Obama Pushes Back: "In What Way" Is Putin Challenging Me?

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In an interview which will air in its entirety tonight on CBS's "60 Minutes," President Barack Obama pushes back against the idea that Russian President Vladimir Putin is "challenging" America's leadership in the world. While Obama tries to justify himself, "60 Minutes" host Steve Kroft inturrupts the president three times in less that two minutes: "He's challenging your leadership, Mr. President. He's challenging your leadership."

"In what way?" replies an angry president.

"Steve, I got to tell you," replied the president. "If you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in, in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we've got a different definition of leadership."

STEVE KROFT, CBS NEWS: A year ago when we did this interview, there was some saber-rattling between the United States and Russia on the Ukrainian border. Now it's also going on in Syria. You said a year ago that the United States-- America leads. We're the indispensable nation. Mr. Putin seems to be challenging that leadership.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: In what way? Let-- let's think about this-- let-- let--

KROFT: Well, he's moved troops into Syria, for one. He's got people on the ground. Two, the Russians are conducting military operations in the Middle East for the first time since World War II.

OBAMA: So that's-- so that's --

KROFT: bombing the people-- that we are supporting.

OBAMA: So that's leading, Steve? Let me ask you this question. When I came into office-- Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin.

KROFT: Right, right, right.

OBAMA: Syria was Russia's only ally in the region. And today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria, which they've had for a long time. Mr. Putin now is devoting- his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally. And in Ukraine--

KROFT: He's challenging your leadership, Mr. President. He's challenging your leadership-

OBAMA: Well-- Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in, in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we've got a different definition of leadership.


Via CBS News: Mr. Obama speaks at length to Kroft about the situation in Syria and about domestic politics, including his opinions on Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, whether his vice president, Joe Biden, will run for president, and his take on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. The interview will be broadcast on 60 Minutes Sunday, October 11 at 7:30 p.m ET/PT.

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