NBC's Guthrie Asks Obama if He's Rooting for Hillary in 2016, Misses Her

In part two of her interview with President Obama aired on Wednesday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie lobbed several softballs, wrapping up the exchange by wondering: "I know you're not endorsing, but do you personally hope that Hillary Clinton runs in 2016?...Do you miss her around here?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Obama used Guthrie's prompting to praise Clinton: "I think she was an extraordinary secretary of state and she became not only a great partner for me in foreign policy, but a good friend....I do [miss her]. She's earned her rest and I know that she's going to be able, whatever she does, to continue to be a leader and an incredibly positive force for the causes I care about and that she cares about, all around the world."

During part one of the interview, aired on Tuesday, Guthrie began by hitting the President from the left on gun control. Introducing the portion aired on Wednesday, Guthrie touted Obama's "relationship with the Newtown families" as "a key part of his push for new gun legislation."

After lamenting that a background check bill "may not have enough support when the Senate holds its first votes this afternoon," Guthrie pushed the President to reaffirm his commitment to gun restrictions: "These families are in the midst of their grief, it's right now. Do you feel personally responsible to them, having started this journey with them?"

Guthrie also promoted the President's "dinner diplomacy" with members of Congress and asked: "How is your charm offensive going with Republicans?" Obama proclaimed:

I don't know about my charms, but they've been useful conversations....I've always maintained that people are not as polarized, even in this town, as it's portrayed in the media. The political engines of the party and blogs, et cetera, force people into taking more extreme positions publicly than they actually believe privately. I'm willing to try everything. As I said, I'm willing to wash folks cars and walk their dogs if I can get some legislation passed.

Guthrie rounded out the discussion by allowing Obama to knock down recent controversies:

GUTHRIE: Kamala Harris, you had to apologize last week for listing among her many qualifications that she was the best looking attorney general in America. Why did you apologize? Did you really think you did something wrong or was it blown out of proportion?

OBAMA: Well, look, you know, Kamala is a friend of mine. We had been joking off stage, you know, when I got to the stage, I made the same joke and obviously, you know, some people I think reacted negatively. Kamala knew where I was coming from. But I do think it was a useful teaching moment for me and for the country. As the father of two daughters, I want to make sure that they're judged on the merits and not on their appearance. And so I've got no problem in people, I think, using what was intended as an innocuous comment to make this larger point that we want to make sure that women are judged, you know, based on the job they do and not how they look.

GUTHRIE: Let me ask you about Jay-Z and Beyonce's trip to Cuba. Were you aware of it ahead of time and have you seen his Open Letter, which raps about getting White House clearance?

OBAMA: I wasn't familiar that they were taking the trip. My understanding is I think they went through a group that organizes these educational trips down to – down to Cuba. This is not something the White House was involved with. We've got better things to do.

At one point in the interview, Guthrie asked Obama about the trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, breaking NBC's silence on the case since the trial began five weeks ago.


Here is a full transcript of the April 17 segment:

8:17AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And now to more of our exclusive interview with President Obama. We sat down with him on Monday, just hours before the tragic events in Boston. In part we showed you – part one, we discussed the President's push for new gun legislation, tensions with North Korea, and the fight over the budget.

This morning, part two of our sit-down. As you'll see, I asked the President about some of the other headlines of the day and his relationship with the Newtown families. They've been a key part of his push for new gun legislation. As we have just heard, this bill may not have enough support when the Senate holds its first votes this afternoon.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Today Exclusive; Gun Control, Immigration & Dinner Diplomacy; Savannah One-On-One With President Obama]

These families are in the midst of their grief, it's right now. Do you feel personally responsible to them, having started this journey with them?

BARACK OBAMA: Well, I feel personally responsible the same way I hope every parent out there feels responsible, for all our kids. The key thing for me is every once in a while, we are confronted with an issue that should transcend politics, and now is the time for us to take some measure of action that's going to prevent some of these tragedies from happening again.

GUTHRIE: On immigration, do you think this is a once-in-a-generation moment where reform can actually get done? How confident are you that you'll get a bill by the end of the summer?

OBAMA: You know what? I'm actually reasonably confident on this one. I think that you've seen great work on a bipartisan basis between Democratic and Republican senators. So if you take that package together, one that's supported by labor, that's supported by business, that's supported by advocacy groups, that's supported by evangelical Christian groups, you know, this is about as broad-based a coalition as you're going to get.

GUTHRIE: Has Marco Rubio, in your estimation, shown political courage?

OBAMA: I think that he has been a very positive force, as have all the senators who've been involved. And my hope is not only that we end up with an immigration bill that shows that we're a nation of laws and a nation of citizens, that helps our economic growth, that helps us attract incredible talent to our shores, but I also hope that it kind of restarts muscle memory in Congress for getting bipartisan legislation done.

GUTHRIE: Dinner diplomacy. How is your charm offensive going with Republicans?

OBAMA: I don't know about my charms, but they've been useful conversations. I think that everybody involved in them has felt like they created some space to talk about areas of agreement and disagreement. I've always maintained that people are not as polarized, even in this town, as it's portrayed in the media. The political engines of the party and blogs, et cetera, force people into taking more extreme positions publicly than they actually believe privately. I'm willing to try everything. As I said, I'm willing to wash folks cars and walk their dogs if I can get some legislation passed.

GUTHRIE: Have you been watching the Gosnell trial? It's a Philadelphia abortion doctor accused of gruesome crimes. Are you following it and do you think it animates a larger debate about abortion in this country?

OBAMA: Well, I'm familiar with it. I can't comment on it because it's an active trial. What I can say is this. I think President Clinton said it pretty well when he said abortion should be safe, legal and rare. If an individual carrying out an abortion, operating a clinic or doing anything else, is violating medical ethics, violating the law, then they should be prosecuted.

GUTHRIE: Kamala Harris, you had to apologize last week for listing among her many qualifications that she was the best looking attorney general in America. Why did you apologize? Did you really think you did something wrong or was it blown out of proportion?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Obama: Kamala Harris Controversy Was "Teachable Moment"]

OBAMA: Well, look, you know, Kamala is a friend of mine. We had been joking off stage, you know, when I got to the stage, I made the same joke and obviously, you know, some people I think reacted negatively. Kamala knew where I was coming from. But I do think it was a useful teaching moment for me and for the country. As the father of two daughters, I want to make sure that they're judged on the merits and not on their appearance. And so I've got no problem in people, I think, using what was intended as an innocuous comment to make this larger point that we want to make sure that women are judged, you know, based on the job they do and not how they look.

GUTHRIE: Let me ask you about Jay-Z and Beyonce's trip to Cuba. Were you aware of it ahead of time and have you seen his Open Letter, which raps about getting White House clearance?

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Obama: White House Not Involved With Jay-Z & Beyonce Cuba Trip]

OBAMA: I wasn't familiar that they were taking the trip. My understanding is I think they went through a group that organizes these educational trips down to – down to Cuba. This is not something the White House was involved with. We've got better things to do.

GUTHRIE: Last thing, I know you're not endorsing, but do you personally hope that Hillary Clinton runs in 2016?

OBAMA: You know, I think we're very far away from that, but I have said before and I'll say again, I think she was an extraordinary secretary of state and she became not only a great partner for me in foreign policy, but a good friend.

GUTHRIE: Do you miss her around here?

OBAMA: I do. She's earned her rest and I know that she's going to be able, whatever she does, to continue to be a leader and an incredibly positive force for the causes I care about and that she cares about, all around the world.

GUTHRIE: No surprise, the President not ready to endorse, his vice president also a potential candidate for 2016. But our conversation with the President.

MATT LAUER: Who is walking down the hall right now to talk to him.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC