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. Chmee

    America was built on compromise. But the obstructionist party of NO refuses to budge an inch on anything the Dems try to pass, they've blocked more legislation in the last 4 years than in the previous 40 years. They don't want the economy to get better, they want it to stay in bad shape so they can blame Obama. But I think the American people know who is REALLY keeping the economy down. It's the Republican obstructionists. Vote them out in November!

    September 24, 2012 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  2. Steve

    The President had two years unabated in the House and Senate. What was it that he accomplished? He helped out the Unions, got "cush" loan guarantees for his contributors and passed a stimulus that did nothing to stabilize the economy. Yes it is his fault. You can also blame Harry Reid for the stalemate, he would not even let the Senate "strike down" bills, he just would not let them come to the floor, so he did not have to explain the "whys" and why nots."

    September 24, 2012 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  3. Bill

    I love liberals. "If not for the steps he took we would have 40 million unemployed". Just as factual: "If he hadnt taken those steps, we would have 5.5% unemployment".

    September 24, 2012 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  4. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    I realized I wasn't going to get elected unless I had a relationship – a respect, and trust with – with the American people – those 47% of Americans I consider deadbeats. I had the good sense to cut them off during my campaign and any future visions for America - I might share with America - after I'm elected.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    September 24, 2012 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  5. TY

    Less Obama is Honest and he is right. Lets vote all those fools out of congress. And if Mitt thinks that we are going his way think again. The American people knows what is really going on here and the sea of fools will be voted out and Mitt you can go back eating the finest foods but not in the whie house........

    September 24, 2012 09:29 am at 9:29 am |

    I have alot on my mind, so ramble I shall. First I want to say without the brave americans that fought and died for our Nation my freedom of speech would not be possible. God Bless America.
    Mr Obama, you have time to meet with Jay Z, Beyonce and Whoopi Goldberg on 'The View' (one of the worst shows on televison) but no time for our biggest ally or the United Nations. You afraid to say the word 'Te
    rrorist' and spit in the faces of our dead ambassador and our Navy Seals when you said "sorry" to radical Jihad's. Maybe I have memory loss but I dont recall ever seeing you with you hand on your heart for the Pledge of alliangce or ever saying "God Bless America." You're not dumb, you know that was a terrorist attack. Like so many have said the past couple of weeks, "You don't bring machine guns and rocket propelled grenades to a demonstration." I believe that all these "protests" across the Middle east are a distraction so Iran can gain there 'Weapon' and "wipe Israel of the map." Mr. President, you know Iran's intention and you should Listen to Benjamin Natanyahu when he says" Iran Is close to a NUCLEAR TOUCHDOWN." Still you have more important things to worry about like if employers should pay for birth control. The land of Israel contain God's people. MY GOD. They will do what they need to do without your help but WE should stand by them. I DO. I do know it is said in the bible that those you turn their back on Israel will be doomed. I don't want that for our great country. Why did you think we have become the greatest Nation in the world? Because we have always stood by God's people. I'm sorry but four more years I cannot do. You promised change but it's a change that makes my stomach turn. So in closing I will say GOD BLESS ISRAEL AND GOD BLESS AMERICA!

    September 24, 2012 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  7. Norm

    I've never seen such an intense campaign of obstructionism as I've seen from the Republican party these last four years.
    Their open and arrogant declaration to make Obama a one term president, all at the expense of the American taxpayer.
    There was no secret agenda.
    All out in the open and no regard for what the voters think or how we would suffer from their childish game.
    Now they think they can buy the presidency and make no secret of the amount of money being spent by a handful of individuals to that end.

    September 24, 2012 09:31 am at 9:31 am |

    After Mitt Romney loses the election and Republicans lose the house and Democrats gain more seats in the Senate, the first thing the Democrats are going to do is pass The President's Jobs Bill.

    September 24, 2012 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  9. ShadDaGeneral

    @TED you said "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 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  10. Debby

    Mr. Pres. you have veto power if you really wanted to get things done. What a scam artist this Pres. is.

    September 24, 2012 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  11. mikle

    Obama is disaster for America.

    September 24, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  12. Josh

    Last week he biggest disappointment was not following through on his immigration reform promise. Either this guy tells a different story to each audience, or he has a lot of biggest disappointments.

    September 24, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  13. Pete

    @Doug,hey its people like you,the ones that don't understand that Democrates are liberals,republicans are conservative that get yourselves in trouble.Reid is a democrate in the senate buddy and it was your Mitch McConnell that made that racially bigotted statement on the presidents first day as such.Your obstructionistic republicans,racists as well have done everything they can to not only bring down this president,but our country as well.Yes he is our first African-American president and he's fought against your treasonistic republicans on job,infastructure bills ,now just turning down a jobs bill for vets and not even voting on a bill to help drought stricken farmers,republicans just left for another recess to campaign,campaign for what,doing nothing.Republicans are through in November and voters as well know it in polls all across this nation,its fact and your republicans are getting desperate in spending more than ever to keep their supposid jobs,they don't deserve it and you'll see in November just what voters think their firing of all republicans involved including McConnell,Boehner and the rest of their klan.Then something will get done,it'll be different I assure you!!

    September 24, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  14. G-Man64

    "to some degree"!!!!

    This is the essence of why Obama can't be re-elected.

    He can't provide a straight answer and he truly doesn't believe that he's responsible for anything. In fact, he handles his presidential responsibilities like a college professor.....theoretical concepts written in chalk on a black board, that he can erase and re-write at will.

    I love the fact that his re-election campain arm, CN*N only publishes the first part of his statement in their headline.

    Credibility = Zero!

    September 24, 2012 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  15. John Johnson

    CNN, Your quote in the headline is false and misleading–according to your own article! I'm trying to stick with you, CNN, because historically you've been a capable organization and I can't stand the far-left or far-right cable channels. But wow, you're making PBS look like the only option I have!

    September 24, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  16. Dave

    Obama could have done more, but the Republicants blocked over 240 pieces of legislation including a jobs bill that Republicants had helped create. I look forward to the Senate re-invigorating the filibuster process to make Senators speak on the floor or have their bills go to the floor for a vote.

    The Republicants are hoping that you are too stupid to notice their obstructionism blocking the President.

    September 24, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  17. Padraig

    The President needs to understand that he is a significant part of the problem and the last two years of gridlock. The firt two years he had both the Senate and the House and instead of getting bills pushed through and signed he procrastinated. Whose fault is that?

    From the very start you had Pelosi and Reed telling the President that if he wanted anything he would need to come to them because they were in charge. They were not going to him. This was aired on the nightly news on NBC, CBS, and ABC. In addition, he refused to meet and work with Republicans when he first came in to office. There were only meetings between himself, his cabinet members and key Democratic represenatives and senators. He froze out the Republicans. He is still doing this and we have gridlock. I wonder why?

    It is time for someone else to get into office and take responsibilty and be a grown up.

    September 24, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  18. Muffin72

    Obama had run of the house and senate for 2 years and he basically did nothing except jam a healthcare bill down our throats that half the country was against and half the people who voted for it didn't read or couldn't explain. He has also presided over a single-minded mission to create a class-warfare in our society that rivals any other conflict in our history. Obama is a dangerous man.

    September 24, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  19. Old Guy

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

    Except when you're on a spanish speaking interview and sanctimoniously tell the interviewer that you're the President, not a dictator and you can't control what congress does.

    Which is it, Mr. President?

    September 24, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  20. Cort

    If he is responsible for not all then why the heck is he always blaming others for the failures of his administration?

    September 24, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  21. vatoloke

    It's high time to say adios to the NOPe Party in congress.

    September 24, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  22. Marty, FL

    Senate obstructionism has broken records abusing filibusters. Where is the shared responsibility there?

    In fact, GOP senators just blocked a veteran jobs bill. That's not right.

    September 24, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  23. Angie

    'I bear full responsibility'....but if anything goes wrong, it 's Bush's fault. I have never seen an administration so inept and weak.

    September 24, 2012 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  24. mike Lake Orion Michigan

    The other article stating from Romney "Obama is trying to fool people" seems to me like he has already succeeded!

    September 24, 2012 09:50 am at 9:50 am |

    FREEDOM – What you know about freedom? what you know about dieing? You probably never fired a shot in anger or been face to face with the kind of fear that undresses human race. You sound more like one of those deferment riddled paper tigers.

    September 24, 2012 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
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