Obama: 'Substantial' number of troops home for next Super Bowl
Nick Cargo
Published: Sunday February 1, 2009

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NBC's Matt Lauer sat down in the White House Map Room with President Obama before the Super Bowl game to get his input on his first days in office and hear about his administration's plans for the war, the economy and... the game.

"We've got real threats, and we have to remain vigilant, but the quality of our armed forces has never been better," he said. "When you meet the people who are charged with keeping America safe, it gives you enormous confidence. They are on the case, day in and day out, with extraordinary professionalism. But there is no doubt that we have to make sure that we don't let up, because there are people who would be willing to do us harm."

A "substantial number" of troops will be home for the next Super Bowl Sunday, the President said, on being asked by Lauer about the campaign promise to "end the war in Iraq." A "residual force" of thousands will remain, he clarified last December. "We're going to roll out in a very formal fashion what our intentions are in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan. But, in conversations that I've had with the Joint Chiefs [and] with the commanders on the ground, I think that we have a sense, now that the Iraqis just had a very significant election with no significant violence, that we are in a position to start putting more responsibility on the Iraqis. And that's good news for not only the troops on the field, but their families who are carrying an enormous burden."

"I think we're going to be in for a tough several months," Obama said on the economy. "We've got to get this economic recovery plan passed. We've got to start putting people back to work. We're going to have to straighten out the credit markets and make sure that credit is flowing to businesses and individuals so that they can start investing and hiring people again."

The President also talked of plans for new financial regulations. "I have confidence we're going to be able to get the economy back on track, but it's going to take a number of months before we stop falling, and then a little bit longer for us to get back on track."

Republicans have some "good ideas," he said on the economic stimulus bill currently being fiercely debated in the Senate, adding that the main objective was to get a bill passed that would put Americans back to work.

The President put his endorsement behind the Pittsburgh Steelers to win Sunday night's Super Bowl game due to the support he got from Pennsylvanians including Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney on the campaign trail. "Rooney didn't just endorse me," he said. "That guy was out going to steel plants campaigning for me. [Former Steelers player] Franco Harris was out waving towels at my rallies."

Obama did promise to keep his support low-key. "We've got some Arizona congressmen here and I may need their vote on the recovery package." The Steelers, he predicted, will "eke it out in a close one."

The Steelers won 27-23.

The following video, courtesy of MSNBC, was broadcast on February 1, 2009: