CHICAGO--NBC Tonight Show host Jay Leno and White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) just discussed whether Obama draped his underwear over a doorknob. Obama said he did not, would try it, and asked Leno if that was his habit. But the best repartee had to do with whether Obama would leave his wife alone with Bill Clinton.
The underwear bit was just part of Obama's schtick with Leno on a Wednesday, a day Obama spent taping guest shots in Los Angeles.
Wearing his trademark tieless white shirt and dark suit, Obama, prompted by Leno, jabbed chief rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) who is surging in national and state polls. "Hillary appears to be a shoo-in is what they say. How discouraging is that? said Leno, handing the set-up to Obama.
Not discouraging at all, said Obama. "Hillary is not the first politician in Washington to declare mission accomplished a little too soon."
Former President Bill Clinton is a major surrogate for his wife and Leno asked Obama about the Bill factor.
Obama touted wife Michelle, his chief surrogate.
"Although Michelle, my wife, is no slouch. You see -- if there's a debate between Michelle and Bill, you know, I'm putting my money on my girl," said Obama.
Obama gave Leno an opening and he grabbed the chance. Leno tossed back, "You would leave your wife alone with Bill Clinton, would you? You want to rethink that?"
Said Obama, "Michelle can handle herself. She doesn't flinch."
(double checking tape to listen for that last word.)
BELOW, THE LENO TRANSCRIPT VIA THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN.....
JAY LENO: My first guest, often treated like a rock
star, actually he's a Senator from Illinois, and he's
running for President of the United States. Always
exciting when we have the candidates here. Please
welcome Senator Barack Obama.
JAY LENO: I have to ask you about your family. Dick
Cheney, you and he are eighth cousins.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Yeah. How about that? Yeah.
Not kissing cousins.
JAY LENO: No. No. Did you know about this? Did you
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: I actually did know. People have
been doing these genealogical studies of me, and I've
got all kinds of rogues in my background, you know.
You're always hoping for, you know, kings and great
JAY LENO: It always happens. You're always related to
Alexander the Great --
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Right. That's what I was hoping
for. Cleopatra or something. Turns out it's the guy --
the cattle wrestler.
JAY LENO: Exactly. Lynn Cheney is the one that sort of
brought this to light.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Yes. Yes.
JAY LENO: Has your approval rating dropped since you're
related, you and your Republican buddy?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: The truth is I am okay with it.
You know, now I don't want to be invited to the family
We'll avoid that. But...
JAY LENO: We have a picture of a family reunion.
What's happening? Is that Christmas morning? What's
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: No. True story. My
three-year-old, who was up there, she's now six, but at
the time she was three. She went up -- this is the mock
swearing in where you become a Senator. And Cheney
shakes hands with me and Michelle and our older
daughter, and my youngest daughter decides to give him
five. So she was like trying to get him accustomed to
Sort of giving him a little -- yeah.
JAY LENO: Wow.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Getting acclimated to the family.
JAY LENO: Exactly. Exactly. I gotta ask you about
something today a little more seriously. And it was
scary to hear these words. President Bush today was
warning about Iran and nukes, and he said, you know,
this is what we have to do to avoid World War III. And
I must say, just to hear a President just use the words
World War III, a little scary. Your reaction.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: You know what? I am really
frustrated by an administration that continually rattles
the Saber, is all about military force, has not done the
diplomatic work that needs to be done to contain Iran.
Now, Iran is a serious threat if it gets nuclear
weapons, and we should mobilize the international
community to get them to stand down.
But when you use language like that, what it does is it
alienates the rest of the world. It makes it more
difficult for us to mobilize the worlds' community to
put economic sanctions on Iran. And keep in mind, we
have a war in Afghanistan. We've got a war in Iraq.
Our military is extraordinarily overstretched, and at
this point in time, I think it -- you know, I hope that
the President will be a little more sober and
responsible in the language he uses, because this is not
JAY LENO: Let me ask you, you've been campaigning for
quite a while now. Anything surprised you? Obviously
they brief you. You get out there and you think -- I
don't know if you saw our Jay Walking how amazing what
people don't know. Is there anything you go, "Do people
even know what we're talking about?"
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: You know, folks in Iowa are
really well informed. I'm spending a lot of time there.
JAY LENO: That's really good.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: I'm just telling you, you go to
some barn somewhere and some guy in overalls and a seed
hat, he's say, "What is your policy on Burma?" And it
turns out I think people are a lot more plugged in.
Folks really want change right now. Some of it is just
reaction to the Bush Administration. But some of it is,
you know, people want to not just be against something.
