January 25th, 2010
07:22 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama says focus is on major challenges, not boosting ratings

President Obama told ABC News in an interview that he would 'rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.'
President Obama told ABC News in an interview that he would 'rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president.'

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Monday he would continue pushing for major changes on tough issues such as health care and energy reform, even if it endangered his chances for re-election in 2012.

"I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president," Obama said in an interview with ABC's "World News" program. A transcript of the interview was posted on the ABC News Web site.

Obama will deliver his first State of the Union address on Wednesday night, just over a year after he took office. His popularity ratings have dropped in a first year dominated by the economic recession, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the push by Democrats to pass a major health care bill.

The president made health care his top domestic priority for 2009, but now is shifting his focus to job creation and other efforts to spur economic recovery and benefit middle-class Americans.

Obama said in the interview that tackling the nation's biggest problems remains his focus.

"What we have to have is a foundation that's built on a good education system, a sound energy policy, a health care system that works for everybody, financial regulations that ensure we don't have this crisis again, and those foundations for long-term economic growth are going to be my focus this year," Obama said. "They're going to be my focus next year. They're going to be my focus the year after that because if we don't get that stuff right, then it's going to be very difficult for us to answer the anxieties that people feel over the long-term."

The president acknowledged that he made a "legitimate mistake" in his first year in office by "worrying more about getting the policy right than getting the process right."

"But I had campaigned on process," Obama said. "Part of what I had campaigned on was changing how Washington works, opening up transparency."

He noted that the health care debate generated anger and frustration over how Congress crafts and passes major bills, which he called an "ugly process" that "looks like there are a bunch of backroom deals."

"Now I think it's my responsibility, and I'll be speaking to this at the State of the Union, to own up to the fact that the process didn't run the way I ideally would like it to and that we have to move forward in a way that recaptures that sense of opening things up more," Obama said.

The bottom line is to do what's best for the country, the president said.

"You know, there is a tendency in Washington to believe our job description, of elected officials, is to get re-elected. That's not our job description," Obama said. "Our job description is to solve problems and to help people."

The president added: "I don't want to look back on my time here and say to myself all I was interested in was nurturing my own popularity."

Democratic hopes for passing a health care bill were dampened last week when Republican Scott Brown won a special election in Massachusetts to fill the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by liberal Democrat Ted Kennedy.

Brown's victory cost Democrats their 60-seat super-majority in the 100-member Senate necessary to overcome a filibuster. Brown campaigned against the health care bill and has said he would oppose it.


Filed under: Health care • President Obama
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. LacrosseMom(the real one)

    Obama inherited the Bush Disaster, and some wanted him to wave a magic wand and solve all our problems in his first year.

    Even though the majority of bloggers on CNN are now, conservatives, angry & spewing their hate, I still believe that the majority of Americans are patient, fair people who are know that Obama has a tough job & are willing to give him a chance.

    January 25, 2010 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  2. Alan

    Well mark President Obama down for another LIE.

    If the polls don't matter then why:

    – Change your focus that we have all heard about for a week now
    – Hire back your 08 crew to try to turn things around
    – Suddenly are concerned about how much money the govt is spending. Realize that $80 billion per year is chump change compared to the spending that is going on.

    I know the diehard supporters are never going to see the truth, but for the most part America is waking up and seeing this man for what he is.

    January 25, 2010 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  3. Right Leaning Independent

    You are headed toward a poor one term President..... I think you are reaching when you say that you could be mediocre...

    January 25, 2010 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  4. lifelong democrat

    OMG!!!!!!!! You're a pathological LIAR Obama. You're all about rating, you're all about FEEL GOOD speech at the same time you're stabbing ALL OF US in the back with DEBT, SPEND, TAX, BORROW!

    Hey! President Obama! WE THE PEOPLE cannot afford you anymore, please resign.

    January 25, 2010 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  5. lanetta

    640k direct jobs; suppliers/local supportive businesses profited; Tennessee certainly profited in the public sector jobs with Stimulus money. It is easy to criticize, but I saw a direct effect in many states (checks picked up by many of the most vocal critics of the Stimulus bill).

