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. cobi23

    Mr. