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. contantlyamazed

    How can a the President be blamed for not changing things with the people he had to work with publically said they were not going to work with him? Yes he had the majority in his first two years and things got done. It was only after 2010 that everything came to a screeching halt.

    September 24, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  2. IDontBelieveIt

    He PROMISED to resign at the end of his first term if he failed. We're waiting...................................................................

    September 24, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  3. TAK

    One never hears a Republican president claim responsibility ... unless it's for something good, otherwise their mantra is, "It's the Democrat's fault."

    September 24, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  4. KC Yankee

    Mittens is toast. He's just going through the motions now.

    September 24, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  5. carlos

    Funny that Obama ran entirely on the message of "Change" in 2008, and now he admits that his whole platform is a failure when he says that he can't change anything in Washington. If he has any leadership qualites at all, I guess he can be leader of the losers, or failure-in-chief. What a mistake America made with this guy. At least we made history...

    September 24, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  6. Chester

    I find it so funny how you will blame Obama for not getting things changed in DC have you ever stop and looked at all the road block that have been put in front of him. Alot of you will just put blame on him but never to stop and look at what he has done,and have tried to do. His hand have been tied from the start. The Tea party made sure of that. What has it gotten us but no were. If everyone in DC would just do their job to support us then we would no have this probem,

    September 24, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  7. Lagos

    If we were talking about Romney, the article would point out how this statement was a turnaround from his previous comments about not being able to change Washington from within.

    September 24, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  8. vic , nashville ,tn

    "I think that, you know, as president I bear responsibility for everything, to some degree,"
    He would point the fingers but he didn’t why he is gentleman

    September 24, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  9. Tired of This

    This is stupid. Stop trying to blame someone for what has already happened. Try looking for someone who actually puts forth a plan to fix the problems, not a re-hashed fix from 10 years ago that didn't work. Apply some simple math and cognitive skills and you can pick a person that is right for our time. No individual is perfect and anyone saying they will fix everything is lying. For those who wish to continue to spew hate and partisan lines, go right ahead it is a free country. Just know that what you are writing has no effect on those who actually think.

    September 24, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  10. lesliee

    @Hugh: The president knows ALL the phone numbers of the members of Congress. They won't talk to him. Whose fault is that? And when those people look at Romney, they see a person who looks like them. They know that. Romney knows that. That's what they care about.

    September 24, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  11. kendrick1


    "The GOP have said from day one that their biggest priority is the defeat of the President (and America) rather than the rehabilitation of the U.S. economy and jobs."

    All of that after "rather" is a lie! But, I'm sorry - you dems can't help it!

    September 24, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  12. Anna

    "to some degree" can this guy ever ever ever answer a question without qualifying it??????????? He sends Susan Rice out with "facts", how about a President that on the 12th of September goes before the American people and the world and tells them that this barbarious act was wrong and when we find out the facts, we will report back to the people of this country and will decide on a course of action that protects all Americans, foreign and domestic, it was disgusting that he went on with his ampaigning instead of actually being president and leading.

    September 24, 2012 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  13. lesliee

    @ Erik: "Campaigning is one thing. Out right lies to the American people is shameful." Whose party said "We don't need no stinking fact checkers"??

    September 24, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  14. truth hurts

    idiophobia - admitting that you were partially responsible takes some guts my hats of to you Mr.President

    egads.... You can't possibly set that bar any lower can you?! He doesn't have guts. He's just knows he can't lie any more because nobody is believing him anymore.

    September 24, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  15. sonny chapman

    It takes two to dance. When one side says, "I WANT Obama to fail"-Rush Limbaugh. "Our No.1 goal in the Repub. Senate is to make Obama a One_term Prez."- Sen Mitch McConnel. & "Health Care will be Obama's Waterloo"-Sen Jim DeMint, that give you an idea about the Loyal Opposition's Spirit of Compromise.

    September 24, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  16. presidencial failure

    obama didn't change the negative tone in Washington, he cranked it up. It is worse now than when Bush was in office.

