Obama On Afghanistan, Cheney And Spock

In a wide-ranging interview in Newsweek magazine, President Obama said the hardest thing he has had to do in office is order 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama, expressing a sentiment that echoes his Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates (and every other War Secretary or president from the past), said, "Making sure that you have thought through every angle and have put together the best possible strategy, but still understanding that in a situation like Afghanistan the task is extraordinarily difficult and there are no guarantees, that makes it a very complicated and difficult decision," he explained.

Asked about sending more troops to Afghanistan, Mr. Obama said, "My strong view is that we are not going to succeed simply by piling on more and more troops."

Newsweek's Jon Meacham scored an interview with Mr. Obama as he traveled on Air Force One from the White House to Phoenix last Wednesday for his commencement speech at Arizona State. The interview covers life in the White House, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Republican party, the bully pulpit, Dick Cheney, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's forthcoming visit to Washington D.C., Iran and ... Vulcans.

On the issue of Iran and the situation in the Middle East, the presdient that the United States is going to "reach out to them and try to shift off of a pattern over the last 30 years that hasn't produced results in the region."

Mr. Obama also outlined his daily schedule. He is in the office around 8:30 to 9:00 a.m., has dinner with the family, puts his children to bed about 8:30 p.m., and does paperwork, writing and work reading till 11:30 p.m. He usually spends another half-hour reading before sleep comes.

On Dick Cheney's public criticism of his administration, he said, "It's interesting to me to see the vice president spending so much time trying to vindicate himself and relitigate the last eight years when, as I said, I think, actually, a lot of these arguments were settled even before we took over the White House."

Mr. Obama said he found that "one of the biggest mistakes that is made in Washington is this notion you have to 'dumb things down' for the public."

And pop culture wasn't ignored, either. On watching the new "Star Trek" movie recently, Mr. Obama told Meacham, "Everybody was saying I was Spock, so I figured I should check it out" ... and he offered his interviewer the Vulcan salute.

You can read the full interview at Newsweek.