Highlights of President Barack Obama's interview Thursday with The Associated Press:
The nation's first African American president said a recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of white firefighters in New Haven, Conn., doesn't close the door on thoughtful efforts at affirmative action aimed at maintaining diversity in the workplace or in college admissions. He cautioned that affirmative action "hasn't been as potent a force for racial progress as advocates would claim, and it hasn't been as bad on white students seeking admissions or seeking a job as its critics have said."
Obama said he's open to the idea of detaining certain Guantanamo Bay terror suspects someplace else for prolonged periods, but it may turn out that he won't be comfortable with any proposals to do that. Obama said some detainees aren't a good fit for prosecution in the United States or under international law. "How we deal with those situations is going to be one of the biggest challenges of my administration."
As the nation struggles with escalating unemployment, Obama said, health care reform and an increased focus on clean energy are two critical areas that can be exploited to boost the economy. "If we're weatherizing every building and home in America, if we are creating windmills and solar panels and biofuel facilities, that is a huge promising area not only for jobs here in the United States, but also for export growth."
Obama said Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin "has one foot in the old ways of doing business and one foot in the new." Obama, who plans to meet with Putin when he travels to Russia, said the former Russian president must understand that the Cold War approach is outdated and that the U.S. is not seeking an antagonistic relationship, but wants to partner on issues including energy and counterterrorism.
The president said he will reassess the possible need for additional U.S. troops in Afghanistan after the Afghan national elections in August. The narrow national security goal, he said, is to ensure terrorist organizations are not acting with impunity. To that end, the U.S. must help build the Afghan army and encourage Pakistan to shore up its borders, he said. "I think those goals can be achieved without us increasing our troop levels."
Obama said he has Jackson songs on his iPod and is glad to see that the entertainer is being remembered for "the great joy" that he brought to people with his extraordinary gifts. But he said that brilliance was paired with a tragic and sad personal life.