They want to be for something. They want to feel as if
we can come together, that we're not just a collection
of red states and blue states. We can come together and
actually solve big problems like healthcare and energy.
And so you actually feel encouraged when you talk to the
American people. Of course, then you have to go back to
JAY LENO: Right.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: That's a downer.
JAY LENO: That's a downer.
Your strategy has changed a little bit. You're calling
yourself the underdog now. You're sort of putting
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: I've always been the underdog.
When your name is Barack Obama, you are always the
underdog. That's a given.
JAY LENO: I'm not even going to show you Jay Walk when
you get people trying to pronounce your name. Osama
Obubba? Obdu Baobama? I mean, it was like, we can't
even show this to the guy.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: I've heard them all.
JAY LENO: Do you prefer the underdog role?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: I do.
JAY LENO: Smarter at this point?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Partly because, you know, what
this campaign has always been about is change. And that
means that we're always going to be running against more
established candidates and people in Washington who have
been there longer and have a set way of doing business,
and my argument in this campaign is that we can't
provide healthcare to everybody. We can't solve global
warming. We can't solve these big problems unless we
don't just change political parties. We also change our
politics, because the special interests and the
lobbyists are too dug in.
JAY LENO: Because you and -- although you're the
underdog, financially, you and Hillary are not that far
apart in money. She's got a little more, but it's
really, what, $3 million?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: We've done a great job. We've
actually raised more money from small donors than all
the other Democratic candidates combined. People are
giving $5, $10, and that makes a huge difference in us
being competitive in this race.
JAY LENO: I mean, how about the big lobbyists? Did you
not take money from them?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: We do not take money from
lobbyists. We don't take money from federal registered
lobbyists. We don't take money from PACs because my
attitude is that if we're going to change Washington,
then part of the thing that we've gotta change is the
influence of money in politics.
JAY LENO: I mean, have you turned it down? Somebody go
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: We've had to send some checks
JAY LENO: Do you send it back?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Sometimes we do. Look.
Sometimes these are folks who, you know, mean well.
They want to help the campaign, but we just want to set
a policy. It's not perfect. The fact is if you're
running for President, you're raising money. You're
spending a lot of time with a lot of rich people as well
as ordinary folks. But what I do know is that we want
to send a signal we're going to try to do business
differently because the system is not working for
ordinary folks right now.
JAY LENO: How much money do you think you've turned
down? I mean, how much money -- what do you think you
would have if you were going ptttt...?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, I won't
speculate. But a lot of the other candidates rely very
heavily on a lobbyist's money. It's a big chunk of
JAY LENO: When we come back, we'll talk a little bit
about you and Hillary --
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Let's do that.
JAY LENO: More with the Senator when we come back.
JAY LENO: Welcome back. Senator Barack Obama. Now
you've appeared to have stepped up your criticism of
Hillary and certainly her voting for the war in 2002.
Is that a new toughness?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: You know, this is when people
start paying attention, and so all we're trying to do is
make sure that people understand the differences and the
choices that we're making. We're choosing the next
leader of the free world. It's not city council.
Everybody's got to make sure that they know going into
the polling place what people are thinking and how
they're going to approach issues. And part of what I've
been trying to do is make sure that people know that a
lot of these choices that we've got are not going to be
easy. So when I talk about global warming, I don't give
a speech to an environmental group. I go to Detroit and
I talk to the auto makers and the room gets really
JAY LENO: I bet it does.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: When I talk about fuel efficiency
standards on cars -- but that, I think, is what's
required. People -- the American people on Social
Security or healthcare, they know these are tough
problems and what they want is, I think, an honest
assessment of what it's going to take to solve the
problem and not a lot of petty-back fighting and
grandstanding. And hopefully that will be an effective
strategy in the campaign.
JAY LENO: Now, you watch the pundits in the polls, and
Hillary appears to be a shoo-in is what they say. How
discouraging is that?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: It's not discouraging.
JAY LENO: A little bit?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Hillary is not the first
politician in Washington to declare mission accomplished
a little too soon.
(Laughter and Applause.)
So we're -- we've got a long way to go before the first
vote is cast. But we do this every year, every
election. Four years ago, you know, President Howard
Dean was coronated, and that didn't work out. And so
really until those folks start going into the polling
place, these races end up being very fluid.
JAY LENO: How big a factor is Bill Clinton in this? I
was calling him the first black President, Call Dick
Cheney the first black vice president.
