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. truth hurts

    Malory Archer
    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.

    WOW! Talk about total distortion and dishonesty!!! Bush didn't say that about the Democrats, he said it other countries in our fight against foreign terrorists. It is amazing how the lefties on this board to post lies and distortions.

    September 24, 2012 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  2. cooldaddysquid23

    Obama needs to lean on Biden's ability to talk to the Republican (at least McClellan). On the other hand, they're standing their ground on raising taxes for the rich, and that's what Obama wants in return for keeping the Bush tax cuts on the middle class. To me, that sounds like compromise.

    September 24, 2012 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  3. Lisa P

    How does Romney expect to work with "the opposition party" when he thinks he can ignore their concerns? I'll admit that President Obama has not been particularly successful at breaking up the partisan logjam, but at least he keeps on trying (far beyond the point that I would, I should add, but that's why he's President and I'm not.). A Romney presidency would be a nightmare - the only reason he got the Dems to work with him in Massachusetts was that he was doing something they wanted, which he now disowns.

    September 24, 2012 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  4. HarvTy

    Obama's approach to forming policy and passing legislation was wrong from the start. Rather than engaging the other side in the formulation process, he closed them out. Then demanded (rather childishly) that they pass it. When they balked. He stamped his feet and complained that they won't play nice.

    September 24, 2012 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  5. FLIndependent

    @Debby who said the President has veto power and can get anything he wants done. Excuse me Debby, but there has to be legislation on his desk to veto. The Congress, who is responsible to write the legislation, isn't doing their job. People who aren't blinded by their hatred know the facts and see the real world where the radical Republicans plotted from Day 1 to not work with this President and then the Tea Partiers making things even worse when they took over in 2010.

    September 24, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  6. Pete

    @ Steve ,as others have said here,show us some proof or keep to yourself..Obviously you didn't see the 60 Minutes show on the president and Romney,even there Romney couldn't answer anything with details,its just wait and see crap as usual.Voters want details,Pres.Obama has given them because your obstructionistic republicans have blocked most of them with recently blocking a jobs bill for returning vets and recessing before passing a farm bill that helps farmers suffering from the drought,people won't forget this November,you'd better hope they do because in poll after poll your republican party is over.People want help and the republicans in fighting against our first black president aren't helping at all,just thank your buddies McConnell and Boehner,they're the leaders of this band of racist thugs but it'll be over soon ,the WH democratic for another 4 years and senate,congress democratic as well,then the people will see things done,it'll be different I assure you!!

    September 24, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  7. Sniffit

    "WOW! Talk about total distortion and dishonesty!!! Bush didn't say that about the Democrats, he said it other countries in our fight against foreign terrorists. It is amazing how the lefties on this board to post lies and distortions."

    Nope. It was, in fact, turned on the Dems as well. Nice try though.

    September 24, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  8. Slowgun

    From 60 minutes last night;
    PELLEY: As you know, a lot of people were concerned about the video of the fund raiser in which you talked about the forty-seven percent of the American people who don't pay taxes. Peggy Noonan, a very well-known conservative columnist, said that it was an example of this campaign being incompetent. And I wonder if any of that criticism gets through to you and - and whether you're concerned about it at all, whether...
    ROMNEY: Well, that's not...
    PELLEY: ... the concerns of Republicans...
    ROMNEY: That's not the camp - that's not the campaign. That was me, right? I - that's not a campaign.

    So Mitt is saying it’s not the campaign that’s incompetent…it him that’s incompetent…I wonder how many votes he’ll pick up that that.

    September 24, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  9. Thomas

    I'm surprised the Karl Rove spin machine has't turned this into Obama apologizing once again for America .

    The GOP , the party of the impatient , reactionary's without vision .

    Half Measures avail us nothing !

    September 24, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  10. Tiz

    what a joke this guy is.... time for a change, Barry..

    September 24, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  11. stan

    So let's get this straight, it's the fault of the opposition that they don't toe the line of the other party? Er, insane much? If barry was half, no, if barry was a hundredth of the man the dems believe him to be then why can he not 'inspire' and 'lead' the opposition? How come romney was able to work with an 87% democratic house when he was governor but barry can't work with republicans? It's not really that hard to figure out. One of them is a complete and utter fake and the other one experienced in the real world. (p.s. the experienced one was able to work with the opposition).

    I do so love the 'I bear full responsibility...to a certain degree' line. How completely Obama that is. Just like something a child would say when caught doing something wrong. It's always the childrens fault, eh Seymour?

    September 24, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  12. gt

    the tone change from bad to worse..thank you very much..

    September 24, 2012 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  13. annieL

    DRobinson said:
    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 ?
    I wouldn't want my children to learn at Romney's knee that making BIG money is the most important pursuit in life, that only people who are wealthy deserve their respect, that others less fortunate have only themselves to blame for their misfortune, that the wealthy have earned everything they have without help from any others, and that America only stands for the opportunity to get rich without giving back. I would rather my children make a decent living with dignity and Christian values and NOT climb the ladder of so-called "success", stepping on others on their way up.

