Barack Obama has made a surprising admission about his wife Michelle, as he prepares to leave the White House for good at the end of the week.

After delivering the final major address of his presidency on Tuesday - including a heartwarming tribute to the First Lady - President Obama sat down for an exclusive interview with CBS's 60 Minutes to discuss the milestones of his eight years and offer up a few parting words about his successor.

But it was his comments on Mrs Obama's reluctance to be in the spotlight that were most memorable in the hour-long interview.

"Michelle never fully took to the scrutiny," he said.


"She's thrived as a first lady, but it's not her preference. And so ... she was the hardest sell. And she never fully embraced being in the public spotlight, which is ironic, given how good she is.

"But having said that, she would acknowledge and I certainly feel that we just have a lot of memories here. You know, our kids grew up here. Some of our best friends have been made here in this place. There have been moments that were highlights for us that are going be hard to duplicate."

Even so, Mr Obama acknowledged his wife remained glad he decided to run for president.

"I think I've said this story before," he recalled. "You know, she used to say to our friends, 'Barack's exactly the kind of guy I want to be president. I just wish he didn't want to do it when I was married to him.'"

Kroft asked the outgoing president how the rest of the family was feeling about leaving the White House, which has been their home for the best part of a decade.

"They're ready to go," he replied. "The girls, obviously, you know, they are now of an age in which the constraints of Secret Service and bubbles and all that stuff has gotten pretty old."

The President said there was a "bitter sweet feeling about leaving the people" there but he was looking forward to spending more time with his wife.

"We've got some catching up to do, we've both been busy," he said.


"I'm going to try to get some sleep and do a little puttering because I haven't had a lot of chance to reflect and absorb all this. I do not expect to be behind a desk a lot. I'm looking forward to getting out of the bubble."

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance at the Commander in Chief Inaugural Ball in 2009. Photo / AP
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance at the Commander in Chief Inaugural Ball in 2009. Photo / AP

It was a fitting final broadcast to wrap up Mr Obama's two-term legacy, given Kroft had followed Mr Obama since the then-senator declared his candidacy back in 2007 and has interviewed him during a number of key moments in his presidency.

The program also aired his first interview upon taking office in 2008, where Mr Obama offered insight into his immediate plans, long-term goals and the limits to his presidential power.

Back then, he was an "audacious hopeful junior senator from Illinois", Kroft recalled, and Mrs Obama was a hospital executive and "major bread winner" in the family. "We'd never met a candidate quite like him," he added.

"You didn't change Washington," Kroft said to President Obama during Sunday night's sit-down, which was filmed last week.

"I changed those things that were in my direct control," he replied. "I'm proud of the fact that with two weeks to go, we are probably the first administration in modern history that hasn't had a major scandal in the White House. In that sense, we changed some things."

Touching on the moments in his presidency when he failed to garner enough public support to get his Republican opponents to back off, President Obama said: "I would like to have had got one last Supreme Court justice in there, but we couldn't even get a hearing.

"Trying to get the other side of the aisle to work with us on issues - in some cases that they professed originally an interest in - and saying to them, 'Hold on a second, you guys used to think that this was a good idea! Now, just because I'm supporting it, you can't change your mind.' But they did."

He then said losing "the PR battle" was one reason he couldn't get a hearing for his last Supreme Court nominee.

"I've said this before, but it needs to be said again. And this is on me. Part of the job description is also shaping public opinion and we were very effective, and I was very effective in shaping public opinion around my campaigns. But there were big stretches while governing, where even though we were doing the right thing, we weren't able to mobilise public opinion firmly enough behind us to weaken the resolve of the Republicans to stop opposing us to co-operate with us," Mr Obama said.

"And there were times during my presidency where I lost the PR battle," Mr Obama admitted, saying he became "the lightning rod for some partisan battles."

60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft and President Barack Obama in Washington, DC. Photo / CBS
60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft and President Barack Obama in Washington, DC. Photo / CBS

Kroft then asked the president whether he believed "anybody can change Washington".

"I think that it is not going to change because somebody from on high directs that change," Mr Obama replied. "Members of congress on both sides of the aisle are motivated by all kinds of issues ... but the one thing they are interested in more than anything is getting re-elected. And if they think that it is harder to be re-elected by coopering with one another then they won't co-operate."

On President-elect Trump, Mr Obama was asked to comment on the events of the 2016 election - which the 60 Minutes reporter called "one of the strangest presidential transitions in history".

"It's unusual, I'll agree with that," Mr Obama said. "And I suspect the President-elect would agree with that.

"Look, he's an unconventional candidate. I don't think there's anybody who has run a campaign like his successfully in modern history - not that I can think of. And, as a consequence, because he didn't have the support of many of the establishment in his own party, because he ran an improvisational campaign ..."

Kroft interjected, "Can you run an improvisational presidency?"

President Obama answered, "I don't think so. So now he's in the process of building up an organisation and we will have to see how that works and it will be a test, I think for him and the people that he has designated to be able to execute on his vision.

"I think that he [Trump] was clearly able to tap into a lot of grief and he has a talent for identifying with his supporters that overrode some of the traditional benchmarks of how you conduct a campaign or conduct yourself as a candidate."

Mr Obama was reluctant to weigh in on President-elect Trump's recent tweet storms and frequent run-ins with celebrities, including last week's blast at Oscar winner Meryl Streep as an "overrated Hillary flunkey" after she denounced him at the Golden Globes.

"You're watching this like everybody else, what's going on?" Kroft asked.

"Well, the people have spoken," Mr Obama said simply. "You're going to have to talk to him. But here's what I think - first of all, I think everybody has to acknowledge, don't underestimate the guy because he's going to be 45th president of the United States.

"The one thing I have said to him directly, and I would advise my Republican friends in Congress and supporters around the country is, just make sure that as we go forward, certain norms, certain institutional traditions don't get eroded because there's a reason they're in place."

President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump shake hands following their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Photo / AP
President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump shake hands following their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. Photo / AP

The broadcast also touched on President Obama's journey over the past eight years, including his first interview as the President-elect in November 2008, passing ObamaCare in 2009, killing Osama bin Laden in 2011 and the Syrian civil war.

"One of the things I'm proud about is, I think my basic character and outlook has not changed. One thing you're worried about when you're in the bubble is, do you lose touch with what you thought was important and what you think brought you here? And I'm proud that I think I haven't lost touch," Mr Obama said.

"A thick skin helps, stamina. There's a greater physical element to this job than you would think, just being able to grind it out. You're ability to be able to mentally but also physically say, 'We got this!'"

Mr Obama's parting interview closes the book on his presidency, following Tuesday night's stirring farewell speech in Chicago where he tried to lift his supporters one last time as the world braced for Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday.

"Sometimes you will win, sometimes you will lose. Presuming a reservoir of goodness in other people, that can be a risk, and there will be times when the process will disappoint you, but for those of us fortunate enough to have been part of this world and to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energise and inspire, and more often than not, your faith in America and in Americans will be confirmed. Mine sure has been," he told the audience, met with thunderous applause and a standing ovation.