WASHINGTON (CNN) — When asked who would make a better successor – Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton – President Barack Obama joked that there was, “Not a chance am I going there.” And quickly added, “Both Hillary and Joe would make outstanding presidents and possess the qualities that are needed to be outstanding presidents.”
Obama made the remarks in a wide ranging interview on MSNBC with Chris Matthews. He tackled issues from Obamacare and the NSA to the political stalemate in Washington and the faltering economy.
The interview was taped before Nelson Mandela passed away.
On healthcare reform, Obama defended the troubled Healthcare.gov website, saying, “My advice to everybody is the website’s now working. Go to Healthcare.gov, take a look for yourself, in your state, what’s available to you. There is no reason why you should not have health insurance.”
He also defended his management style when asked if he would change anything in the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
“I’m holding every cabinet member accountable, and I want to have strong interactions with them directly,” he said, adding, “I have an open door policy, where I want people to be bringing me bad news, on time, so that we can fix things.”
Obama also tried to calm concerns about the National Security Agency and its data mining programs, saying the goal was to stop terrorists, not listen in on Americans’ every day conversations.
“If we’re gonna do a good job preventing a terrorist attack in this country, a weapon of mass destruction getting on the New York subway system, et cetera, we do want to keep eyes on some bad actors.”
Obama continued: “I’ve said before and I will say it again, the N.S.A. actually does a very good job about not engaging in domestic surveillance, not reading people’s emails, not listening to their- the contents of their phone calls. Outside of our borders, the N.S.A.’s more aggressive.”
The President also says he is personally involved in reviewing policies following the leaks by former government IT contractor Edward Snowden, saying the “disclosures have identified some areas of legitimate concern. Some of it has also been highly sensationalized. And you know, has been painted in a way that’s not accurate.”
On the political gridlock in Congress, Obama says he will not give up on his priorities and that he continues, “to have great confidence in our capacity to solve our problems. There is a specific challenge that we’ve got. And that is a Congress and this city, Washington, that is gridlocked and spends too much time worrying about the next election and not enough time worrying about the next generation.”
“We go through these periods where our politics gets all bolloxed up,” he said.
Obama also criticized the media, as well as politics, for trying to “divide” and “splinter” the American people.
“The American people are good and they are decent,” he said. “And yes, sometimes we get very divided, partly because our politics and our media specifically tries to divide ‘em and splinter ‘em.”
“But, you know, we got so much stuff goin’ for us that as long as any president stays close to the people, I think they’re gonna do all right.”
The President also pointed out his administration’s successes.
“We’ve now ended the war in Iraq. We’re about to end the war in Afghanistan. We’ve begun a recovery that is not yet complete coming out of the financial crisis. But the job market is getting better. “
Clinton or Biden in 2016?
As for a potential Democratic primary race between the Vice President and his former Secretary of State, Obama was very diplomatic and full of praise for both.
“I think Joe Biden will go down in history as one of the best Vice Presidents ever,” Obama said.
“And he has been with me, at my side, in every tough decision that I’ve made — from going after Bin Laden to dealing with the health care issues to, you name it, he’s been there.”
He also praised Clinton, saying, “Hillary, I think will go down in history as one of the finest secretaries of state we’ve ever had. And helped to transition us away from a deep hole that we were in when I first came into office around the world.”
“And to rebuild confidence and trust in the United States. And they’ve got- they’ve got different strengths, but both of them would be outstanding. “