NJ You made a lot of promises in the 2008 campaign that people could tick off by the time they went into the voting booth, and you say you’ve accomplished about 70 percent of them. What are the promises that you can make now to the American public, the things you can get done in the next two years?
OBAMA I just mentioned two that I think we can get done, and those are two pretty big ones: making sure that we’ve got a framework for continuing the education reform that we’ve started that everybody’s confident about. Rebuilding our infrastructure in a serious way that puts people back to work but also lays the foundation for long-term growth. We still need an energy policy in this country. I think that it is not realistic to expect that we have another big omnibus, comprehensive one-size-fits-all energy bill. We’re probably going to have a series of more bite-sized pieces that have to do with renewable-energy standards, that continue to build on the good work we’ve done to improve fuel efficiency in cars, energy efficiency in buildings. I think there are going to be a whole bunch of Republicans who continue to be interested in how we can foster a clean-energy industry here, and how can we do a better job with traditional energy sources like nuclear and natural gas. I think there’s going to be room for us to come up with an intelligent policy there. It won’t be easy, but I think we can get something like that done. But everything we do is going to have to be focused on "how do we kick-start this economy so that it is growing faster?" Because the most important anti-poverty program I can put in place, the most important housing policy I can put in place, the most important deficit-reduction policy I can put in place is to have the economy grow faster.
NJ But when you listen to what you’re hearing from the campaign trail from Republicans, are you seeing mostly opportunities of the sort you’ve mentioned in energy, infrastructure, and education? Or do you think that the policies they’re promoting are mostly going to provoke resistance from you and a belief that they’re taking the country in the wrong direction if they have the power to implement them?
OBAMA It’s always hard to gauge what ends up being campaign rhetoric and what actual governance looks like. It is my hope that Republicans will say to themselves, "We need to get things done. In order to get things done we’re going to have to cooperate with the president." I hope they don’t believe all of their own rhetoric, because, for example, on something like dealing with our fiscal problems, anybody who’s honest and looks at the numbers will know that the reason we have these long-term fiscal problems is not because of stimulus, it’s not because of TARP. It’s because there’s a structural gap between how much money we’ve been spending and how much money we’ve been taking in that’s been going on at least since 2000. And we have an aging population that’s been making more demands on government. What they won’t be able to do, I think, is to say, "We’re going to cut taxes, balance the budget, and not impact on services that we know poll well and people like." If the "Pledge to America" says, "We’re not going to do anything on Social Security, we’re not going to do anything on Medicare, we’re not going to do anything on veterans, and we’re not going to do anything on defense," I don’t know a lot that’s left. Maybe they think that the national parks, they think somehow we can extract enough money out of them, or the Environmental Protection Agency. If that’s the case they’re going to have to look at the budget, and I’ll be happy to sit down with them and we can work through it line by line. Because one of the challenges we have, I think, is making sure that we’re all working off the same baseline of facts when it comes to our budget. I think a lot of people think that if we just eliminated waste and abuse in the system that would solve our fiscal problems. That if we got rid of earmarks that alone would solve our problems. If we eliminated foreign aid then somehow the budget would be balanced. And what will happen for any new arrivals, Democrat or Republican, they’ll run through the numbers and it’ll turn out that it’s not that simple.
NJ You mentioned energy as an area. On the other hand, of the 20 serious Republican Senate candidates who have taken a position, 19 have said that the science of climate change is either wrong, inconclusive, or flat-out fraudulent. I’m wondering, given that, how you react to that, and also if you would be comfortable having the issue of carbon emissions ultimately dealt with by EPA, an approach that I think you’ve always viewed as second and not the preferable one. But given where Republicans are on the science of climate change, can you see any prospects for action on that, and are you comfortable with EPA being the ultimate arbiter of how we deal with it?