In an exclusive interview, NBC News’ Matt Lauer sits down with President Barack Obama in his first one-on-one interview since he signed the historic health care reform package. The interview will air tomorrow, Tuesday, March 30 on "Today."
Excerpts from the interview follow. If used, mandatory credit to NBC News with airdate and program: Tuesday, March 30 on "Today." Photos from the interview are available on nbcumv.com.
PRESIDENT OBAMA REACTS TO RUSSIAN BOMBING
While you were flying home from Afghanistan there was a tragic terror attack in Russia, in Moscow, in the subway there, 2 female suicide bombers killed dozens of people. They have a particular issue with the Russian Government but it does bring to light this issue of security again, in particular subways and rails and it's always been seen as a vulnerable spot in this country. Did you do anything when you got home? Did you call anyone? Did you talk about any ways to shore up security in our subway system and our rail system here?
We have been on top of the issue of rail security and subway security for quite some time. We constantly monitor it and try to figure out how to improve what we are doing. It is obviously a significant concern. It's not restricted to subways. The same thing can happen in a bus terminal and if you've got somebody who is determined to kill themselves and kill other people with them. That is always a challenge for any government. But I'll have a terrorism briefing this afternoon as I do on a weekly basis and this is something that we are constantly working on. A lot of what's important is because the rail system or the subway systems are so far flung in this country, a lot of what's most important to us is being able to identify ahead of time individuals like Zazi in Colorado who have decided they want to cause damage and us being able to roll them up before they are in a position to actually strike.
PRESIDENT OBAMA ON AFGHANISTAN
I was in Afghanistan with Sec. Gates back in December and he told me when he met with President Karzai he talked about cracking down on corruption and cracking down on the drug trade. The very same topics you talked to President Karzai about and I'm curious, do you think he is listening? Is he getting it?
I think he is listening, but I think that the progress is too slow and what we've been trying to emphasize is the fierce urgency of now.
PRESIDENT OBAMA ON HEALTH CARE
Let's talk about health care reform. Health care law. It is seen as a huge victory for you, your presidency, for Democrats and a tough pill to swallow for Republicans. It has been described in a lot of different ways, your Vice President described it in colorful terms, how do you describe it?
I think it is a critical first step in making a health care system that works for all Americans. It is not going to be the only thing. We are still going to have adjustments that have to be made to further reduce costs.
Jim Bell is the executive producer of "Today" (Monday - Friday, 7-11 a.m.).