OBAMA I think some of the rhetoric you’re hearing on the campaign trail has to do with politics. Again, there’s a bracing reality that hits you when suddenly you’ve got responsibilities on the governance side. I do think that given the weakness of the economy, the American people are skeptical about taking any steps that cost too much or are perceived as reducing job growth. I think on the other hand, when you talk to the average American they are also very mindful that we can’t keep on sending billions of dollars to other countries in terms of foreign oil, that it’s bad for our national security and it’s bad for our economy. What’s also true is that most of the steps that we can take for our national security, for our energy independence, for our economy are ones that would have the side benefit of dealing with climate change. So my approach to Republicans would be to say, "Regardless of what you think about climate change, here are a bunch of things that are smart to do. It will save consumers money, it will save the country as much money going into foreign oil imports, so let’s concentrate on things that we just know are smart to do." If we do that, we can probably get a quarter of the way there in terms of where we need to be in terms of carbon emissions. The other thing we need to do is to make investments in new energy sources, clean-energy sources, because the unit costs for clean-energy [sources] are still higher than they are for traditional fossil fuels. I had a group of businessmen in here led by Bill Gates that said, "Probably the most important thing we might be able to do right now is to triple our R&D budget for energy," because right now it’s about a third of what the NIH gets for health research. Why not boost this so that we can make faster strides? Even when you talk to somebody like Steven Chu, my Energy secretary, who knows the science of climate change and takes it very seriously, as do I, he’s the first one to acknowledge that we’re going to need some transformative technologies in order for us to get all the way to where we need to be on climate change. The point is that there’s things that we can do short-term on that don’t require you to perfectly agree on the science of climate change in order for you to think that it’s beneficial for Americans long-term.
NJ Lot of rumors, kind of spawned by [Bob] Woodward, that Hillary might switch positions, that Secretary Clinton …
OBAMA That’s completely unfounded. They are both doing outstanding jobs where they are.
NJ We’re talking about the rumor that Vice President Biden … that’s completely unfounded?
OBAMA Completely unfounded.
NJ Are you going to run for reelection?
OBAMA Obviously I haven’t made any formal decisions, but I feel like I’ve got a lot of work left to do.
NJ Sounds like you’re in?
OBAMA Take it as you will.
NJ You nodded your head. [Obama laughs]. We’ve talked mostly about domestic issues here, but when you look at the world now, and you have very vexing problems in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran, at this point which one worries you the most?
OBAMA Well, let me start by saying that on Iran we had a theory coming in that we should reach out to Iran and give them the opportunity to do the right thing, but also have some sticks in place and apply them if they didn’t reach back. We have executed on that policy, I think, as well as anybody could’ve anticipated. And independent analysts have been struck by the degree to which the Iranian sanctions have had a significant impact on their economy. But that is a highly ideological regime, and we do not yet know whether the costs of pursuing a nuclear program, in their eyes, is now outweighing the benefits. But we’re going to keep on pushing. I think Afghanistan and Pakistan are the same problem, which is how do we address militant extremist terrorist networks that are embedded in that region, and metastasizing in other parts of the world that are vulnerable? And that will continue to worry me, I suspect, through the duration of my presidency and I think that will worry the next president as well. In order of importance, my most important task is making sure that those extremist networks never get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction, and we organized a nuclear nonproliferation conference that was very successful. And we made strides with a whole range of different countries from the Ukraine and other former Soviet satellites to other countries in the Middle East and Asia to try to lock up loose nuclear materials, and to make sure that there are protocols in place that reduce that danger. My second task is to make sure we’re dismantling and ultimately destroying these networks. The Afghan policy and our approach to Pakistan are both designed to achieve those goals. It is a hard slog, and I think General [David] Petraeus is pursuing the right strategy. We put before the Pakistanis our expectations of them in terms of being a partner with us on this. It’s uneven the help we will get, but I think that we are generally moving in the right direction. But it’s going to keep on worrying me for some time to come.