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. Catmandew

    Loser go back where you came from

    September 23, 2012 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  2. Jess

    You can't change Washington from the inside. Well I guess that is why Obama hasn't done anything then. He says he needs more communication with the people, but how about some more communication between the parties and Congress. Nothing will ever get done unless members of Congress are able to talk to each other. Romney says it best: "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."

    September 23, 2012 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  3. Bill Mitchell

    "I think that, you know, as president I bear responsibility for everything, to some degree,"

    Lol, he contradicted himself in the same sentence. You cannot bear "full" responsibility "to some degree". Incredible. If America is dumb enough to elect this man again we are finished as a country. After a Revolutionary War, a Civil War and two World Wars we will have finally been defeated by stupidity.

    September 23, 2012 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  4. Paul

    Really? Within hours Romney "pounced?" That's so uncharacteristic, for Romney to feed on anything that aggrandizes his non-position(s).

    Romney, Ryan, Priebus – a disgrace to their party, and to this nation. I thought Palin was the low point...sadly, that's been bested by this absolute cipher, utterly devoid of any character whatsoever.

    September 23, 2012 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  5. David Reston, VA

    America, please fire Obama this year.

    September 23, 2012 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  6. Bill Mitchell

    "You can't change Washington from the Inside, only from the outside..."

    So, let me get this straight. We can't change Washington from the inside because we need people on the outside to elect Representatives for the inside who can't accomplish anything? Huh?

    The best part was when he said, "that's how we passed healthcare". Lol, did he forget 2010? The people on the outside were screaming "No!" to Obamacare but he rammed it through as the ultimate inside job.

    Again, can we be stupid enough to re-elect this man?

    September 23, 2012 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  7. lindaluttrell

    That's OK...I don't think Mr.Romney's going to get any of that experience at the Federal level...

    September 23, 2012 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  8. tess

    don't be fooled by the fool! he refused to even listen to his own military intelligence team since he knows more than anybody else. his narcissistic streak is 100 miles long and 100 miles deep – i can't wait to see his 'graceless' reaction in defeat!

    September 23, 2012 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  9. myintx

    He'll be back to blaming Bush or the Republicans tomorrow... just a few days ago he blamed Bush for Fast &Furious.. and blamed Republicans for the failure to pass immigration reform..

    Who is the flip-flopper NOW eh? 🙂

    September 23, 2012 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  10. Gimmeabreak!

    YES, YOU are fully responsible for our country being in the toilet, OBAMA. Get lost!

    September 23, 2012 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  11. DC10

    Here he goes again, rather than trying to be being the Leader of the US, asking the public to drive the change... like how he hoodwinked the public with his smoke and mirror of 'Yes, we can'.

    Well, it has 4 years after blaming everybody except himself why he can't do anything, and I ask you 'What have you done'? No, it is not we, it is you and what have you done to lead the US out of this recession? And, don't give me the excuse that Bush prevented you from doing it for 4 years!!!

    September 23, 2012 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  12. jeansees

    President Obama shows the stamina he has by taken full responsibility for things good and bad. As a strong man and intelligent man this is the kind of strong person we need as our President.


    September 23, 2012 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  13. Nameluck

    Mitt Romney is such a flipflopper who will say and do anything to win, the typical republican politician.

    September 23, 2012 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  14. Kim, Boston

    The GOP& Tea Party have publicly stated they are blocking Obama's initiatives. They have been working against
    the American public..its time to get them out of office and give Obama a house and senate that will get it done!

    September 23, 2012 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  15. Name Penguin

    The only way to make change in our Government is to have voter's decide major issues- we should vote on whether we should be at war, whether we have health care, and on what the tax rates are. I'm tired of politicians saying the voters want this or that. We should have the voters decide what we want. The fact that the voting public hasn't read the actual laws they would be passing shouldn't matter since our current legislators haven't read them either

    September 23, 2012 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  16. peggy

    Mr. President,

    Sir, my respect and admiration for you have just heightened, once again.

