Hyped almost as much as the Super Bowl itself was the pregame interview of President Obama by popular Fox News broadcaster Bill O'Reilly.
Both sides scored. Fox got an exclusive interview watched by a Super Bowl-sized audience, and Obama looked unafraid to face a news network he once described as "entirely devoted to attacking my administration.''
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O'Reilly repeatedly interrupted the president and frequently talked over him. But the conversation did not turn confrontational. Obama tried to defuse some of O'Reilly's more pointed questions with a chuckle and joked that the worst thing about being president was wearing a jacket on Super Bowl Sunday. At least he wasn't wearing a tie, O'Reilly noted.
O'Reilly set a friendly tone from the start by thanking Obama for coming to the defense of Fox News journalists attacked in Cairo during the massive uprising against President Hosni Mubarak.
Then he got to the point, asking Obama when the embattled Egyptian leader would leave office.
"Only he knows what he's going to do,'' Obama said, adding, "Ultimately, the United States can't force... but what we can do, Bill, is we can say that the time is now for you to start making a change in that country.''
Obama addressed concerns that the Muslim Brotherhood, which joined other opposition groups today in talks with Vice President Omar Suleiman, would try to establish a government hostile to American and Israeli interests.
"I think the Muslim Brotherhood is one faction in Egypt,'' Obama said. "They don't have majority support in Egypt, but they are well-organized, and strains of their ideology are anti-U.S.... It's important for us not to say the only two options are the Muslim Brotherhood or suppressed Egyptian people.''
Turning to domestic policy, Obama called federal District Judge Roger Vinson "wrong'' in ruling that the health care legislation passed by Congress last year is unconstitutional. Republican leaders have made it their mission to repeal "Obamacare,'' condemning the plan as a government takeover because it requires people to purchase insurance.
"If you get sick, you have a responsibility to make sure that you have got coverage. There's nothing socialist about that,'' Obama said. "That's saying to Americans, we, each of us, are going to be responsible for our own health care.''
On a day marked by nationwide celebrations of what would have been former President Reagan's 100th birthday, Obama echoed "The Gipper's'' signature optimism.
"The longer I'm in this job, the more I enjoy it; the more optimistic I am about the American people; and the more optimistic I am about the country,'' Obama said. "For all the arguing that we get into, there's a common sense and decency to the American people that makes me optimistic even on the worst of days.''
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