Obama: I bear 'full responsibility for everything'
September 23rd, 2012
07:39 PM ET
6 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. Ramon F. Herrera

    "So, he's not disappointed at all that 14 million Americans are unemployed, and he hasn't been able to help them?"

    If it weren't for the steps Obama took, we would have 40 million unemployed.

    September 24, 2012 08:31 am at 8:31 am |
  2. Katie

    The President is only one man, but congress is many. The repub's never intended to pass anything to hurt this man. Their main focus we're to vote no on all of his ideas. Voters need to come out and get rid of the non players and let this President work. Gridlock hurts everyone and Willard and his lying team will sink us all! Stay focused Mr. President!

    September 24, 2012 08:32 am at 8:32 am |
  3. dcd

    We know who he is and at least he can stand up there and take blame, but where are the republicans who stopped him from doing many, many things in regards to jobs? They take no blame and any intelligent person knows a president can only do so much. He needs the backing of congress and senate to pass bills that move the country forward. Without that his hands are tied on a lot of things. When he said we have to change things on the outside he was absoulutely correct. We the people on the outside need to lean on congress to pass the bills that will create those jobs. Either pass these bills or you will not get re-elected, that's how you change things from the outside. Now Romney has failed to offer anything new, but insists on going back to the GW Bush policies that got us in this mess. Sounds like he is trying to do the same things as GW Bush only expecting a different result. Sorry! I am not willing to take that change and I hope the majority of the country isn't either. Ann Romney admited to all of us that they are not ready to president and first lady. When she is telling the media and other republicans to stop criticizing their campaign, that it's hard, well what does she think it's going to be like if Romney is elected. Does she think they are going to sit back in the White House and relax and all the criticism will go away. No, it will be a 100 times worse. They both just seem out of touch and unstable.

    September 24, 2012 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  4. Doug

    "Our #1 goal is to make Obama a one-term president." GOP Leader Harry Reid, 2008. This is the GOP's priority, not jobs, deficit, economy, national security. They have done all in their power to sabotage congress and the economy so they would have something to blame on Obama.

    September 24, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  5. UDidntBuildThat

    We see incomeptence over and over with Obama. While he accuses Romney of shooting 1st and aimling later, this admin dropped the ball on the Libya attack that killed a US Ambassasdor and 3 service men. There was inadequate security, they knew the attack was coming 3 days b/4 and are still lying to the American people about what happened. While our Ambassador was sodomized, tortured and murdered at our embassy, on the anniversary of Sept 11th, Obama, so tired fr all the campaigning went to bed. While the ambassadors bodied lie cold the next day, Obama the POTUS, goes to a fundraiser in Vegas. Nothing about that fr the media. Just think if this were a republican President, the media would be running this for weeks.

    Do u think Obama is competent to run this economy? What experience did he have in the 1st place? Zero. Look at the economy now. Does this look like he knows what he is doing? What has he done? GM? That bailout started under the Bush Admin. Yet Obama & Biden is walking around taking credit for it. LOL!!! Snookered!!!

    September 24, 2012 08:35 am at 8:35 am |
  6. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    "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
    Thus says Romney who had the advantage, and the fulfilled expectation of working with an "opposition" who was not opposed to everything he proposed simply because their ONLY objective was to get him out of office.
    So apples to bricks Mittens, apples to bricks.
    Obama 2012. Seriously America.

    September 24, 2012 08:39 am at 8:39 am |
  7. Elizabeth

    President Obama...Thank you for all you do! It consistently reflects who you are...and I appreciate!!

    September 24, 2012 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  8. AngieS

    In order to work with the opposing party they have to be willing to do so. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. And, notice, Mitt-the-twit didn't get invited back to a second tem in that Democrat-held state...wonder just how much of a "relationship of respect" he really had... We should be jamming the Capitol Hill phone lines at every opportunity; let these dorks in congress know that WE mean business!

    September 24, 2012 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  9. julie

    look FOLKS at the DESPERATION on mitt supporters they are as fake as the wannabe phony leader..............
    guess faux news won't let you post there............MIT IS FALLIN LIKE A ROCK FROM A PLANE...people do strange thigs when desprate look at em all sscared now say what you want mit is done like dinner....on NOV 7 we can help all f you people pack & move Mit will support ya 47%...hehehe see ya here on Nov 7


    September 24, 2012 08:40 am at 8:40 am |
  10. Malory Archer


    Almost all presidents have to deal with Congress controlled by the other party at some point. Good ones like Clinton and Reagan work with them. Bad ones don't


    the house speaker states he got 98% of what he wanted. Seems like President Obama bent over backwards to work with the other party. Sounds like the real problem is with congress.

    September 24, 2012 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  11. Tim

    To change the is climate in Washington is to change the remaining 533 people all at once. Then you will see change.