    January 25, 2010 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  6. MatthewDetroit

    I like how Barack is admitting that he is a ONE TERM president.

    That is true my man.. you are a One Term president.

    Too bad you spent the last 12 months politicking and not working for the American People.

    Unemployment 10.2%.
    1.45 Trillion added to the National Debt.
    Gave Brazil 2 billion to drill for oil off their coast to sell to China, but you wont let us drill.
    Wasting Time and money... Taking over the auto companies...Spending Spending Spending... Buying votes....Lying........
    Yep you are a LOUSY one term president...

    January 25, 2010 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  7. Tram

    He's already been a great president for the first year of his first term. Overall, it's wonderful to have a president who understands that it's his job to DO his job, not pander to big oil or the religious zealots. It's his job to make America better, to make life better for Americans and he's doing everything he can to do just that. Too bad the GOP can't grow up and act like adults and try to make things better instead of proving they hate America and Americans at every turn.

    Obama's been president for a year. As long as common sense reigns and stupidity doesn't rear its ugly head again, he'll be the president for the next 7 years. We have a president who is actually doing his job. It's great.

    January 25, 2010 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  8. We the People....

    His goal needs to be to LISTEN to the CITIZENS of this country. He is NOT in office to fulfill his personal agenda... it is to do for the people of this country, ALL the people, not just his elite group of people wanting a socialist state.

    January 25, 2010 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  9. Sheryl

    I appreciate all of President Obama's hardwork. I think if he had more joint support party support, the Country would move faster in the right direction, Either or, President Obama will help middle class Americans more so than any prior President ever has. CHANGE AS COME, We Like IT, We Love IT, We Want Some More of IT !!

    United We Stand, Divided We Fall.

    I just love it when someone says, "President Obama is ruining our Country", when asked "And how is that ?" They have no Answer at all, just a bunch of ignorant talk from ignorant people, they have yet to define or justify the BLAME game on him.

    Keep Going President Obama, We KNOW that you have ALL our best interest at Heart !!

    January 25, 2010 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  10. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    Pushing his ideas of "health care and energy reform"–i.e., wasting trillions of dollars and ruining the American economy–will just guarantee that Obama won't even go down as a "mediocre" one-term President. He's going to have to work hard just to avoid being remembered as a disastrous one-term President.

    January 25, 2010 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  11. Jacob

    I'm proud of the statement he made!
    he was voted in to make change, and i'm glad he's not worried about his numbers!

    January 25, 2010 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  12. obama the liar

    the only worry you have about ratings Barry, is will they be higher or lower than your mentor Jimmy Carter when you are booted out of office. Hasta-la bye-bye in less than three years.

    January 25, 2010 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  13. bennie new york

    It's not really possible to be a good one-term president because they just tear down your agenda when you get kicked out. As for being a bad two-term president, we know that's possible(and I don't just mean Bush, all you neocons, Nixon was a two-term president as well.)

    January 25, 2010 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  14. JES

    What's sad is I don't trust a thing Obama says anymore. It's all about how he will look in the polls.

    January 25, 2010 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  15. Scott, Tucson

    Sadly obama is not even a good one term President. He and Congress squandered the first year when they had their 60 vote majority and obama still could not pass his health care plan. The man is clearly not a leader, yes he's a community organizer but not a leader.

    January 25, 2010 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  16. Kevin

    Hillary Clinton said she will not serve another term as Secretary of State...(According to Tavis Smiley) As a Democrat I really think Obama needs to drop Biden pick Clinton as his running mate in 2012 and he will be reelected other than that he will have a very hard time getting reelected as president... candidate Obama and President Obama are really two different people its crazy...

    January 25, 2010 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  17. T'SAH from Virginia

    The RepubliCAN'Ts are FOCUSED on boosting ratings – that is the reason why they say NO to everything President Obama tries to achieve.

    The problem with some democrats are – WE SCARE EASY and the ones who SHOUT the LOUDEST even thought they are HEAD STRONG and DEAD WRONG – The tea-baggers and ROUDY town hall meeting people GET OUT AND VOTE while WE sit at home and mope about it!!

    January 25, 2010 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  18. phoenix86

    Too late. He will be a really bad one term president.

    January 25, 2010 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |