MR. REID: In my interview with the president here in Beijing, he had some very interesting things to say about the war in Afghanistan, about the toll his job is taking on him, and even about Sarah Palin.
The president said it's still several weeks before he makes a decision on how many more troops to send to Afghanistan.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Afghans are responsible for their own security. We've got to get Pakistan involved in a more effective way. So there are a range of things that we know we have to do. And at this point, it's a matter of fine-tuning a strategy that we can be confident will be successful and also won't be open-ended. And I think that General McChrystal shares the same goal that I do and the same goal that the American people do, which is for us to be able to protect our homeland, protect our allies, protect U.S. interests around the world.
MR. REID: I asked the president if he's as angry as Defense Secretary Robert Gates about all the leaks coming out of his administration about the Afghanistan deployment decision.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I think I'm probably angrier than Bob Gates about it, partly because, you know, we have these deliberations in the Situation Room for a reason, because we are making decisions that are life and death, that affect how our troops are going to be able to operate in a theater of war. For people to be releasing information during the course of deliberations where we haven't made final decisions yet, I think, is not appropriate, and --
MR. REID: Is it a firing offense?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Absolutely.
MR. REID: Put your seat belt on; sharp turn here. Sarah Palin has given you --
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Laughs.)
MR. REID: -- a grade of four so far as president on a 10-point scale. Is that a fair assessment?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Laughs.) Well, look, you know, I have to say that obviously Ms. Palin's out there selling books right now. I think she's going to do very well. She and I have very different political philosophies, so it's probably not the person that I look to for measuring how our administration is doing.
MR. REID: The president talked movingly about the toll his job is taking on him.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, look, my weight doesn't fluctuate too much. It goes in a five-pound band width, and it --
MR. REID: Skipping meals? Is that true?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: -- it has for the last -- it has for the last 30 years. Skipping meals, that's usually just a scheduling issue. But I'm eating fine and I'm sleeping fine. My hair is getting gray, and it is the butt of a lot of jokes from my wife as well as my friends. You just don't have a comparable set of circumstances with two wars, a financial crisis as bad as anything since 1933, a host of regional issues that have to be dealt with, a pandemic.
MR. REID: Right.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: You have a convergence of factors that have made this a difficult year, not so much for me, but for the American people. And so, absolutely, that weighs on me, because whenever I visit Walter Reed or other military hospitals, I see the incredible sacrifices that our young men and women are making. You know, that is a heavy weight. But it's an extraordinary privilege as well, and I wouldn't trade my job for anything.