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CBS: Obama 'Outraged' Over Leaks About Afghanistan Indecision

Citing an interview the President gave to White House correspondent Chip Reid, at the top of Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith declared: "An outraged President Obama says heads may roll when he returns from Asia, telling CBS News he's furious over leaks about Afghanistan." The leaks in question have highlighted the administration's inaction on the war.

Rather than press the President on why he has failed to make a decision on Afghanistan, in the taped interview, Reid explained: "I asked the President if he's as angry as Defense Secretary Robert Gates about all of the leaks coming out of his administration about the Afghanistan deployment decision." Obama replied: "I think I'm probably angrier than Bob Gates about it....For people to be releasing information during the course of deliberations, where we haven't made final decisions yet, I think, is not appropriate." Reid followed up: "Is it a firing offense?" Obama responded: "Absolutely."

After the interview clip, co-host Maggie Rodriguez was glad to see the President putting his foot down: "Good to hear that he has a zero tolerance policy on the leaks. That is no joke."

The latest CBS News poll shows that Obama only has a 38 percent approval rating on his handling of Afghanistan, perhaps that is why the network is running defense for him.

After giving the President an opportunity to voice his "outrage," Reid moved on to softer topics: "The President talked movingly about the toll his job is taking on him." Obama explained: "Well, look - my weight doesn't fluctuate too much. It goes in a five-pound bandwidth. It has for the last - it has for the last 30 years." Reid wondered: "Skipping meals?" Obama admitted: "Skipping meals, that's usually just a scheduling issue, but I'm eating fine and I'm sleeping fine. My hair is getting gray."

After the interview, Smith listed Obama's challenges: "National debt hits a new record, IAEA is afraid the Iranians are hiding more nuclear devices, and oh, there's this other thing about health care to deal with when you get home." Rodriguez added: "No wonder he's gray."

Here is a full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: An outraged President Obama says heads may roll when he returns from Asia, telling CBS News he's furious over leaks about Afghanistan. BARACK OBAMA: For people to be releasing information during the course of deliberations where we haven't made final decisions yet, I think, is not appropriate and-

CHIP REID: Is it a firing offense?

OBAMA: Absolutely.

7:02AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Alright, our other top story this morning, President Obama has left China and is now in Korea, the final leg of his trip to Asia. He arrived in Seoul this morning and will meet with leaders there tomorrow. Before leaving, the President took a tour of the Great Wall of China, saying 'it was magical.' He also sat down with CBS News chief White House correspondent Chip Reid.

CHIP REID: In my interview with the President here in Beijing, he had some very interesting things to say about the war in Afghanistan, about the toll his job is taking on him, and even about Sarah Palin. The President said it's still several weeks before he makes a decision on how many more troops to send to Afghanistan.

BARACK OBAMA: Afghans are responsible for their own security. We've got to get Pakistan involved in a more effective way. So there are a range of things that we know we have to do. And at this point it's a matter of fine tuning a strategy that we can be confident will be successful. And also won't be open-ended. And I think that General McChrystal shares the same goal that I do and the same goal that the American people do. Which is for us to be able to protect our homeland, protect our allies, protect U.S. interests around the world.

REID: I asked the President if he's as angry as Defense Secretary Robert Gates about all of the leaks coming out of his administration about the Afghanistan deployment decision.

OBAMA: I think I'm probably angrier than Bob Gates about it. Partly - partly because, you know, we have these deliberations in the situation room for a reason. Because we are making decisions that are life and death. That affect how our troops are going to be able to operate in a theater of war. For people to be releasing information during the course of deliberations, where we haven't made final decisions yet, I think, is not appropriate and-

REID: Is it a firing offense?

OBAMA: Absolutely.

REID: Put your seat belt on, sharp turn here. Sarah Palin has given you a grade of four so far, as president, on a ten-point scale. Is that a fair assessment?

OBAMA: Well, look, you know, I have to say that obviously Ms. Palin's out there selling books right now. I think she's going to do very well. She and I have very different political philosophies. So it's probably not the person that I look to for measuring how our administration's doing.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Obama One-On-One; Dismisses Palin's Criticism of Him]

REID: The President talked movingly about the toll his job is taking on him.

OBAMA: Well, look - my weight doesn't fluctuate too much. It goes in a five-pound bandwidth-

REID: Skipping meals?

OBAMA: It has for the last - it has for the last 30 years. Skipping meals, that's usually just a scheduling issue, but I'm eating fine and I'm sleeping fine. My hair is getting gray. And it is the butt of a lot of jokes from my wife as well as my friends. You just don't have a comparable set of circumstances with two wars, a financial crisis as bad as anything since 1933, a host of regional issues that have to be dealt with, a pandemic - right? You have a convergence of factors that have made this a difficult year, not so much for me, but for the American people. And so absolutely that weighs on me. Because whenever I visit Walter Reed or other military hospitals, I see the incredible sacrifices that our young men and women are making. You know, that is - that is a heavy - heavy weight. But it's an extraordinary privilege, as well. And I wouldn't - I wouldn't trade my job for anything.

REID: The President's last stop before heading home is South Korea. He said his top goal there will be to keep ratcheting up the pressure on North Korea to stop its nuclear weapons program. Traveling with the President in Beijing, Chip Reid, CBS News.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Good to hear that he has a zero tolerance policy on the leaks. That is no joke.

SMITH: Very difficult thing to deal with, especially while you were out, you remember those little pink slips that you used to - you come back to your office - messages while you were out?

RODRIGUEZ: Yeah.

SMITH: National debt hits a new record, IAEA is afraid the Iranians are hiding more nuclear devices, and oh, there's this other thing about health care to deal with when you get home.

RODRIGUEZ: No wonder he's gray.

SMITH: There you go.

-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.