Obama: I Want A Debt Ceiling Deal For My Birthday

Originally published on July 22, 2011 1:58 pm

Host Michel Martin continues her conversation with President Barack Obama. He comments on the criticism his wife received for ordering a high-calorie meal, and shares his feelings about turning 50.

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MICHEL MARTIN, host: I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

Coming up, the Barbershop guys give their take on the effort to get a deal on the deficit and the debt ceiling, and the breakthrough in the labor agreement with the National Football League. That's in just a few minutes.

But first, more of our interview with President Barack Obama. He spoke with us yesterday from the Oval Office. Earlier, we talked about the ongoing negotiations over reducing the federal debt and raising the debt ceiling. We talked about unemployment and his critiques within the black community. Then I asked him about the other person catching some flak in the White House: his wife, Michelle.

You're not the only Obama in the White House who's faced some criticism of late, you know. The first lady, Mrs. Obama, was criticized for a high-calorie meal that she ordered at the Shake Shack, which is a new, popular burger spot in Washington, D.C. And I wonder if you think that that's fair, or do you think that's out of bounds?

President BARACK OBAMA: I've - Michelle doesn't take that too seriously. Michelle knows that - well, let me put it this way. Michelle's never hid the fact that her favorite food is french fries, or that she's going to have a burger once in a while. The whole point that she's been making - which is common sense, and so this should be a non-issue - is how do we make sure that our kids, in particular, have balanced meals on a regular basis? Because it'll make them healthier; it'll make them do better in school; and it forms lifelong habits that will improve their qualityof life.

And you know, I think that she has been adamant about saying that there's nothing wrong with having a treat once in a while. There's nothing wrong with going ahead and having a milkshake or a piece of pie, or whatever else you crave. The question is, what - what is it that on a regular basis you're doing, and what can we do as a society to make sure that, for example, folks in low-income communities have access to a grocery store that actually sells fresh - fresh produce?

And in fact, she - they did a wonderful announcement yesterday talking about food deserts, communities where you cannot - you know, in any reasonable way find fresh and healthy foods and if you do find it, then the prices are jacked up in those communities. And there was an announcement, cooperation from a whole bunch of retailers all across the country. Theyre going to - theyre going to start building new stores that will not only create jobs but also give people healthier options.

And that's what this is all about - empowering people to have better options so that they can make better decisions for their family. It's not about people not having a hamburger once in a while.

MARTIN: OK. But did she get the sweet potato fries or the regular - never mind I'm not asking that.

OBAMA: You know, she likes both, actually.

MARTIN: She likes the sweet potato fries and the regular

OBAMA: And you should try them in the White House, too, because sometimes we make them, and they're outstanding.

MARTIN: All right. Well, before we let you go, you've got a big birthday coming up in two weeks. And its the big - can we mention this? - the big 5-0.

OBAMA: You know, I feel real good about 5-0. The - obviously, Ive gotten a little grayer since I took this job but otherwise, I feel pretty good. And Michelle, you know, says that, you know, she - she - she still thinks Im, I'm cute, you know. And I guess thats - that's all that matters, isn't it?

MARTIN: Well, do you want anything special that we should pass along?

OBAMA: Well...

MARTIN: Anything special for the big birthday?

OBAMA: You know, what I really want right now is to - to get a debt-ceiling deal for my birthday. Thats kind of sad, I know.


MARTIN: And maybe some french fries...

OBAMA: And maybe some - you know, maybe Ill have a good hamburger on my birthday as well.

MARTIN: President Barack Obama joined us on the line from the White House. Thank you, Mr. President.

OBAMA: Enjoyed talking to you. Bye-bye. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.