No Time for Joking Around?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," March 19, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Tonight: The president on the "Tonight" show. What? You heard right. He is on with Jay Leno. President Obama is the first sitting president ever to do a late night talk show. Some think he should have stayed home because we're in the middle of an economic crisis, the Dow keeps diving, and everyone is up in arms about over the $165 million AIG executive bonuses. But should he have stayed home, or is he entitled to have a little fun? Judge for yourself. You are seeing it here first before everyone else, President Obama joining Jay Leno on the "Tonight" show.


JAY LENO, HOST: Good to see you.



OBAMA: Let me just say I think Kevin looks good in a suit.


OBAMA: He looks a little like Secret Service.


LENO: He does. And you're the only guy who could get him to wear it.

OBAMA: I was mentioning earlier, we landed yesterday -- and this is an example of life in the bubble. We landed at the fairground down in Costa Mesa. And I see the fairground where I think we're having this town hall. I said, Well, why don't we walk over there? Secret Service said, No, sir. It's 750 yards.


OBAMA: So I was trying to calculate. Well, that's, like, a five-minute walk. Sir, sorry.


OBAMA: The immediate bonuses that went to AIG are a problem, but the larger problem is we've got to get back to an attitude where people know enough is enough and people have a sense of responsibility and they understand that their actions are going to have an impact on everybody. And if we can get back to those values that built America, then I think we're going to be OK.

Ultimately, I'm now the guy who's responsible to fix it, and one of the things that I'm trying to break is a pattern in Washington where everybody's always looking for somebody else to blame.

LENO: Now, how cool is it to fly in Air Force One?


OBAMA: You know, now, let me tell you, I personally think it's pretty cool, especially because they give you, you know, the jacket with the seal on it.


LENO: Oh, yes. (INAUDIBLE) when people -- Mr. President, would you like to play? Yes, I would. Do they throw the game? Come on!


OBAMA: I don't see why they would throw the game, except for all those Secret Service guys with guns around.

LENO: Right.



VAN SUSTEREN: Well, some are slamming President Obama for appearing on a late night comedy show in the middle of an economic crisis. He's also getting slammed by some for going on TV to talk about his NCAA basketball tournament picks. Who is one of the big names slammer the president? Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski. He says the president shouldn't be wasting his time discussing basketball, he should be focusing on the economy.

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner, joins us. Byron, it's sort of interesting. The clip that we just saw -- NBC owns these clips because it's an NBC show. They neglected to -- or they didn't release one clip that everyone's going to be talking about tomorrow. What's that one?

BYRON YORK, WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Well, he was talking about everything that's in the White House. You know, there's a bowling alley in the White House. And of course, during the campaign, President Obama had embarrassed himself by bowling, what was it, a 29. I mean, he was just terrible when he went to -- on a campaign stop. He said he'd gone down to the White House bowling alley and bowled 129. Jay Leno kind of made fun of it, and he said, Well, it's -- he -- the president said, "It's like the Special Olympics," or something.


YORK: Which is a line he's probably going to have to apologize for.

VAN SUSTEREN: The White House had no comment about that line tonight. That -- I mean -- look, everyone has said things that we really regret saying. The problem is he's the president of United States, and it's on, you know, TV, and you know, I'll probably say the next thing tonight and understand his pain more than anything. But in the midst of an economic crisis, going on a comedy show, good idea or not?

YORK: I think this is probably a bad idea. Everything that the president does that's not directly related to the economic crisis now is being judged in the context of his not coming up with a financial rescue plan to deal with the toxic assets that still threaten the economy. Everything -- you know, for example, not staffing the Treasury Department, pushing too much or pushing a lot on health care, energy and education -- all of that's being viewed in light of the fact that he still hasn't come up with his plan. So his critics can say, You're going off and being on comedy shows? Could we please come up with a financial rescue plan?

Watch Greta's interview with Byron York

VAN SUSTEREN: Isn't that something, though, that Tim Geithner, Secretary of Treasury, is the one who should be doing it -- and we'll get to him in a second because many have called that he be fired. And the president got criticized because he was such a doom and gloom guy before. I mean, all he did was tell us how we're About To, you know, go off the end of the cliff, and so there was so much emphasizing -- you know -- you know, Pick it up a little bit. You know, make people feel, you know, more -- you know, I mean -- do you think this is some sort of effort to try to do that and just the wrong effort?

YORK: Well, it is. Look, he did a major pivot about 10 days ago and started talking the economy up. The reason he's going to California, in addition to the Leno appearance, is that he's trying to sell this budget. We're preparing for this next huge fight over the budget, and it's a budget that -- much of which he should be able to pass on his own with just the Democratic votes, 256 in the House, 58, maybe 59 soon, in the Senate. But he's having to try to build support for this because he's not really guaranteed moderate Democratic support on the Hill. So that's the bigger picture of this trip to California.

VAN SUSTEREN: So he's trying to -- he's trying to, basically, get the Democratic vote by going out to California, rather than staying here and trying to talk to the Democrats, the moderate Democrats, and say, This is why this is a good idea.

YORK: It's a classic presidential technique of kind of going over the news media, going straight to the people, showing that he's got a lot of support. And he's had really, really enthusiastic support at these town meetings that he's put together. You saw the audience Leno was very, very enthusiastic. So I think he's trying to build -- put his personal campaign-style, you know, support in this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Byron, thank you.

YORK: Good to be here.

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