Obama's daytime TV charm offensive

By Robert Winnett

Barack Obama became the first sitting President to appear on a daytime television chat show as he attempted to reach out to ordinary Americans yesterday after a slump in his opinion poll ratings.

Obama was hoping to appeal to so-called "soccer moms" who are being heavily courted by the Republicans and answered questions on family life and even the misfortunes of the actress Lindsay Lohan.

Critics have accused him of demeaning the office of President by appearing on the sofa of ABC's The View alongside the veteran interviewer Barbara Walters, and the actress Whoopi Goldberg.

During the programme, the President spoke of a family game he plays called "roses and thorns" where the Obamas recount something good and something bad that happened during the day.

He was then asked for the high and low points of his previous month.

He recounted a recent weekend holiday he took in Maine with his wife Michelle and two daughters.

"The girls are getting old enough now where they're not quite teenagers yet, so they still like you.

"They are full of opinions and ideas and observations and it's just a great age," he said.

When it came to picking a "thorny" low point, "Where do I begin?" he joked.

"Obviously the country has gone through a tough stretch. Since I took office, the last 20 months have been a non-stop effort to restart the economy, to stabilise the financial system, to make sure we are creating jobs and not losing them."

The President joked that he decided to appear on the programme because it was one of the few shows watched by his wife. He faced a series of questions about celebrities to gauge how in touch he was with everyday American life.

He admitted knowing that Lindsay Lohan, the actress, was in prison and dodged a question about whether Mel Gibson should attend anger management classes.

He said he was unaware of Snooki, the star of the popular reality show Jersey Shore.

The President also disclosed that only 10 people had the private email address of his Blackberry - but said that most of the messages he received were bland as they could be requested under Freedom of Information laws.

Obama also used his appearance and a later speech to urge Americans to begin a debate about race after the recent controversy over the sacking of a black Agriculture Department official.

He urged people to have a "truthful, mature and responsible" discussion about race and to "look inward and examine what's in our hearts".

Setting out plans for a drive to improve education, particularly for black children, he said: "I know life is tough for a lot of young people in this country.

"At certain points in our lives, young black men and women may feel the sting of discrimination."

Obama is travelling more around the country to reassure Americans that he is tackling economic problems.

Ed Rendell, the Republican Governor of Pennsylvania, criticised Obama's appearance on The View, which he compared to The Jerry Springer Show.

"I think the President should be accessible, should answer questions that aren't pre-screened, but I think there should be a little bit of dignity to the presidency," he said.

- Telegraph Group Ltd

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