Obama: I bear 'full responsibility for everything'
September 23rd, 2012
07:39 PM ET
2 years ago

Obama: I bear 'full responsibility for everything'

(CNN) – President Barack Obama discussed his frustration with gridlock in Washington, saying his "biggest disappointment" in his nearly four years in office has been the failure to oversee change in the nation's political climate.

"My biggest disappointment is that we haven't changed the tone in Washington as much as I would have liked," Obama said in a CBS News interview that aired Sunday.

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Asked if he bears any blame for the stalemate, Obama said the buck stops at his desk.

"I think that, you know, as president I bear responsibility for everything, to some degree," he said on CBS' "60 Minutes."

Throughout the presidential campaign, Mitt Romney's campaign and Obama’s critics have dogged the president for failing to get certain legislation passed in recent years, while Team Obama responds by faulting congressional Republicans for not compromising.

The tension has especially heightened as Congress faces a looming, end-of-the-year deadline to avoid the "fiscal cliff," a massive amount of tax hikes and spending cuts set to take place at the beginning of 2013 if Congress fails to act. Lawmakers on both sides have already showed signs of firm partisan division on the issue.

Obama's comments aired days after the president drew criticism from Romney over separate remarks about change in Washington, comments that suggested a slight tweak in Obama's 2008 ideals of "hope" and "change."

"The most important lesson I've learned is that you can't change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside," Obama said Thursday afternoon at a presidential forum the candidate taped to run on the Spanish-language network Univision.

Within hours, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney seized on the remarks, argued Obama had thrown up the "white flag of surrender," and vowed to make that change, himself.

"His first two years he had a Democratic House, Democratic Senate, he got to do whatever the heck he wanted to, but he says he can't change it from the inside. Well, I will," Romney told a Sarasota, Florida, crowd.

During his CBS interview, Obama reiterated ways he would recruit the American people to help him fix the nation's capital.
"Something that I'd really like to concentrate on in my second term is being in a much more constant conversation with the American people so that they can put pressure on Congress to help move some of these issues forward," Obama said.

Last summer, the president used such a technique, directly urging Americans in a primetime speech to call their representatives in Congress during the intense budget battle and tell them to vote for the debt ceiling increase. Responding, Americans dialed in and caused massive phone-line jams on Capitol Hill.

In the Sunday interview, Obama also offered some ways in which he has seen change, most notably the passage of health care reform.

"And so change has happened and positive change for the American people. I'm the first one to confess that," he said.
However, when it comes to shifting from a "political slugfest" to a climate more focused on "problem solving," Obama acknowledged he hasn't "fully accomplished that."

On the same CBS program Sunday, Romney agreed the problem ultimately falls on the president's shoulders and offered his own approach to resolving the partisan impasse.

"Leadership is not just working with your own party, but working with both parties. And I learned that. I was governor of a state with a legislature 87 percent Democrat," Romney said. "I realized I was going to get nothing done unless I had a relationship– a respect, and trust with– with the members of the– of the opposition party."

CNN's Gregory Wallace and Rachel Streitfeld contributed to this report.


Filed under: 2012 • President Obama
soundoff (652 Responses)
  1. Charles Ghisalberti

    Obama's 1st 2 years he had a Democrat House AND a Democrat Senate. He could get ANYTHING HE WANTED. He knew that he would benefit more by not doing immigration reform etc., because later he could blamne it on the Republicans because his ignorant base wouldn't know or realize that during his 1st 2 years he had a Democrat House AND a Democrat Senate. and his die hard Marxist loyalists wouldn't care. He is a total cynic and hack Pol.

    September 24, 2012 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  2. jim

    Romey can't even get his own party to agree with him on 80% of the issues. How is he going to bring both parties together? He has no real plan to begin with. To bad..I would vote for him if he could actully bring something new to the table.

    September 24, 2012 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  3. Mark

    The sign of a true leader is his willingness to admit his past mistakes and to take that experience and apply it to future successes.

    September 24, 2012 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  4. michael

    obama has great character and is presidential unlike romney who blames, accuses, lies etc. romney is not presidential material although next time im looking for a used car i might all him

    September 24, 2012 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  5. Norm

    Romney lies. He knows very well that his leadership would be no better if as good as President Obama's if all the Democrats refused to go along with his ideas and policies such as the pledged Republicans have done to President Ob ama and then they have the gull to say he can't lead or change the economic conditions.

    September 24, 2012 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  6. viknat

    Maybe you should have tried a few beer summits or attended the Job committee's or the security committees instead of golfing and extravagant vacations

    September 24, 2012 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  7. tffl

    Was the headline written by a Romney operative? It certainly calls out a direct quote that reflects very negatively on Obama, but which isn't found in the story, a quote that in fact is to some extent contradicted by the story ("to some degree" is not a synonym for "full"). I'd expect that sort of rewriting of reality on Fox, not CNN.

    September 24, 2012 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  8. Phyllis G Williams

    When men have done their best, angels can do no more. No man is perfect, we all have errors along the way,
    and others weaknesses make it even harder for us.

    September 24, 2012 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  9. LCSWquilter

    There is a disturbing discrepancy in this article. The headline says: "I bear full responsibility for everything." The quote in the article is more nuanced: "I think that, you know, as president I bear responsibility for everything, to some degree." I checked and the second quote is accurate and the first is not. It is misleading and CNN should change it.

