“I want somebody who has the intellectual fire power, but also a little bit of a common touch and has a practical sense of how the world,” Obama told C-SPAN political editor Steve Scully.
Obama repeated his hope that Congress will hold hearings in July so that they can be completed before Congress breaks for the summer.
“One of the things I would prefer not to see happen is that these confirmation hearings drag on and somebody has to hit the ground running and then take their seat in October without having the time to wrap their mind around the fact that they are going to be a Supreme Court Justice,” he said. “I'd like to given them a little bit of lead time so that they can get prepared.”
But he said he is not worried, noting that Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito too “approximately 70 days to get confirmed from the time that they were announced.”
“I think that's a fair timeframe for us to work with as well,” Obama said.
Asked if he would like to serve on the Supreme Court after leaving the White House, Obama quipped: “You know, I am not sure that I could get through Senate confirmation.”
The interview is to air in its entirety Saturday and Sunday on C-SPAN, a public service of the cable-television industry, beginning at 10 a.m. ET on Saturday.
Intriguingly, Obama said he has been in contact with his predecessor, President George W. Bush, without giving details.
Scully asked: “Have you had any conversation with former President Bush since the inauguration?”
Obama replied: “I have.”
Scully pressed, but Obama waved him off: “Well, I think that although I've only been president four months, I think a general policy of keeping confidence with your predecessors is important.”
Obama expressed great optimism about getting a health-care bill passed, even though he said it is “going to be very difficult.”
“I really think that the stars may be aligned here and we potentially can get it done if everybody comes at it with a spirit not of ideological rigidity,” he said. “But if they come at it with a sense that in a practical hard-headed way, we can really negotiate and compromise and get something done for the American people.”
In an exchange about the dueling speeches on Thursday with former Vice President Dick Cheney, Obama was told his speech had been described as historic.
“I am not sure it's historic,” he said. “I think that I tried to create a context for what we're doing around issues like Guantanamo, my decision to ban enhanced interrogation techniques, how we can, both preserve our values, uphold our ideals and wage an aggressive battle against organizations like Al-Qaeda that want to do us harm. …
“, I am very confident that if we approach this in a way that isn't trying to score political points, but is trying to create a legal and institutional framework with checks and balances, respectful of due process and rule of law, if we set up that system, then there is no reason why we can't try either in a military commission or in a federal court people who've done us harm and also spend a bulk of our time preventing people from doing us harm in the first place.”
On a personal note, Obama was asked about the current Time magazine cover story on Michelle Obama, which says: “No first family has lived with the weight of hope and a hope that has landed on the Obamas.”
Asked if he feels that way, the president replied: “No, we don't feel a lot of stress. We don't think in those terms. We think in terms of mom and dad and kids and now a dog and how do you make sure that your kids are doing their homework, brushing their teeth, treating each other nicely.”
In fact, Obama said, he has found that the White House “has been terrific for family life, compared to some of our other previous situations like campaigns, because we are all in the same place.
“I have got this pretty nice home office, and I am home for dinner every night just about that I'm in town. And I can read to the girls, and they can tell me about their day,” he said. “I've even gotten to go to a couple of soccer games. And so, we also happen to be blessed by two almost perfect children. So we are pretty lucky there.”
Scully added: “But you sell a lot of magazines.”
Obama parried: “Well, you know, Michelle sells a lot of magazines. I don't about how magazines with me on the cover do. I think Michelle's do very well.”