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. James

    I was very hopeful the president wouldn't resort to political bickering & name calling and was taken back when he blamed "the otherside." There are always back room deals to be done, and to call out the opposing party in an impromptu national address, was very childish. I don't ever remember a president do that and I thought it only served to divide the political landscape. Instead of bringing the parties together, he drove a wedge.

    I know, there are people who are going to blame the Republicans, but remember that there are relationships between both parties behind closed doors that we never see or hear about. Those are the times a President needs to find common ground, not run to the people when he's not getting what he wants.

    September 24, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  2. ObjectiveGuy

    I find the president's comments to be quite hypocritical, and obviously politically motivated. Note the following:
    1) Obama has taken responsibility for almost nothing during his term in the WH. All we have heard over and over that it is Bush's fault. If Obama gets elected to another term, imagine the mess he will inherit then!
    2) I would think that, among other things, Obama's biggest regrets would include the fact that the economy has stagnated, at best, and is dropping back into yet another recession, at worst, under his stewardship of the economy. Unemployment has been at historic high levels for this period of time since the Great Depression, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. He has added trillions of dollars of unsustainable debt, with absolutely nothing to show for it. He has lied to this nation, and has one of the least transparent administrations in history. So, I guess he's not REALLY taking the blame for too much, other than partisan infighting, which he really just blames on Republicans anyway.
    3) The fact that he has had one of the most divisive administrations in this nation's history should also be one of his regrets; he has made the Democrats and the Republicans loathe each other, he has created a society of resentment against the rich and those have created, built, and achieved things, and has instituted class warfare, making the have-nots feel that they are entitled to everything that the haves have. Their should be opportunity for all, but results will obviously vary, as is always the case in a capitalistic society. No regrets for that either, Mr. President???

    September 24, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  3. AK_steve

    Romney's defense for not releases taxes is "that's not the campaign, that is me?". Does he think we are stupid enough to think that the "campaign" has nothing to do with him? That somehow, we are voting for a campaign not a person.

    Well Mitt, I have news for you... "Campaigns are people too, you know."

    September 24, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  4. steve

    The Democrats blocked Bush at every turn, and when The Repubs do the same, suddenly the Repubs are "obstructionists." The Dems are just reaping what they sowed under Bush.

    September 24, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  5. pman

    Romney's ability to work with people has shown. He's changed his mind on everything. Romney will not be making decisions if he becomes President. It's a smoke show. Can't trust the man. He's completly insincere.

    September 24, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  6. Shihan

    My fellow Americans please stop fighting each other. I do believe elected officials should work for America and always first for us over their party success. Today politicians indoctrinate us with carefully selected and manipulated statements so as to manipulate us. A question / food for thought: Should we (The American people) accept any elected official or political party that places their parties empowerment as its first priority over the United States of America. Should we the American people blindly just follow a party accepting falsities and corrupted information these parties provide!

    We now have a two partly system ( for the most part) that behave badly for power. I think that WE need to reset the standards. Loyalty to the USA first, honesty, fear dealings in OUR government, honor, etc.. let us make it clear that we are not voting along party lines but for leadership and the best ideas that further America success. We should demonstrate that our political stance is not like joining a pro sport team where we vote the same party every time. See this country belongs to US.

    SO I PLEAD WITH YOU MY FELLOW AMERICANS, vote for America and its best interests but do not allow a few to take advantage of it. Please discuss and please stop fighting each other.

    Shihan

    September 24, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  7. Lookbothweis

    50% comments: "It's Obama's fault!" Other 50% of comments: "It's the Republicans' fault!" Obama's point: proven. Parties are suppose to compete with each other so that the compromises coming out are the best possible to represent the most amount of people. We have, for some time now, hit the point where the competition has become more important than the people. Almost every single bill in the past two years has met strict partisan opposition. And yet all the gridlocked politicians are still making their 6-figure salaries. Our bipartisan system, which the founding fathers didn't want in the first place, has failed us.

    September 24, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  8. Malory Archer

    James

    I was very hopeful the president wouldn't resort to political bickering & name calling and was taken back when he blamed "the otherside." There are always back room deals to be done, and to call out the opposing party in an impromptu national address, was very childish.

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    You must not have been paying attention when the previous occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue proclaimed that if you're not with him, you're agin' the troops and therefore, agin' America.

    September 24, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  9. Fair is Fair

    linda

    Romney says he will balance the budget by 2020 (he is expecting to have two terms) and yet the Republicans are complaining about Obama not doing it in just his first 4 years
    -----–
    Obama said he would cut the deficit in half in his first four years, which would put him on a path to balance the budget in 8 years. So we're not asking Obama to do it in 4 years... we're just asking him to live by what he said he would do, and what he has proven he miserably failed at.

    September 24, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  10. Reynald

    "Leadership is not just working with your own party, but working with both parties."

    then why did the Republicans always vote against the President?

    September 24, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  11. Malory Archer

    steve

    The Democrats blocked Bush at every turn......

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    care to provide a few examples steve? No? Didn't think so, but thanks for playing!