    September 23, 2012 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  17. GRWohio

    Wow Obama actually took responsibility for something?

    September 23, 2012 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  18. Kate

    With 45 days left in office he FINALLY bears all the responsiblity now? Hmmmm now that its election time and he has no one to blame but himself he's responsible? CLASSIC. Guess he can't say he inherited this mess. Barry has to go!

    September 23, 2012 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  19. frank

    Obama certainly did NOT "get to do whatever he wanted to do" in his first two years because the GOP threatened to flibuster in the Senate whenever they could deprive him of a 60-vote "majority". They GOP resort to the fiibuster rule changed the math to the detriment of the American people from Day One!

    September 23, 2012 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  20. Rani McBride

    Why on God's green earth does Romney expect any more respect than President Obama got from the other side of the isle. Republican's are on record from day one saying they would not work with him and would make him a one term president. They did not want to give Obama any accomplishments. What do you think all the temper tantrums regarding the health care fight were about. Obama tried to work with Republicans many times. Does Romney really think that Democrats will forget that if he becomes president! Think again Romney! It is a two way street and you and your party have shown no willingness to compromise of be civil at all. Romney really does think most of American's are stupid. That they will forget who put us here in the first place. And they will really believe all the bull crapy out of his mouth. Enough is Enough! I am so utterly sick of it and cannot wait until November!

    September 23, 2012 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  21. Marty

    He IS the disappointment.

    September 23, 2012 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  22. Former Republican, now an Independent

    While it may take class to take the blame for gridlock in Washington, I believe the republicans set an agenda in place after the 2010 election to gridlock the nation. I have not seen them work with the other side of the aisle on anything in the last two years.

    September 23, 2012 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  23. Greg

    Mitt, I really think you do not have a clue what the American people want. The following Items are your platform.

    1. Romney's positions are the most radically anti-women of any candidate in a generation: He supports banning all abortions, backed a so-called "personhood" amendment that could make certain forms of birth control illegal, and says he would "get rid of" federal funding for Planned Parenthood that provides preventive services like cancer screenings for millions of women.

    2. Romney would repeal Obamacare. Insurance companies would once again be allowed to run up premiums, unjustifiably deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, drop patients when they get sick, discriminate against women by charging them more for coverage than men, and spend more of your premium dollars on CEO profits and bonuses instead of your actual health care.

    3. Romney is a risk when it comes to foreign policy and national security. On many of these questions, he has shifted his position for political reasons, even within the same campaign. His only clear commitment is to endless wars: He has no plan to end the war in Afghanistan and would leave our troops there indefinitely. He called the President's decision to bring our troops home from Iraq by last Christmas "tragic."

    4. Despite the lessons of recent history, Romney would double down on the disastrous tax policies that handed windfalls to the wealthy, but stacked the deck against the middle class. Under Romney, millionaires and billionaires would get a $250,000 tax cut, while families with kids making less than $40,000 a year would, on average, actually see their taxes go up. To the surprise of no one, Romney also opposes the Buffett Rule. He would allow millionaires to continue to take advantage of loopholes and special deals that often allow them to pay a lower tax rate than the middle class. And he supports tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas.

    5. Romney would end Medicare as we know it - replacing it with a voucher scheme that would drive profits for insurance companies by forcing seniors to purchase private insurance, paying whatever costs a voucher wouldn't cover out of their own limited budgets.

    No Mitt, I will not vote for you.

    September 23, 2012 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  24. turban

    The buck stops at Obama's desk?? He should teach that little principle to Eric Holder who blamed everyone under him in the AGs office and completely absolved himself by saying that he didnt know what was going in the F&F program and should not be punished even though he is in charge.

    September 23, 2012 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  25. Oktogo77

    Romney is both painful and grotesque to watch...

    September 23, 2012 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
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