Transcript: Obama's Interview With Regional Reporters - Page 8 of 15

Transcript: Obama’s Interview With Regional Reporters

you about your Cabinet and your senior staff. By my count, you have about seven folks from the Midwest, six from the West, a crowd from the Northeast, and with maybe the exception of your able-bodied press secretary —


Q Mr. Gibbs.

THE PRESIDENT: He’s the only Southerner?

Q I think so.

THE PRESIDENT: You guys are feeling neglected?

Q Yes. (Laughter.) So I’m wondering why is that and what you don’t like about the South?

THE PRESIDENT: I love the South. (Laughter.)

Q And I’d also ask — like to ask you about — I think this is an unrelated question — the salmonella outbreak and food safety originated in Georgia and what you think needs to be done about that?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, the — I love the South. I’ve got to admit that we have thought a lot about finding the very best people for the jobs and haven’t been thinking with great intensity about regionalism, because partly except for food and sports teams and weather, I mean, we’re one country. And I think that people are so mobile these days that — I tend to think of ourselves as all just Americans.

But if you’ve got some great Southerners — (laughter) — who want to work for us, please let me know, because we’re always open. I love the South.

Food safety is a serious concern, and I’ve directed both FDA — I’ve directed both the Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services to work to come up with a plan so that a lot of these different agencies that have some jurisdiction over food safety are integrated in a much more effective way and things aren’t falling through the cracks.

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in working on the front-end with food producers so that there are better warning signals of potential problems than we have right now. And we also need to be able to trace sources of food contamination much more quickly than we’re doing right now. And technology can be helpful, but the key is actually reorganizing the agencies that are responsible so that they’re working more in concert than they are right now.

Q Thank you, and thanks for doing these. I actually have a follow-up on FDA, and that is, do you still support that agency regulating tobacco, and if so —


Q — what’s the timeline you’d like to see Congress working on that? And is the agency up to the task if we’re still having — just like we saw last month with the peanut butter — food problems?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, we’re probably going to have an announcement on this fairly soon so I don’t want to step on my own story, but I do think that the FDA has an important role to play on an issue that obviously has enormous impact on the health of the American people. That’s all you’re going to get out me there. (Laughter.)

Go ahead.

Q I have a question sort of similar to the Atlanta question. The Voting Rights Act, as you know,