    September 24, 2012 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  12. Mike

    In your 2nd term, Mr. President, hold Congress accountable to the job that they are there to do. Call Joint Sessions of Congress every day, and keep them in session as long as you have to... put them on the spot, and make a scene out of it... draw the American people's attention to the inaction and gridlock until we can't pay attention to anything but Congress. When that spotlight is on the inaction, teach the American people what it means to compromise, to share ideas and create solutions that we can all support. This is possible, and I think that Americans of either (or no) party can support a pathway to compromise and an active, problem-solving legislature.

    September 24, 2012 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  13. Floridian

    After 4 years of stonewalling and obstruction and just plain hissy fits, Mitt and the boys are suddenly interested in compromise and cooperation. Sickening.

    September 24, 2012 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  14. Merloc91

    You do realize he had 60 in the Senate for almost a full 2 years right?

    September 24, 2012 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  15. Malory Archer

    Before any low information poster starts on about how President Obama had "full control" of Washington for two years, here's the deal: The Dems actually held a majority in the Senate for about 3 months, and by the time Senator Franken was seated, Senator Kennedy had already left due to declining health, so there were NEVER 60 Democratic Senators, and therefore NEVE a chance to break reichwing filibusters. Legislation got out of the House, but couldn't make it past the sore losers in the Senate.

    September 24, 2012 08:47 am at 8:47 am |
  16. Randy, San Francisco

    Blame goes to the Tea Party just say NO to everything politicians take over of the Republcian Party. Speaker Boehner cannot deliver votes because of these extremists in his own party. Are there any moderates left in the GOP?

    September 24, 2012 08:48 am at 8:48 am |
  17. Marty, FL

    Compromise has to be a two-way street and not treated as a dirty word from party leaders.

    Good to see the president accept responsibility to continue making improvements going forward.

    September 24, 2012 08:50 am at 8:50 am |
  18. Mike

    @ Dar – President Obama did not create the partisan divide in this country. I believe the presidential election in 2000 was damn near 50/50 when it was Bush V. Gore. You can't blame pre-existing problems on someone who took office after they were made manifest. We the People are responsible for the partisan divide... and I take it as a sign that this great nation doesn't know how to proceed any longer. We need stronger leadership, a Teacher-In-Chief to show us the way to the future.

    The future that I hope for includes things that this President is supporting, and that Mitt Romney is openly working against... like marriage equality for all, equal pay for women, international cooperation, health care as a basic human right... and the like.

    September 24, 2012 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  19. Wilson

    Obama must have dug around desperately to find the "the buck stops here" sign of Truman. After spending the last 4 years blaming bush. Way to late.

    September 24, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  20. Laura

    1. The headline quotes Obama as saying "I bear FULL responsibility for everything." The article quotes him as saying, "As president, I bear responsibility for everything to some degree." Which one is it?

    2. The Dems controlled both houses of Congress for two years but only had a filibuster-proof majority for about three months. If you want to say they had full ability to do whatever they wanted, you have to look only at that window of time when they could defeat the filibuster that the Republicans used so freely and frequently.

    September 24, 2012 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  21. Ed

    More empty words from an empty shell. When will he take any responsibility without pointing fingers or making excuses? He has just now realized he cannot change Washington from the inside? Well then, what is he doing in Washington? Lets get him out of Washington so he can change Washington from the outside. Pathetic, just pure unadulterated incompentance.

    September 24, 2012 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  22. Ted

    Everyone needs to quit being haters, moderate your tone and quit being so polarizing in your comments. What makes me sick is all the extremist views on the left and right. Bush was not a god, nor is Obama. Rich people are not what’s wrong with America and poor people do need help. Everyone just needs to get over themselves.

    September 24, 2012 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  23. IT Guy

    "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."

    The "cliff" is the price both parties agreed to before entering negotiations over the budget, and their punishment for using the talks for political gain instead of governance. I don't let my kids weasel out of their punishments, so why are we letting Congress do so? Please, whenever you write about the cliff, include that it is what they chose so that they could grab some spotlight for a few months. Not something that happened by accident that they are working hard to avoid.

    September 24, 2012 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  24. Simon Cohen

    What Romney omitted when he worked "with a legislature 87 percent Democrat" that it was from quite liberal positions he held then. Now his is positions are diametrically opposite to satisfy the most conservative right base. Romney is a flip-flopper of the highest caliber.

    September 24, 2012 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
  25. linda

    He has been facing a do-thing-republcan party since he became President.....they had it their motto to do everything they can to make him a one term President......and because of that they cut off their own nose to spite their face.....now they will suffer the consequence......OBAMA 2012

    September 24, 2012 09:01 am at 9:01 am |
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