- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 22, 2009

President Obama continued a public relations blitz Monday with an appearance on late-night host David Letterman’s show to talk about health care, Afghanistan and heart-shaped potatoes.

Mr. Obama, in New York for his first visit as president to the U.N. General Assembly, joked briefly with Mr. Letterman, but otherwise sat for a serious, policy-focused conversation of more than 30 minutes.

He cast himself as a reformer and iconic leader in the mold of Presidents Roosevelt and Reagan, saying that anger over his attempt to overhaul health care was “misplaced,” but not surprising.

“Whenever a president tries to bring about significant change … there is a certain segment of the population that gets very riled up,” he said.

As he did during interviews on five Sunday news shows, Mr. Obama played down the role his minority status has played in provoking some of the more angry opposition to his proposals.

“It’s important to realize that I was actually black before the election,” he cracked, adding that his election to the nation’s highest office “tells you a lot … about where the country is at.”

And speaking in broad strokes, he took on the notion that bigger government isn’t always a bad thing.

The financial crisis, Mr. Obama said, was caused in part by “too little government.”

“If we had some decent regulation in place, we wouldn’t have had [to bail out the banks],” he said.

On the day that a recommendation from the commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan called for more troops was leaked to The Washington Post, the president gave no clues about whether he plans to send more soldiers and Marines to war.

“The country is weary of the war,” he said. “What I’m trying to do at this point is to make sure that … we have got a coherent strategy that can work.”

The president’s second spell on late-night TV - he went on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” in March - came one day after he appeared on five talk shows.

It is part of an effort to flood the public communications space with Mr. Obama’s message on health care as the reform effort hits a critical point.

Mr. Obama also received a heart-shaped potato from a woman in the audience of “The Late Show With David Letterman” who said she had traveled from Missouri to show it to Mr. Letterman.

“The main reason I’m here,” Mr. Obama said, “I want to see that heart-shaped potato.”

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