But how big a factor does he play? When he steps up --
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Listen. There's no doubt that
that helps Hillary's campaign. Particularly, among
Democrats, Bill Clinton is very popular. He's a great
strategist. He's very smart when it comes to the
politics of the Democratic party. And, you know, there
are a lot of chips out. People -- you develop a lot of
relationships when you're president. So that's part of
the challenge that we have to face is making sure the
people know me as well as they know her and as well as
they know Bill. Although Michelle, my wife, is no
You see -- if there's a debate between Michelle and
Bill, you know, I'm putting my money on my girl.
(Laughter and Applause.)
JAY LENO: You would leave your wife alone with Bill
Clinton, would you?
You want to rethink that?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Michelle can handle herself.
She doesn't flinch.
JAY LENO: You talked about speaking in front of groups
sometimes not always in your favor like the auto makers.
I know you reached out on evangelicals as well.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: We had a wonderful event. Rick
Warren has a terrific church down in Orange County,
Saddleback Church, huge mega church, but he's real
serious about AIDS. And he invited me, and folks gave
him a hard time a little bit in sort of the evangelical
camp about it. But when you talk to people in an
honest, sincere way about solving problems like AIDS,
even if they disagree with you on some things, it turns
out that people will respond.
I think one of the mistakes the Democratic party has
made in the past is we just assume sometimes that folks
aren't going to listen to us, so we don't go to rural
communities or we don't go to evangelical communities,
and my attitude is that if I show up and I'm listening
to people and telling them what I really think, I may
not get all their votes, but at least I will earn their
respect because they know that I want to be the
President of all the people of the United States, not
just the Democrats.
JAY LENO: And one thing that always amazes --
For example, like I have this flag pin.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Right.
JAY LENO: My brother was a veteran. I wear it. One
night I forgot to wear it. I got a nasty letter,
obviously, and then I noticed you were wearing it, and
then one day you weren't wearing it, and suddenly this
becomes an issue. This is a huge issue.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: This is the nature of
presidential politics. There's always something. The
truth is that, you know, I wore a pin right after 9/11.
When I took it off -- I lost it. I didn't replace it
even though I have terrific respect for those who wear
it, because I think a lot of politicians will put their
flag pin on and then act in a real unpatriotic manner.
You have Alberto Gonzalez wearing a flag pin the whole
time he was shredding the Constitution. What I want
people to do is to judge me by how I act and making sure
that I'm looking after veterans who are coming home and
giving them the resources that they need, that I'm
speaking out and defending the Constitution. If I'm
doing those things, hopefully that's how I will be
judged both as a candidate and as the president.
JAY LENO: There you go.
How is this campaign on your family? Didn't you take
some time off to go have a big 15th anniversary?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: We had one night off.
JAY LENO: One night off.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: This was our 15th anniversary,
October 3rd, and Michelle and I went out to dinner, and
about 9:00 o'clock we got sleepy.
This is what happens when you've got two kids and you're
running for President. So of course we went home and
watched "The Tonight Show."
JAY LENO: Of course.
That's what I do on my anniversary. Your wife -- this
made we laugh because I'm sure that she just said this
as an offhand remark. Again, it gets picked off your
wife said you had some bad habits. I think leaving
socks around the house.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: She mentioned the sock leaving.
JAY LENO: How about underwear on a doorknob?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: No. You know, do you do that,
JAY LENO: Occasionally I leave --
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: I'll leave ties on the doorknob,
but not underwear.
JAY LENO: Not underwear.
JAY LENO: It's a health issue.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: I'm going to try it out.
I hadn't thought of that. I admit that I am not always
great about hanging up my clothes. This is one of the
flaws that I have.
JAY LENO: And you want to be President?
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: I know. One thing I always tell
people, I am reminded every day of my life, if it's not
by events, then by my wife, that I am not a perfect man.
And I will not be a perfect president. But what I can
guarantee is I will always tell people what I think. I
will always tell them where I stand. I'll be honest
about the challenges we face, and most importantly I
want to open up the government back to the American
people, because that's what gives me confidence. The
American people are doing pretty well. When it comes to
issues, they understand what needs to get done. We just
need Washington to listen to them a little bit more
JAY LENO: I appreciate you coming by. I know you're
off to Iowa or some such place.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: I'm actually off to Nevada, which
is also an early state. I'm going to be in Vegas. I
was mentioning to some folks backstage that when you're
running for President, then what happens in Vegas
doesn't stay in Vegas. I don't have much fun when I'm
JAY LENO: Good luck to you, sir. Thank you very much.