President Obama concedes that Washington today “feels as broken as it did four years ago” despite his efforts and, in an interview with CBS News, admits that he “underestimated” what it would take to turn things around. He also acknowledges that one of Mitt Romney’s central arguments about the economy is a legitimate point.
The president’s comments came in an interview by CBS This Morning co-host Charlie Rose, which CBS has been releasing in snippets since Friday. The latest parts were shown on CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood on Sunday. First lady Michelle Obama joined the president for the interview, most of which was conducted in the Blue Room.
“I think there’s no doubt that I underestimated the degree to which in this town politics trump problem solving,” Obama told Rose when he was reminded of the high hopes voiced in his 2008 campaign. “Washington feels as broken as it did four years ago,” he said.
“And, if you asked me what is the one thing that has frustrated me most over the last four years it’s not the hard work, it’s not, the enormity of the decisions, it’s not the pace,” he continued. “It is that I haven't been able to change the atmosphere here in Washington to reflect the decency and common sense of ordinary people—Democrats, Republicans and Independents—who I think just want to see their leadership solve problems. And there's enough blame to go around for that.”
But the president did not dispute criticism of him that he does not have the economy back to full health. When Rose said, “It was a bad hand you were dealt, but you have not made it what it ought to be,” Obama nodded and replied, “Right.” When Rose added that this is the central argument of the Romney campaign, the president responded, “Exactly. That is his argument and you don't hear me complaining about him making that argument because if I was in his shoes I would be making the same argument.”
This answer was immediately seized on by the Romney campaign. Amanda Henneberg, a campaign spokeswoman, quickly emailed reporters that “President Obama has stepped back from his campaign of dishonesty and distraction and objectively agreed that he hasn't turned the economy around.”
But Obama made clear in the CBS interview that he wants four more years to complete the job and that he sees his economic policies as superior to Romney’s. This came when Rose pressed him on why he wants a second term in office and what he hopes to accomplish in the next four years if reelected. Before directly responding, the president said he wanted to note that “we did an awful lot in the first four years.” But he said he has learned that “everything takes a little longer than you’d like.”
That, he said, is the backdrop for answering the question about his second-term goals. He said he starts by asking himself, “What’s undone?” Providing his own answer, he said, “The most important issue we face as a country is how to we build an economy where the middle class is strong and growing, and those who are willing to work hard can fight their way into the middle class. And the components that we've put in place have made a difference.”
Looking to the campaign underway, he suggested that “the question right now for the American people is which vision – mine or Mr. Romney’s – is most likely to deliver for those folks, because that is where the majority of American people live.”
On a lighter note, Rose asked him where he will be spending his summer vacation. “Most of its going to be campaigning,” he responded, adding a wistful family note about his two daughters.
“The girls are now of an age where they start having their own stuff. So they've got a sleep-away camp for a month, both of them are leaving. We're going to be, you know, experiencing the first stages of empty nest syndrome.”
When Rose asked him if he is prepared for that, the president responded, “Well, I get a little depressed.”
More of the interview will be aired on Monday on CBS’s This Morning.