Obama on the 'mistake of my first term'
July 12th, 2012
05:40 PM ET
2 years ago

Obama on the 'mistake of my first term'

(CNN) - President Barack Obama acknowledged in a Thursday interview that he put policy ahead of messaging in his first years as president, and could be more effective at "explaining but also inspiring" if reelected to a second term.

"It's funny – when I ran, everybody said, well he can give a good speech but can he actually manage the job?" Obama said in the CBS News interview. "In my first two years, I think the notion was, 'Well, he's been juggling and managing a lot of stuff, but where's the story that tells us where he's going?' And I think that was a legitimate criticism."

– Follow the Ticker on Twitter: @PoliticalTicker

– Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.

In his Thursday interview, Obama acknowledged that he could do a better job on the "inspiration" front.

"The mistake of my first term – couple of years – was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right," Obama said. "And that's important. But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times."

A second Obama term, he said, would involve "getting out of this town, spending more time with the American people, listening to them and also then being in a conversation with them about where do we go together as a country."

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney issued a statement in response, saying, "President Obama believes that millions of Americans have lost their homes, their jobs and their livelihood because he failed to tell a good story. Being president is not about telling stories. Being president is about leading, and President Obama has failed to lead. No wonder Americans are losing faith in his presidency."


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (197 Responses)
  1. Anna

    The mistake Barry, is that you even had a first term

    July 13, 2012 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  2. Tyler Durden

    So good to know that the only mistake this president has made was not convincing us he knew what was best for us.

    July 13, 2012 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  3. Mike

    Good. Now let's get started with some inspirational speeches. Social justice, education, preserving the dignity of the middle class – these are topics worthy of a stirring oration. I never got why the Republicans put down the idea of inspirational speeches – saying they are just words. In fact, they are so much more. A powerful orator can stir people into action, influence legislation, rally people around a worthy cause, and change the culture of a nation. Perhaps the most important thing a President can do is to inspire the nation with his words. Go for it, Mr. President

    July 13, 2012 01:56 am at 1:56 am |
  4. RillyKewl

    He's right, and he's wrong.
    Yes, we expected better presentations of your policies, and a stealthy defense against their criticisms.
    I knew we were losing the battle that first summer, when healthcare wasn't being portrayed as important, and Arlen Specktor was being attacked at a town hall by crazy people.
    That's when I realized this whole gig is falling apart.

    Then he renewed the Bush tax cuts, and caved to every crazy republican demand for no good reason, bringing on the debt ceiling debacle...
    Now we kill Americans without trial overseas + any male of military age that dies in a drone attack is automatically labeled a 'terrorist' just for being in the vicinity…

    July 13, 2012 02:03 am at 2:03 am |
  5. David Martin

    Obama's big mistake was not keeping his word! He promised to change the way things are done in Washington–he didn't. He promised to reach out to Republicans–instead he insisted "Elections have consequences–we won!!" He promised to reduce the deficit by half–he hasn't. All in all, he has been an opportunist with a smooth rap and a personal agenda–THAT has been his big mistake!

    July 13, 2012 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  6. Matthew Witthaus

    People lost their homes and their livelihoods under Bush, simpleton. Obama has just about righted the ship, though you demogogues are loathe to admit it. If you were real Americans, instead of greedy, ignorant, racist malcontents, you would get behind his presidency, rather than tell bald faced lies about what's gotten "worse" or peddling the tired 'losing faith' canard. And all so you can line up and screw some more middle-class populations for the sake of your lifestyle and bank books. YOU ARE AN ENEMY OF AMERICA, MITTENS. And no, greed, elitism, opportunism and deck stacking are NOT cardinal American virtues, either. Only GOP'ers believe that.

    July 13, 2012 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  7. Sam

    Personally, I'm tired of Romney telling stories. Tell me a plan. Tell me a direction. Stop telling me a blame.

    July 13, 2012 02:53 am at 2:53 am |
  8. A person of interest

    Does Romney always have to comment....draw up a plan on what you plan on doing if you become POTUS.....Obama at least ended the Iraq "Invasion" and got Osama Bin Laden, showed up to 4 of our countries natural disasters...this country
    Failed because no one saved any money so don't blame bush and Obama BTW

    July 13, 2012 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
  9. RogerE

    Mitt Romney is way off with this one. The Presidents job is about inspiration through ideas and stories. The President has no power other than the power of veto. He needs to present a vision and inspire the people to believe in a single path towards a future that the majority agree upon. The Congress has the real power and the only thing the President can really do is make a case and argument through telling the story as he sees it. Problem is that Democrats are not particularly at constructing an argument and Republicans still live in the 19th century.

    July 13, 2012 03:33 am at 3:33 am |
  10. It's not about a misunderstanding

    Obama thinks if he just could explain himself better then people would just agree with him. He just can't imagine that people fully understand his ideas and plans, but want something different for our country.

    July 13, 2012 03:37 am at 3:37 am |
  11. Dan

    Nonsense which his advisers tell him, so he believes there are no 'real failures' on his part, but lack of communicating and inspiring. Really? Where are the jobs? what are the priorities?

    July 13, 2012 04:56 am at 4:56 am |
  12. Jeff

    Bottom line he lied about everything when he ran. I'm going to be the most transparent pres. yet he refused to show his birt cert, won't release his college transcripts, theisis. I won't sign any bills that have earmarks yet his first bill had 8000 earmarks. he said all bills will be posted online for 48 hrs before he signs yet the healthcare bill was passed late at night and not posted at all. For the last 3 yrs he wanted to raise taxes by stopping the bush tax cuts saying they only help the rich which is a lie. he and the dems refuse to do a budjet for the last year. he refuses to work with the reps on anything. Its his way or he crys. and when he crys he says the same thing "old people won't get their ss checks, troops won't get paid which is not true. you can go on and on.