    (then again, is obama really taking responsibility for his failures, not really)

    September 24, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  17. Eagle Eye

    This is the first time that the President has taken some responsibility on why the country is not moving forward. In his frist two years he had complete control of congress and the only two major pieces of legislation he got through was his 781 billion dollar stimulis plan and Obama Care. After that he's done nothing. In the article he actually says "The Buck Stops With Him" I couldn't believe I read it. But still he has said the "Private Sector" is doing OK went it's not. He said he created 3 million new jobs, that's it count government and union jobs that includes everyone who is a member of a union. The President's adminstration is not giving the true numbers of how many people are "UNEMPLOYED" All throught in the article the Preaident was asked "soft ball" questions. Every liberal news station has given the President a pass. Meaning not reporting what really going on and what the President is getting away with. I know this question has been asked before, "But how many people dose everyone who has made a comment today know know who is not working or has lost their Federal beneftis" I'm sure there are a lot of you who could say you know someone. Former President Ronald Reagan once said "Government isn't the solution Government is the problem" doesn't this sound familiar.

    September 24, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  18. DRobinson

    Think of ot this way-If you wanted to better your life, climb the ladder of success, provide more for your family, acquire a true sense of accomplishment-–Who would you "hang with"–Obama or Romney–Who could teach you how to solve COMPLEX problems, provide a srens of situational awareness, mentor you on who/what/where/how? Create a feeling of infinite hope–Teach mature business sense? Pick the right people? Which direction to take at the inevitable "forks in the road"in life--Make sound decisions, recognize those efforts that are a waste of time -or money?? Focus your energies on viable initiateives-? WHO HAS BEEN THERE, DONE THAT ?

    September 24, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  19. FLIndependent

    @ Gary – "President Obama has divided the country, demonized the business community, hurt job creation and shifted us to a culture of entitlement. More welfare, more student loans, more disabled, more unemployment, massive debt. Our kids will hate us for electing him. They will be broke and be in a second or third rate country."

    President Obama is more powerful than anyone thought apparently. How in the world could he have done this by himself...Congress hold the purse strings. Whatever debt this President incurred was due to what was leftover by Bush and his unpaid wars and the much needed stimulus which Congress, which included Paul Ryan, approved. Stop blaming Obama for Congress's failures. If it wasn't for the President pushing for extended unemployment benefits, student loans, etc. the country would be in far worse shape with even more people in poverty. He stopped the bleeding, but Congress needs to put the country first, instead of their own self interests.

    September 24, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  20. Adam

    If you take responsibility, then give up your campaign, you've admitted you're useless

    September 24, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  21. annieL

    For the last ten years, I have worked in a hostile environment where a little "gang" of co-workers tries to subvert everything I do, every good idea I have for improving our services, "tell on" me for every itty-bitty mistake, and blame me for everything that goes wrong in our department, all to make themselves look good to our bosses. They often succeed. Is that my fault? I have not sunk to their level to fight back. I have tried to befriend them, support their ideas, find common ground, etc., be a "team player" with little results. It's like from the day I set foot in the office, they had it in for me because I am "different." The difference? I have more education than them. I am not from their cultural set. And they wanted a particular friend of theirs to get the job instead of me. They are small-minded bullies. They think they can run me off. But I have endured. So I have sympathy for President Obama because he is in a similar work situation. And I will support him from the "outside" so he can get more done on the inside.

    September 24, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  22. I made it on my own

    I got nothing given to me when I started my own company. But within 4 years I my employees associates family and friends have lost plenty. No work No money No one talking up new projects.
    We gave Barack Hussein Obama a chance the situation speaks for its self. 4 more years we will all be unemployed.
    I can not vote for a mistake just to keep the party in place. I must feed my family and they come before politics. No second chance there is no time.
    Hitler blamed the people when he failed Obama now says it is up to the people to change the Washington from outside. Where is he going with that At the end will it be the people and the party that get the blame. God save America

    September 24, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  23. Anonymous

    Reading through all the comments coming from the right, it's understandable why so many are so willing to say they will vote for Mitt Romney. Apparently who and what their candidate stands for isn't on the top of their list. Neither, it seems, is America. Not really suprising considering the depth of their comments. Too bad Mitt Romney isn't quite so willing to support them.

    September 24, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  24. truth hurts

    Obama: I bear 'full responsibility for everything'
    But over the last four years he's blamed and attacked everybody and everything else for his failures. The list of attackees and excuses are longer than your arm. Obama simply has no leadership abilities or qualities. A leftist community organizer does not possess the skill set needed to be the leader of this country and the free world. Look at the mess we now have in the middle east compliments of Obama. Our allies thrown under the bus, Egypt in the hands of a radical islamist group, Syria in civil war, our ambassador killed. And the bad news is that it is likely to get worse before it gets better.

    September 24, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  25. Loathstheright

    Well, like in the movie animal house, Obama, "You f'd up, you trusted them", NEVER EVER TRUST A REPUBLICAN EVER.

    September 24, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
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