In a widely-anticipated televised event, President Barack Obama sat down for a live interview with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly on Sunday prior to the 2011 Super Bowl.
On the issue of Egypt, the president said the country isn't going to be the same now that pro-democracy protests have roiled the Arab nation in recent weeks. Asked whether Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will leave office soon, Obama said that only Mubarak knows what he will do at this point.
"The U.S. can't forcefully dictate, but what we can do is say the time is now for you to start making a change in your country," he said. "Mubarak has already decided he's not going to run again."
The president said he is confident that a representative government in Egypt will be one that the U.S. can work with as a partner.
On the matter of health care reform, Obama sounded off on a recent ruling struck down by a federal judge in Florida declaring the bill he signed into law last year unconstitutional.
"I think the judge in Florida was wrong," he said of the decision, adding that other courts have thrown out lawsuits challenging the measure. He said his administration is not focused on "refighting the battles of the last two years."
Obama went on to underscore his bottom line on the issue, saying he's "not prepared to go back to a day" when a pre-existing condition could mean not getting medical treatment or help.
When O'Reilly asked what's the worst part of being president, Obama joked, "I've got a jacket on on Super Bowl Sunday." On a more serious note, he added, "The biggest problem for me is being in the bubble. It's very hard to escape."
A relatively surprising moment in the interview came when O'Reilly asked the president, "Does it disturb you that so many people hate you?" He said that he had asked his predecessor, George W. Bush, the same question, which he called "a serious" one.
Obama responded, "The people who dislike you don't know you. The folks who hate you, they don't know you." He added, "What they hate is whatever funhouse mirror image of you that's out there. They don't know you. And so, you don't take it personally."
As for his politics, the president denied that he had shifted toward the center of the political spectrum following the 2010 midterm election in which Democrats suffered substantial losses. He insisted, "I'm the same guy."
"My common sense focus right now is how to we out-innovate, out-educate, out-build, out-compete the rest of the world?" he said. "How do we create jobs here in the United States of America? How do we make sure that businesses are thriving? But how do we also -- making sure that ordinary Americans can live out the American dream?"
The president declined to make a prediction on which football team would win the big game tonight. "Once my Bears lost, I don't pick sides," he said. The response prompted O'Reilly to ask, "So, you don't care?"
Obama dismissed the suggestion, saying, "I do care, I want a great game... But these are pretty evenly matched teams. You know, I think Green Bay is probably a little faster. Steelers got a little more experience. I think the Steelers not having their starting center is something they've got to be worried about."
The president confirmed that he will be watching the Super Bowl tonight.
Fox is televising the game, so Obama kept with tradition -- he sat down with CBS' Katie Couric last year and NBC's Matt Lauer the year before.
It's certainly not out of love for Fox. White House aides have denounced Fox as a vitriolic mouthpiece for the president's foes. After some big fights early in the Obama presidency, the relationship with Fox has turned less contentious.
O'Reilly predicted before the one-on-one that the segment "[would] be the most watched interview of all time."
Nevertheless, Politico reports:
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more bitter rivalry in the NFL. And no one expects one interview to change that.
But there are a variety of factors that make the interview a possible win-win for Obama and Fox. The sheer size of the Super Bowl audience, O'Reilly's history of giving the president a fair shake when he interviewed him as a candidate and the opportunity for Obama to look like a stand-up guy for stepping into the ring with a highly visible and highly vocal critic.