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WASHINGTON - We were led through a door that is usually forbiddingly closed, past a clutch of burly Secret Service agents, around a corner, and there he was, in a corridor leading to the Oval Office.
Barack Obama, America's "rock star" president, greeted us with a smile and a handshake.
I had felt a little nervous before the interview, partly because we had so little time allotted, just 15 minutes to try to extract some news.
As we walked in, we chatted briefly about a wooden carving from Burundi in the corridor, and then we sat. He was on a chair in front of the fireplace, the three of us were on couches on either side.
Obama knows my colleague Caren Bohan from his election campaign, and asked her about her son and what she was reading him.
He told us how his 11-year-old daughter Malia reads for herself these days, but said he was also reading her Yann Martel's best-selling novel Life of Pi. A "wonderful book," he said, that was enthralling his daughter.
The interview had been pitched as a preview of the trip he is starting this week to Asia, and especially about China.
As we talked, I also absorbed the atmosphere.
The desk under which John F Kennedy's son had famously played seemed a little smaller than I had imagined, not quite adequate for the world's weightiest decisions.
Just behind the president, I spotted the bust of Martin Luther King Jnr that Obama requested and that has replaced a bust of Winston Churchill. I also saw another Obama choice, Norman Rockwell's painting of the torch of the Statue of Liberty against a pale blue sky.
We asked about China's currency, America's trade gap and China's holdings of US debt. Obama warned of "enormous strains" on relations between the world's most powerful nations if those imbalances were not fixed.
With time running out, we moved on to nuclear disarmament.
Perhaps it was my imagination, or was the president a little awkward when we mentioned his Nobel prize - an award many saw as premature - and suggested he wasn't making a whole load of progress in stemming the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea?
"Well, first of all, I think it's very important to say that if by lack of progress you're suggesting we have not already eliminated nuclear weapons from the face of the earth in the first nine months of my administration, then that's true," he said, with a smile.
The interview was almost over. The president kept talking and was passed a note. We had a chance for a final question.
Would the president admit to any mistakes? Bush had famously been stumped by the same question at the end of his first term, saying he could not think of any.
"Oh, we make at least one mistake a day," Obama said smoothly, to laughter.
"I don't think we've made big mistakes. I don't think we've made fundamental mistakes," he said. "There are constant sort of things that I think have proven unnecessary distractions.
"But in terms of the core decisions that we've made ... I feel very good about our progress."-Reuters