    September 24, 2012 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  14. Woman In California

    And this is one of the many reasons YOU stand out over your opponent, and it is also the reason why so many Americans are willing to give you a WELL DESERVED second term.

    September 24, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  15. keeth

    Obama believes in what Truman believed: The Buck Stops Here. Sadly, GWB did not believe this.

    September 24, 2012 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  16. J.T.

    "I bear responsibility for everything, to some degree" – strong words Mr President, strong words. And congratulations to you, CNN, for another misleading headline. I love change, and we can do it again in 2012, YES WE CAN!

    September 24, 2012 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  17. theINDEPENDENTone

    The OBAMAnation has been nothing short of a tragic disaster for America and Americans.

    OBAMA has brought domestic economic disaster to every American household.

    Four years on we see the results of OBAMA's failed foreign policy... American Embassies in flames and a murdered US Ambassador. The OBAMA response from his own words... "people do dumb things" and "you can't change Washington from the inside".

    The words of an Incompetent President.

    September 24, 2012 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  18. PeterD

    Since President Obama has accepted his Responsibility for Failure, It is our American People's Responsibility to Let Him Go this Fall.

    September 24, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  19. SuperD

    What makes me sick is 2 things:

    #1 The Republican's did not obstruct Obama. For goodness sakes when all you can offer is stimulus, high taxes and regulation as answers then you have to vote NO on all this Leftist clap trap. If Obama would offer just 1 market based solution then he would find he's got the other party listening to him.

    #2 CNN stop posting from the idiots who seem to think all this is because Obama is black. The problem with Obama is he seems to think all his crazy Leftist policies are popular, that couldn't be farther from the truth and yet he still sticks his head in the sand and see's nothing.

    September 24, 2012 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  20. Sujith, NE

    I bet the POTUS, deep down wants to come out with a similar(47%) statement, about "that" percentage of (mostly) white, blue collared middle class americans who would never vote for a democrat, let alone a black one. Because they've always voted republican and cant look past biased talk shows and blindly believes what the media tells is true.
    Thanks to internet, soon it will be a thing of the past.

    (Though both sides share the blame) The GOP predominantly continues to milk this injecting fear and uncertainty, thus inciting outrage.Shame on both parties!

    September 24, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  21. CBR

    The President has taken responsibility and the buck stops at his desk. Now let us hear from those in Congress who had a responsibility to work together with their colleagues and chose not to do so, Where is their sense of responsibility? Why are we letting them off the hook? Why is Mr. Romney ignoring that fact? He will fare no better unless big changes are made in Congress. The last leader to understand the need to work together was Tip O'Neill. He met with and worked with President Reagan to bring about changes that were made. Tip O'Neill was from MA and I am sure that Mr. Romney is very aware of this man's record.

    Actions speak so much louder than words. This Congress has done very little. The members left without tackling any problems because they want to wait until the election. That means that the citizens will suffer while these people are home working for their re-election. We now know that they feel it is more important to keep their elected office than to do the country's business. WE are all dumb enough to let that happen and we are not challenging them at all.

    If that is how we want the country to run then we have no right to complain. We speak with our ballots. If the same people get re-elected even though they have done nothing but continue to receive their salaries paid for by the American people then we are just as much to blame.

    September 24, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  22. robjones3@bellsouth.net

    Even if Obama wanted accept responsibility for once (he doesn't), his supporters and the media would never allow it!

    September 24, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  23. Barry In Las Vegas

    Your headline, as with all things CNN, is edited to show the most favorable view of Obama. You left out "...to a point."
    He won't take responsibility for not cutting the deficit in half like he promised, or for unemployment being at 8% instead of the 5% he promised, or for adding $5 trillion dollars to the deficit, or, as he told the Latino's, failing to get get immigration reform passed, even though he had complete control of both houses of congress, as promised.

    CNN – the laughing stock of the news community.

    September 24, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  24. truth hurts

    "WOW! Talk about total distortion and dishonesty!!! Bush didn't say that about the Democrats, he said it other countries in our fight against foreign terrorists. It is amazing how the lefties on this board to post lies and distortions."
    Nope. It was, in fact, turned on the Dems as well. Nice try though

    Of course you can post the transcipt and date to back up these lies. Didn't think so. Bush never said this. Was this said when the Democrats in Congress was trying to sabotage the war effort in Iraq?

    September 24, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  25. Woman In California

    Willard has nothing to offer THIS country except "elect me, I'm not the president and it's MY turn, and people are sick of it. Just reading some of these ignorant comments from incoherent angry people, tells me that President Obama's numbers can only continue to rise, because the alternative is just too risky, too weak and much too unstable for most thinking people.

    Obama 2012

    September 24, 2012 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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