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. Liz the First

    Obama did the best he could in the face of intractible opposition bound to destroy his presidency. When the repugs' god, Ronald Reagan was president and the air traffic controllers went on strike, he fired them. the repugs have been on strike since day one of Obama's presidency. they've proudly declared they're the party of 'Hell, No!' they stated on camera that their number one priority was not to heal the country, not to help the American people, not to create jobs. no, their stated number one priority was to 'make Barack Obama a one-term president.' according to Reagan, they should all be fired. they should not be rewarded with the presidency or even control of any house of congress for refusing to goven for the past almost 4 years, they should all be fired!

    September 23, 2012 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  2. jo an

    Obama...you NOT PERFECT...but greatly loved!

    September 23, 2012 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  3. marty

    This has been a 'do nothing' Congress and it's remarkable that, under those circumstances, President Obama has been able to do what he has done for the American people. This president, this 'nice guy', will finish first in the election and then we will really see what he can accomplish in his second term. Any 'failure' falls on the Republican congresspersons who have 'failed' to work with the president that the people have elected. th

    September 23, 2012 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  4. Vote for Seamus, elect Kolob's next dog catcher

    Republican #1 priority, get Obama out of office, not the country.
    Republican #2 priority, create a church-state, in their image.

    Republican #1 method, obstruction.
    Republican #2 method, lies & physical reality disconnect.

    enuf said.

    September 23, 2012 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  5. jester

    Rommey should as the 47 % if they believe anything he says now.

    September 23, 2012 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  6. 3rd party

    Then why does he blame Bush and Republicans for everything.

    September 23, 2012 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  7. tony

    I thought he reached out and was rebuffed to extent that I would call treason. Tea Party before country in every possible way.

    September 23, 2012 09:52 pm at 9:52 pm |
  8. jakinak

    The acrimony in DC has gone from bad to totally toxic under this Administration, and President Obama is disappointed because it isn't worse!

    September 23, 2012 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  9. Meme LaRue

    Poor Mitt Romney. He is such a loser. He really thinks that most of America is stupid. It's going to cost him.

    Obama/Biden 2012!

    September 23, 2012 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  10. Stephen Daugherty

    Yes, Romney says that, having said he will not bother trying to get the votes of 47% of Americans.

    September 23, 2012 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  11. rs1201

    The most incompetent President in the history of the United States of America...even surpassing Carter...it's a very sad time for our country...if Obama gets reelected, then our country will have a gotten a push over the cliff...it'll be in free fall...it's beyond sad...that our country built on the principles of liberties and rights for everyone...whether they be rich or poor...will be ruined by a confirmed socialist!!!

    September 23, 2012 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  12. Don

    So he finally admits that he failed!!!! Thanks for the honesty and good luck out of office... In 2013!

    September 23, 2012 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  13. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    He said that he is trying to talk to GOP and not getting a response that is willing to compromise. Both sides need to look at the whole picture and talk out their needs.

    September 23, 2012 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  14. minhajarifin

    It would be nice if both sides calmed down and we talked about big ideas like solar energy, medical research, even going to Mars.

    September 23, 2012 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  15. ricardo1968

    You will not get respect from blaming yourself for things you aren't responsible for. The GOP in 2010 stated that there will be no comprimise under any circumstances.

    September 23, 2012 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  16. Anita

    Republicans often can claim that they are able to deliver on bipartisanship because frankly Democrats are not as ideological as Republicans are. They for the most part go into congress with the notion of getting things done. Therefore, Democrats will compromise. Thus, most Republican presidents can point to a time when Dems have signed on to their agenda. However, the problem is and will always be the Republican mentality of today, which says, "It’s my way or the highway ". No Democratic president was going to break the deadlock in Washington over the past four years, not even Clinton.

    September 23, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  17. NameKen robinson

    Republicans politicians made a point of not passing anything even if under a different president the would have just so they could say this president didn't accomplish much. The American people know this. Many of they republican politians will not be re elected. They should Be in jail for what they had been doing. Obstruction of something. Although I did not agree with Romney I did have respect for his opinions. After his 47% remark o know now he is an idiot. He should stick to making money for himself and do the American public a favor and admit he does not have the people's best interest in mind so he should quit kidding himself.

    September 23, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  18. lefty loosy

    "I think that, you know, as president I bear responsibility for everything" one and only time obama doesnt lie.
    Then he adds to "some degree"
    What a master poltician he is and an unbearably useless president.

    September 23, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  19. usualone

    Gee, I wonder if the Democrats will sign a pledge to a lobbyist or declare that they will make Romney a one-term President and filibuster all he proposes!

    September 23, 2012 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  20. Marla

    As usual, President Obama is "the adult in the room".

    September 23, 2012 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  21. alfonds

    Obama promised you Change and now admits he failed–You vote for him and you will fail as well.

    September 23, 2012 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  22. Are you kidding me?

    A good leader accepts faults and challenges not ignore their existence like those in the GOP.

    September 23, 2012 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  23. Bob in Amarillo

    Compromise requires give and take from both sides. The Dems gave nothing on healthcare. The Dems have refused to talk budget. All the Republicans did was state their position and their concerns, then the Dems refused to come to the table to listen and communicate and negotiate and compromise. The Dems need to comprise.

    September 23, 2012 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  24. Rose lyczkowski

    Obamas biggest disappointment. HE'S THE PRESIDENT!!!

    September 23, 2012 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  25. ohioan

    Romney never had to work with folks as oppositional as the tea party numbskulls in Congress. Once Barack gets elected to a second term, it'll be time to compromise on issues for the good of the country or the GOP will be split permanently. What will it be?Or maybe a third party lead by the geniuses Palin and Bachmann. LOL Things will get very interesting for sure.

    September 23, 2012 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
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