Ebola 'a national security priority'
During the sit-down with Meet the Press, Obama also focused on the Ebola outbreak ravaging western Africa.
The president said the United States has a responsibility to give countries without sufficient public health infrastructure the resources they need to contain the virus.
"What I've said, and I said this two months ago to our National Security Team, is we have to make this a national security priority," he said. "We have to mobilize the international community, get resources in there."
Citing the need for U.S. military assets to set up isolation units and provide security for public health workers, Obama acknowledged that the virus may still not be controllable in Africa for "months." He noted the outbreak should not reach U.S. soil because it is transmitted by bodily fluids and not through the air, making it containable in areas with secure health facilities and infrastructure.
But he also warned that the virus could mutate if not controlled, making it dramatically more threatening throughout the world and even at home in the United States.
"If we don't make that effort now, and this spreads not just through Africa but other parts of the world, there's the prospect then that the virus mutates," he said. "It becomes more easily transmittable. And then it could be a serious danger to the United States."
Obama chastised those who dispute the need to spend U.S. dollars on public health aid in developing countries, saying that preventative measures are crucial to stopping outbreaks that could endanger the rest of the globe.
"When we make those short-term investments now, it really pays a lot of dividends in the future," he said.
On immigration, a politics that "did shift midsummer"
During the exclusive interview, Obama also defended his decision to delay executive action on immigration, saying that the summer's surge of unaccompanied undocumented children at the Mexican border changed the politics of the issue.
"The truth of the matter is that the politics did shift midsummer because of that problem," he said. "I want to spend some time, even as we're getting all our ducks in a row for the executive action, I also want to make sure that the public understands why we're doing this, why it's the right thing for the American people, why it's the right thing for the American economy."