    September 24, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  12. ghostriter

    So.......Isn't congress on vacation now? The same congress that will wait until Dec. 31st, 11:45 pm to hammer out a deal on the budget? The same congress that gets a nice 6 figure salary to work half a year? (I seem to remember a similar comment being made about teachers) The 11% approval rate congress? Nice.

    Oh, at least we may get another fact check article out of Romney's statements. Did Obama have both houses of congress for 2 years? The answer may surprise you. Unless you have realized as most have that republicans aren't exactly the party of factually backed statements.

    September 24, 2012 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  13. Scottt01

    Not only is Obama's ability to identify faults (blame) of issues disingenuous but, more importantly his ability to direct the nations energy and focus towards realistic solutions creates more faults then the original fault.

    September 24, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  14. annieL

    It very dangerous for democracy for half the people to blame one person, the president, for everything wrong with the country and the government. When we start believing that the president can do everything single-handedly, we set the stage for a dictatorship. We have a government that was designed specifically to prevent that from happening. Our founders fought to throw off the rule of a king and his army. Now it seems many Americans want to bring back the king, a "strong leader" who can "get things done." They do not want compromise. Republicans are setting this up by refusing to compromise and find mutually agreeable, if not perfect, solutions to some urgent problems which are rapidly becoming crises. They have ruthlessly suppressed dissent in their own party and commanded absolute loyalty on every vote to its ultra-conservative agenda. My fellow Americans, this is dangerous.

    September 24, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  15. Madrep

    Ya think???? Now he takes responsibility becasue there is no one else to blame. One and DONE

    September 24, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  16. EricMD

    CNN, you left out the full quote in your title. You left out the part where Obama says, "to some degree." "I think that, you know, as president I bear responsibility for everything, to some degree,"

    September 24, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  17. i'm confused

    Our national deficit is the most clear & present danger to the continuity of our nation! The republican party had their opportunity in the summer of 2011 to reach an agreement that would have addressed the deficit crisis, reformed our tax code and by doing both of those things WOULD HAVE / SHOULD HAVE / COULD HAVE removed much of the fiscal uncertainty that has placed business of all sizes in a holding pattern on hiring for most of the last two years.... So what did the gop do? They adopted a stance based on ideological extremism, ignorance, and blind devotion to a man named Grover Norquist!!!!! Ever since the gop took control of the House of Representatives in 2010, members of the republican party across our entire federal government have demonstrated by very specific actions not just a willingness to erode confidence in the integrity of our nation but a STRONG DESIRE TO DO JUST THAT!!!!!!!

    September 24, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  18. Boo

    Accepting responsability but..... He never really accepts responsability for his multitude of failings as President. He should be apologizing for running the first place since he was not equipped with enough experience to actually do the job.

    September 24, 2012 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  19. FLIndependent

    You people that keep putting all blame on the President are so blind. The biggest lie and I'm sooooo tired of hearing it is that he had a full Dem Congress the first two years and could have passed anything. This is not so and I believe you know it but just keep on lying in hopes that more people will believe you. It is a FACT that he only had a filibuster proof majority for a very short time and that the Repubs used a record number of filibusters. Their stated goal was to not give this president any successes. Stop with the lies and look at the facts. No president could have done any better with the current obstructionists because they do not want to compromise. That is why moderates like Olympia Snow have left.

    September 24, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  20. zp

    How can you change tone in Washington when you cram your policies down the American people's throats?? Did he really think he was going to waltz in a part the waters? Soooo naive and arrogant – and destructive !! He still hasn't addressed the nation after one of our ambassadors was murdered, tortured and dragged through the streets ! God help us. Can't wait for election day! !

    September 24, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  21. ghostriter

    John, I find it hard to believe that you think the president is calling folks names and throwing around blame and somehow can cast a blind eye to republicans this past 4 years.

    September 24, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  22. DB-Houston

    @steve - "The Democrats blocked Bush at every turn, and when The Repubs do the same, suddenly the Repubs are "obstructionists." The Dems are just reaping what they sowed under Bush."
    Unfortunately the Bush administration had to lie to congress and the American people. Without the ficticious WMDs congress and the people never would have allowed the war to be conducted in Iraq. So I guess deceit gets farther than honesty, from a republican point of view, eh?

    September 24, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  23. kay

    I think those in washington that only want things there way no compromise should be thrown out compromise is the only way to get job done not scare tactics

    September 24, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  24. Boo

    Malory Archer

    steve

    The Democrats blocked Bush at every turn......

    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    care to provide a few examples steve? No? Didn't think so, but thanks for playing!

    ************************
    They did block Bush at every turn and if your selective memory is unable to process that you might need to see a doctor. Obama could do anything he wanted the first two years and now he does not have that ability. Like a lot a business people my vote and money goes to candidates who are conservative and unfortunately Obama nor Bush either hit that mark. Get ready for more deadlock if our inept President gets re-elected.

    September 24, 2012 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  25. Wilson

    """Presidential Daily Briefing: Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." August 6, 2001. Ignored by GW Bush; 3000 died.

    Wake up, Erik. People died!"""
    ---------------------------------------
    The left is still running against/blaming Bush, because obama has nothing else to run on.

    September 24, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
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