    July 13, 2012 05:18 am at 5:18 am |
  13. wes

    I have always felt that our President is not a business leader, nor head of some idealistic family, but sort of a coach with a complexity of team members. There is a lot of PR in politics that are not at all relevant to the matters of governing. The prestidigitation of government is how the gears of making some fractal arrangement out of a recursive disordered system coalesce and become realized. It is midway carnival hawking that delivers the goods and makes for a good show. Congress is the underbelly of our government and where the clockwork organization must be more firmly managed. If I recall it correctly, Mr. Qruomo said it best, "We campaign in poetry but govern in prose."

    July 13, 2012 05:27 am at 5:27 am |
  14. Jerry

    What a joke!!! This MAN has a full history of mistake, after mistake, after mistake. On top of that, HE has absolutely no respect for the American populace. And, on top of that, HE and his administration shamelessly lie with absolutely no hesitation at all.

    Everyone knows (with the exception of the NAACP) about the economy and jobs, etc., etc., etc.

    July 13, 2012 06:12 am at 6:12 am |
  15. Marie MD

    President Obama has been very inspiring and he tried to reach across the aisle. Unfortunately, the teapublikkkans don't want anything but to make him a one term president so it's a lose situation as far as anything he does.
    As far as the bully bishop goes, he has not lead anything in his life except for a bullying attack on a gay student and instrumental in animal abuse of his dog.
    Wearing a MI state trooper uniform and stopping people was deemed creepy by his friends, that's not leadership. I still want to know why he didn't end up in jail where he belongs!

    July 13, 2012 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  16. Gurgyl

    No American lost faith in this president–we lost faith in "Republican-Cult" and it's War idealogy. Yes, putting policy upfront and impliment is more important in nation's progress. Not shipping jobs to China, nor stashing money in Cayman islands, Swiss, my dear friend. If I were in his shoe, I would do the same. Obama12.

    July 13, 2012 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  17. Out Of Touch with reality

    How can We The People believe you, you have destroyed the American Dream so time has come that you must go, bye bye.

    July 13, 2012 06:47 am at 6:47 am |
  18. Steve Sproles

    January 20, 2013: We take our country back from this Un American traitor! American troops should protect our border from the invasion that is going on right here. Not half way around the world! Leave those damn people alone and maybe they will reciprocate! Duh.............

    July 13, 2012 06:55 am at 6:55 am |
  19. John

    The mistakes of the first term.
    – Continuing secret prisons
    – continuing to designate new enemy combatants
    – ACA which is failing to cut cost and cover more Americans as promised
    – Stimulus which failed to save the jobs promised
    – Increasing the deficit spending beyond even GW's levels

    July 13, 2012 06:57 am at 6:57 am |
  20. Dennis

    Someone needs to explain it again, and this time slowly to Mitt.

    July 13, 2012 07:00 am at 7:00 am |
  21. TomInRochNY

    Obama is so right. The republicans tell a great story and the ignorant who fail to dig any deeper believe it. Reagan taught them that.

    July 13, 2012 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  22. liberal disease

    the only people he inspires are the ones with their hands out

    July 13, 2012 07:17 am at 7:17 am |
  23. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    President Obama, you have done an excellent job and we the American people are forever grateful for your service and commitment to our cause! I believe that when you have two unfinished wars to deal with and the worst economic crisis in America since the Great Depression, and O' yes, a devided congress willing to see that you and the country fail, along with having to deal with global unrest from the Arab Spring in which you are being judge and scrutinized to civil war in Sudan to a historic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, to a healthcare legislation that was dragged out for an entire year and deliberately prolonged by the right to prevent it from becoming law, with due respect and fairness, I believe that it becomes difficult for the President to tour the country and brief the American people day to day and tell them this is where we are heading! Let's face it, that is where the other members of the Democratic Party comes in but unfortunately, they have remain silent and withdrawn from the political scene for three and a half years because of fear mongering by the Tea Party!

    Mitt Romney, you can blabble all you want but we the American people know that President Obama has fought relentlessly and courageously for us and we know that the President is for the middle class and poor, for women, for our servicemen and women and for the elderly and he has demonstrated that not only in words but also in deeds by passing the Affordable Care Act and two stimulus packages, along with extension of unemployment benefits to help unemployed and struggling Americans keep a roof over their families heads and food on the table while they look for work! Subsequently, the President has put everything on the line to avert a government shutdown three time in a year and a half while your republican party has done everything in its means to steamroll the American people!

    Mr. President, thank you for your bold and courageous leadeship and your commitment to the welfare of the American people!

    Obama/Biden/Roberts 2012!

    July 13, 2012 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  24. NativeBornUSA

    Hillarious, like saying my only mistake is I was not perfect enough........egads what an ego!!! The guy that sent more than all the other presidents combined to accomplish little to nothing, divided more when he claimed he would bring people together, the world and mideast hate us just as much or more only now they walk all over us because of WEAK leadership the guy that broke over five hundred campaign promises with outright lies apparently but his mistake is he was not inspiring enough hahahahahahahahahahah yea sure.........who is that removing partisan vitriol changing the atmosphere in DC five days on website CSPAN cameras, never raise the debt ceiling, work across the aisle guy? hahahaha

    July 13, 2012 07:20 am at 7:20 am |
  25. marisombra

    No more excuses for Obama...he's done for.

    July 13, 2012 07:28 am at 7:28 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8