- Associated Press - Friday, December 31, 2010

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Oprah Winfrey wants to better the world in her own way, and that absolutely, positively excludes a political career.

The media powerhouse who threw her clout behind Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy says she will never seek office. As she fervently asserts: “Arrgghhh! The very idea of politics. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.”

But a new, basic cable channel that bears her name and debuts at noon EST Saturday to 85 million homes across the land? That’s a challenge she relishes as her syndicated talk show nears its conclusion after a singularly influential run of 25 years.

Politics is “having to live your life at the whim of somebody’s polls,” Winfrey said in an interview from her home near Santa Barbara. “I just feel like there’s so much more ability for me, personally, to be able to effect change and to be able to influence through stories and ideas than I could ever do with politics.”

She hopes to see the Oprah Winfrey Network _ OWN _ establish itself as a “force for good,” a platform that helps people “see the best of themselves” on a broader canvas than her daily Chicago-based talk show.

With the Los Angeles-based OWN, as well as orchestrating a big finish in May for “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” the talk show host said it’s unlikely she’ll have time for the Chicago mayoral bid of Rahm Emanuel, President Obama’s former chief of staff. She and Emanuel haven’t seen each other in town.

“It seems that everybody else in the world has run into Rahm except me,” said Winfrey. She offered that she signed a petition to get his name on the February ballot when she was approached outside a Chicago gym.

As for Obama, Winfrey remains a steadfast booster.

“He’s doing a great job, and I don’t use the term `great’ loosely,” she said. “The amount of pressure and opinions coming at him from every direction, to be steadfast and solid in your own conviction about how you see this country and what you believe is possible for the future of this country. I think that takes a lot of guts.”

When Obama presumably seeks a second term in 2012, “I would do whatever they ask me to do. I’m open,” she said.

Winfrey, who caught flack from some fans for endorsing Obama for the Democratic nomination, said she hasn’t thought about how the cable channel over which she presides as chairman might figure in the national election.

“I’m really just trying to get on the air,” she said, lightly. “I’m trying to think of the role OWN is going to play on Jan. 2, and the 3rd and the 4th.”

A pop culture force with a daytime podium that at its peak attracted more than 12 million viewers (it’s at nearly 7 million this season), Winfrey has created careers and successful TV shows (“Dr. Phil,” `’Dr. Oz”), energized the publishing industry with her book club picks and produced distinguished films (“Precious,” `’The Great Debaters”), breaking ethnic stereotypes along the way.

The 56-year-old Oprah is acutely aware of what she might be losing even as she stakes out new TV turf to promote ideas and celebrities. She was initially reluctant to surrender her daytime show, but “what I realized is the `Oprah’ show has had its time and its run and its ability to affect and influence, and that now it’s time for something else,” she said.

Rosie O’Donnell, Shania Twain, Sarah Ferguson and Winfrey’s close pal, Gayle King, all have first-season shows on the commercially-supported OWN, which will offer a varied mix of talk and reality shows, film acquisitions and original documentaries. Included in the lineup: a cooking series with Cristina Ferrare, a sex advice show with Dr. Laura Berman, style makeovers with Carson Kressley, a series about the mother-daughter relationship of Naomi and Wynonna Judd, a “docu-reality” series about women prisoners in Indiana and the theatrical release “Precious.”

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