President Obama does not fault his vice president for forcing his hand on the issue of same-sex marriage because "it came out of a generosity of spirit," he said in a wide-ranging interview on ABC's "The View" this morning.
"When you get to know Joe Biden, he is the most honest, straightforward guy," Obama said. "He's warm; he tells you what he thinks. We talked about it and what I said was I'm never going to blame anybody for telling what they believe."
Obama told ABC News last week that Biden got "a little bit over his skis" by publicly supporting same-sex marriage, forcing the president to speed up plans to announce his support for the unions.
"I think it's important for everybody in my administration to feel like, you know, we want to be disciplined, we want to make sure we're getting the message out there but at the same time, on issues of principle, you know, I always admire people who go ahead and speak their minds," the president told the hosts of "The View" in a segment that was taped Monday.
The president also revealed that he had originally considered breaking the news on today's program. "It was a possibility. It was," he said. "We had been discussing it for a few weeks and we thought, what are the formats where we could talk about it not just as a policy issue but as a personal issue and all of you came to mind."
As the story escalated, however, the White House decided to bump up the announcement, ultimately breaking the news in an interview last week with Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America."
Despite the president's historic decision to support same-sex marriage, he declined to say whether he would go a step further and publicly take up the fight to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 federal law that defines marriage as the legal union of a man and a woman.
The administration has already stopped defending the legislation, but the president said the rest is up to Capitol Hill.
"Congress is clearly on notice that I think it's a bad idea," the president said. "This is going to be a big contrast in the campaign because you've got Governor [Mitt] Romney saying we should actually have a constitutional amendment installing the notion that you can't have same-sex marriages."
When asked by ABC's Barbara Walters whether he would fight federal laws that limit the rights of gay and lesbian couples, the president noted, "we don't think the Defense of Marriage Act is constitutional."
"This is something that historically had been determined at the state level and part of my believing ultimately that civil unions weren't sufficient, and I've been a longtime supporter of civil unions for same-sex couples, was partly because of the issue of Social Security benefits and other laws," he said.
Obama also made clear that, although he just recently embraced same-sex unions, his position differs greatly from that of Romney, explaining that the issue is one of the many on which he and the presumptive Republican presidential nominee have starkly different visions.
"Mitt Romney has said he wants a constitutional amendment," Obama said. "That federalized the whole issue. He would defend the Defense of Marriage Act. So there are real differences here."
Ultimately, the president said social issues such as same-sex marriage will not determine the election come November.
"What will determine the election is the economy and whether everybody – gay, straight, black, white, Hispanic, Latino, Native American, disabled, you name it - whether people feel as if America continues to be this extraordinary land of opportunity and there's this very stark differences, legit differences between the candidates and between the parties in terms of how we are going to make sure that everybody in this country gets a fair shot, every kid is getting a great education, how we create businesses, how we create more jobs - that ultimately is going to be what determines how this election goes," he said.
Obama 'Just the Right Amount of Embarrassing'
In addition to talking policy and politics, the president also shared personal details about life inside 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, including the fallout from his infamous, impromptu Apollo performance.
Obama said that first lady Michelle Obama "gets jealous when I sing too much."
"She thinks this is kind of a private thing," he added.
The president showcased his vocal skills at a fundraiser earlier this year, singing a few lines of Al Green. His tune quickly became a sensation.
When asked whether his crooning embarrassed his daughters, he retold a story from his 50th birthday party last summer, explaining that they think he's "embarrassing, but not too embarrassing."
"Malia and Sasha and a bunch of my friends and Michelle had sort of like a roast, a little private roast, each one of them read something and Malia and Sasha had written out why I am such a wonderful dad. And they had this list, it was so sweet and one of the items on Malia's list was you are just the right amount of embarrassing," he said to laughter from the audience.
The president also proved his pop-culture prowess, acing a celebrity quiz.
Obama correctly knew that Kim was the Kardashian sister who made headlines this year for her 72-day marriage to pro basketball player Kris Humphries. No, the president is not a loyal follower of reality TV. Obama, an avid basketball fan, but said, "he was a ball player. I know from watching basketball."
Obama was also asked by co-host Joy Behar whether he knew about "the controversial sex book," "Fifty Shades of Grey," that's on millions of people's bedside tables.
After looking a little perplexed, the president admitted he did not know, but joked, "I'll ask Michelle when I get home."
This marked Obama's fourth appearance on "The View," his second as president. He made history as the first sitting president to make an appearance on daytime television when he visited the women of "The View" July 2010.
- Politics & Government
- Civil Rights
- President Obama