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Reid reports the president said it's still several weeks before he makes a decision on how many more troops to send to Afghanistan.
"Afghans are responsible for their own security," Mr. Obama said. "We have to get Pakistan involved in a more effective way. There is a range of things we have to do at this point; it's fine-tuning a strategy that we can be confident we'll be successful. I think that Gen. (Stanley) McChrystal shares the same goal I do, for us to protect homeland, protect our allies and U.S. interests around the world."
Reid says he asked the president if he's as angry as Defense Secretary Robert Gates about all the leaks coming out of his administration about the Afghanistan decision.
"I think I'm angrier than Bob Gates about it," Mr. Obama replied. "We have deliberations in the situation room for a reason; we're making life and death decisions that affect how our troops are able to operate in a theater of war. For people to be releasing info in the course of deliberations is not appropriate."
"A firing offense?" Reid inquired.
"Absolutely," Mr. Obama responded.
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"Put your seatbelt on, sharp turn here," Reid said. "Sarah Palin has given you a 'four so' far as president on a 10-point scale. Is that a fair assessment?"
"Well look," the president answered. "I have to say, obviously, Mrs. Palin is out there selling books right now, and I think she'll do very well. ... She and I have different political philosophies, and it's probably not the person I look to do see how our administration is doing."
Mr. Obama, Reid observed, talked "movingly" about the toll his job is taking on him.
"Well, look," the president said, "my weight doesn't fluctuate too much. It goes in a five-pound bandwidth; it has for the last 30 years. Um, skipping meals, that's usually just a scheduling issue, but I'm eating fine and I'm sleeping fine. My hair is getting grey, and it is the butt of a lot of jokes from my wife as well as my friends. ... You just don't have a comparable set of circumstances - with two wars, a financial crisis as bad as anything since 1933, a host of regional issues that have to be dealt with, a pandemic; you have a convergence of factors that have made this a difficult year not so much for me, but for the American people. And so, absolutely that weighs on me, because whenever I visit Walter Reed or other military hospitals, I see the sacrifice young people are making. That is a heavy weight. But it's an extraordinary privilege, as well, and I wouldn't trade my job for anything."
Mr. Obama, Reid points out, says a top goal in South Korea will be to find ways to keep ratcheting up the pressure on North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program.
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