    September 24, 2012 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  10. koram.leena

    Not being allowed to close Guantanamo wasn't his biggest disappointment? How is his failure to achieve a concrete, reasonable goal trumped by his inability to achieve some nebulous, can't-we-all-just-get-along, overly sentimental pander–and I think I just answered my own question.

    seo miracle

    September 24, 2012 08:07 am at 8:07 am |
  11. Fair is Fair

    "Except that which I cannot possibly blame on my predecessor... but my spin doctors are sooooo good, I'm basically responsible for absolutely nothing."

    FIFY,Obama.

    September 24, 2012 08:08 am at 8:08 am |
  12. Canuck

    I think a stick , not a carrot, is all the Republicans will understand.

    September 24, 2012 08:12 am at 8:12 am |
  13. HOLY TIGHY WHITIES WILLARD

    Don't beat yourself up over bipartisanship Mr. President. We all heard what Mitch McConnell's intentions were. You weren't even President for a full day and republicans were in Washington plotting against you. "I realized I was going to get nothing done unless I had a relationship– a respect, and trust with– with the members of the– of the opposition party." The problem with this Willard is that WE DON"T TRUST YOU!!!

    September 24, 2012 08:14 am at 8:14 am |
  14. Jason

    Romney came off as a likeable guy who has been forced by extremists in his party to adopt indefensible positions in order to get the nomination. He might have been a decent president if not for his idiotic party, ham-stringing any attempt at sanity.

    September 24, 2012 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  15. Rick 7809

    Obama's approval rating is 50%. Congress approval rating is 13%. Obama is taking some level of responsibility for "everything". Congress has taken responsibility for NOTHING.
    So where do you think the biggest problem is?

    September 24, 2012 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  16. M. D. Gentsch

    "I think that, you know, as president I bear responsibility for everything, to some degree," he said on CBS' "60 Minutes."

    This is a very odd statement coming from a man who routinely blames all of our nation's economic woes on his predecessor.

    "The most important lesson I've learned is that you can't change Washington from the inside. You can only change it from the outside," Obama said

    If he truly believes what he said, then why is he running for re-election?

    September 24, 2012 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  17. Elvis

    Translation: [Obama] "I don't have the leadership skills to work together with the country's elected leaders from both parties to solve problems, so instead I am going to use the media to create propaganda campaigns to blame Republicans and get what I want."

    September 24, 2012 08:23 am at 8:23 am |
  18. Sequel

    @Gurgyl–who said the money Romney "stashed" in the Caymans was illegal? And from Obama's apparent willingness to short-circuit the legislative process via administrative fiat, I think there is far more to be feared from a second Obama term than a first Romney term.

    September 24, 2012 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  19. Wake up People!

    Now that's a President. No whining they are picking on me. Watch and learn Willard, maybe then you can try again.

    Straight Democratic ticket Nov. 6th. Let's remove all traitors from Congress.

    OBAMA 2012!

    September 24, 2012 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  20. farcier93

    With Obama presidency, welcome to 4 more years of Washington gridlock. For Obama, its my way or the highway. Debates will be crucial if media does not spin a poor Obama perfomance into Obama victory. We dont want media to decide this elections.

    September 24, 2012 08:24 am at 8:24 am |
  21. Al

    So he's saying only saying that he takes responsibility for everything, I'd like for it to be specific, I want to know without a single doubt that he feels that he is really responsible for the hole that he has put the people and the country in. I'm sure that he will find a some way to say it was Bush that caused him to look bad.

    Let's get specific Obama what are you exactly taking responsibility for?

    September 24, 2012 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  22. Veritas

    Very true, the people must make it clear to the republicans that just blocking progress and government from doing its job is not an acceptable policy.

    September 24, 2012 08:26 am at 8:26 am |
  23. UDidntBuildThat

    Obama came into office with a filibuster proof majority in the House and Senate. Democrats controlled Congess up until 2010 and still controls 2/3 of the legislative Branch of govt today!! Obama told the Republicans, he doesn't want to work with them, that elections have consequences. Obama created the nasty tone in Washington and the gridlock we see today. THAT IS NOT A TRUE LEADER!!! For years he refuse to take responsibility. The Stimulus, Obamacare, Dodd/Frankd has made this economy worse! With everything OBama says shows he will do anything for a vote.
    He goes on Univision and says he cannot change DC fr inside that we the people have to give him another filibuster proof majority so he can continue to put the proverbial nail in the coffin of this US economy.
    We have been downgraded TWICE, QE3 will cause rampant inflation doubling to quadrupling the prices of everything esp the basics. That hits the poor the hardest & yet they are so stupid they don't see it.

    U want this economy to continue to tank, pay for everyone then vote for this guy. If Obama came out and said the sky was red, some of these fools would still come out saying "WHAT A TRUE LEADER!!" "Oh a great POTUS!!"
    Sheeps- Ba-ba!!

    September 24, 2012 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  24. Guest

    He has been blaming Bush for everything and now he is responsible everything. Typical Liar, that he is. What is his plan? His new plan. Because his last 4 years plan hasn't worked but he will probably get elected again. Why?

    September 24, 2012 08:28 am at 8:28 am |
  25. Ralph

    Interesting comment from a man whose party has been unwilling to compromise on a single issue.

    September 24, 2012 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
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