NEW YORK — Marriage at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The attack in Libya and the interests of an angry Muslim world. The faltering American middle class.
Hand it to the women of “The View”: On Monday, the hosts of the popular daytime talk show ranged over a variety of issues with the first couple, who used the appearance to portray their marriage as a warm, loving one.
President Obama can be “very loving,” “very giving” and “funny,” first lady Michelle Obama told the female MCs. The president joked that his function on the show’s stage, where he was the only man, was “to be eye candy” and said that Michelle can be “thoroughly unreasonable” — although he did so with a smile.
Turning to more serious matters, President Obama declined to describe the recent attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya as a “terrorist” strike. He also damned with faint praise his rival for the presidency, Republican nominee Mitt Romney, calling him “a good man” who “means well” but is not presenting a coherent solution to the economic crisis.
“We can survive a lot,” the president said. “But the American people don’t want to just survive. We want to thrive.”
The first lady chimed in, “I’m voting for him,” nodding at her husband.
President Obama last appeared on “The View” in May, and Monday marked the fifth time he’s done the show. The first lady had also visited four times on her own; this was the first time the two appeared on the show together. The taped interview will air Tuesday.
Romney said last week that he will visit “The View” next month; last Tuesday, Kelly Ripa’s morning show aired an interview with the candidate and his wife.
The first couple squeezed in their appearance during the president’s quick trip to New York City. He is due to speak Tuesday morning at the annual gathering of world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly, the primary reason for his visit.
President Obama has, during each of his previous appearances at the General Assembly, fit in several sideline meetings with other presidents and prime ministers. He has no plans to do so this year. To mostly partisan criticism, he is limiting his visit here to “The View,” an appearance at the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting and his General Assembly speech.
White House officials say the U.N. address will emphasize the unfinished political changes across the Middle East and North Africa and fill out the U.S. position toward them.
As the campaign enters a decisive phase, Obama’s “View” appearance, in particular, was criticized by conservatives. They said he is making time for an overtly political appearance on daytime television — on a show popular with women, a particularly prized voting bloc this year — at the expense of foreign policy.
The Obama campaign dismissed those complaints as partisan politics.
The show’s hosts lean to the left, except for Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who carries the conservative colors.
Veering from the first marriage on Monday, Hasselbeck asked Obama bluntly if he is failing the middle class and whether the recent attack that killed four U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, was a “terrorist attack.”
“There’s no doubt that the kind of weapons that were used, the ongoing assault, that it wasn’t just a mob action,” the president answered, though he did not use the word “terrorist.” “What’s clear is that, around the world, there are still a lot of threats out there.”
Obama, who has made repairing U.S. relations with the Islamic world a major part of his foreign policy, added that “the overwhelming majority of Muslims, they want the same things that families here want.”
“They want opportunity,” he said. “Kids want an education, they want jobs, they want peace. But there are extremist strains that are there.”
Hasselbeck bristled when Obama suggested that he is more in touch with America beyond the Beltway than many conservatives believe. “You are Washington,” she told him. “You’re about as inside as it gets.”
“The idea was you can’t change Washington just from the inside; you’ve got to mobilize the American people,” Obama replied. “When ordinary people are engaged and paying attention, that’s when Congress responds. We can’t play just an inside game.”
The president delved into the weight of being commander in chief during wartime, as well as watching his daughters grow up in the White House.
Mostly, the talk was light. The group discussed the fact that the Obamas will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary on Oct. 3, the night of the first presidential debate, taking place in Denver.
He said they will celebrate the following Saturday.