television season began last month, according to Nielsen data.

The comedy format also carries some risk for the guest. The last time Obama went on Leno’s show, in March 2009, he had to call Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver the next day to apologize for a joke in which the president equated his bowling skills with participants in the Special Olympics, which is for people with disabilities.

Obama is using the trip to press Congress to pass his proposals to spur hiring and economic growth. With his broader plan for $447 billion in tax cuts and spending blocked by Republican lawmakers, Obama is setting out actions he can take administratively.

Housing, Education Plans

In Las Vegas two days ago, Obama highlighted a plan by the Federal Housing Finance Agency to expand a program aimed at aiding the housing market by allowing qualified homeowners to refinance no matter how much their homes have declined in value.

Today in Denver he will highlight a move by his administration to cut the burden of education loans. As many as 5.8 million people who have student loans through both the direct government loan program and the Federal Family Education Loan program would be able to consolidate what they owe into a single government loan with lower monthly payments and interest rates, according to a White House fact sheet.

Since taking office, Obama has visited California 10 times and almost every stop has included a fundraiser. He had three campaign events in the state on this trip.

Obama told about 200 donors in San Francisco yesterday that they must summon the same level of enthusiasm for his re- election as they did in 2008 because the Republican agenda would keep tax cuts for the wealthiest and “gut just about every regulation that you could think of.”

Message to Donors

"It’s not as if this is a new argument they’re making; they’ve been making it for decades and we tried it for an entire decade," he told the donors who paid at least $5,000 a ticket to attend lunch yesterday at the W Hotel. "And the result was the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression."

Singer Jack Johnson performed for the crowd, which included Shervin Pishevar, a managing director at Menlo Ventures.

Obama ended the day yesterday with two fundraisers in Denver, Colorado that brought in at least $600,000.

“I keep a checklist in my desk of stuff that I promised to do -- went through about 60 percent of it, which isn’t bad for three years,” he said to approximately 90 donors at Blue Sky Grill, a rustic restaurant complete with log cabin walls and Deer antlers on the walls, located in the Pepsi Center in downtown Denver. He said that he needs five more years to tick everything off his list.

Tickets for the event started at $5,000 and guests included Colorado Democrats Governor John Hickenlooper and Senator Michael Bennet.

Approximately 300 people attended the second fundraiser at the Ridgeline Room also in the Pepsi Center which was geared towards younger voters with tickets starting at $500 per person.

‘Get a Load’

"I’m here because if you thought the last election was important then wait until you get a load of this election," Obama told the crowd. "What we determine over the next twelve months is going to help shape the future of our children, our grandchildren like just about no other election that we’ve seen."

He promoted his $447 billion jobs plan that Senate Republicans blocked, says people making $1.1 million a year would be paying an extra $500 dollars in taxes to keep teachers and firefighters employed.

In Los Angeles on Oct. 24, supporters at two fundraisers included Earvin “Magic” Johnson, the former Los Angeles Lakers star turned entrepreneur, actor Will Smith and his wife, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, and singer and actress Hilary Duff. Actors Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas hosted one of the events at their home.

Obama has now taken in $89 million for his 2012 campaign through Sept. 30. His campaign expects to raise at least $5 million with this week’s stops in Nevada, California and Colorado.

Obama is heading into the 2012 election year with the nation’s unemployment rate stalled at 9.1 percent in September and the White House Office of Management and Budget forecasting it will average 9 percent next year.

Obama won Nevada, California and Colorado in 2008 and all three states have a higher unemployment rate now than they did when he took office. Nevada has the nation’s highest home foreclosure rate, followed by California. Its unemployment rate, at 13.4 percent in September, also is the highest in the U.S.

--With assistance from Margaret Talev and Roger Runningen in Washington. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, John Brinsley

To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Andersen Brower in Denver, Colorado at kandersen7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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