President Obama sat down with Rolling Stone for a wide-ranging interview published on Wednesday. Here are some highlights from the conversation with a president described by Rolling Stone's Jann S. Wenner as "more somber than in past interviews."
Republican politicians-- both Republicans in Congress and the Republican presidential candidates-- have moved further to the right of their own party, Obama argued.
“What’s happened, I think, in the Republican caucus in Congress, and what clearly happened with respect to Republican candidates, was a shift to an agenda that is far out of the mainstream – and, in fact, is contrary to a lot of Republican precepts. I said recently that Ronald Reagan couldn't get through a Republican primary today, and I genuinely think that's true,” Obama said.
“One of the major arguments we'll be having in this election season is a contrasting vision that says not just that government is part of the problem, but essentially that government is the entire problem. These guys, they don't just want to roll back the New Deal – in some cases, they want to go back even further," Obama said.
"I think that the Republicans up on the Hill care about this country, but they have a very ideologically rigid view of how to move this country forward, and a lot of how they approach issues is defined by 'Will this help us defeat the president?' as opposed to 'Will this move the country forward?'" the president said.
On the Election:
“The fact of the matter is that times are still tough for too many people, and the recovery is still not as robust as we'd like, and that's what will make it a close election. It's not because the other side has a particularly persuasive theory in terms of how they're going to move this country forward," Obama said.
"Look, race has been one of the fault lines in American culture and American politics from the start. I never bought into the notion that by electing me, somehow we were entering into a post-racial period," Obama said.
But, he added: "When I travel around the country, a lot of people remark on how inspiring seeing an African-American president or an African-American first lady must be to black boys and girls, how it must raise their sense of what's possible in their own lives. That's hugely important – but you shouldn't also underestimate the fact that there are a whole bunch of little white girls and white boys all across the country who just take it for granted that there's an African-American president. That's the president they're growing up with, and that's changing attitudes."
Obama addressed concerns that the Keystone pipeline and developing Canada's tar sands could exacerbate climate change.
"It’s important to understand that Canada is going to be moving forward with tar sands, regardless of what we do," Obama said. "That's their national policy, they're pursuing it. With respect to Keystone, my goal has been to have an honest process."
"The reason that Keystone got so much attention is not because that particular pipeline is a make-or-break issue for climate change, but because those who have looked at the science of climate change are scared and concerned about a general lack of sufficient movement to deal with the problem," Obama said.
Obama said he was "deeply concerned" with lack of progress on addressing climate change.
"I suspect that over the next six months, this is going to be a debate that will become part of the campaign, and I will be very clear in voicing my belief that we're going to have to take further steps to deal with climate change in a serious way. That there's a way to do it that is entirely compatible with strong economic growth and job creation," Obama said.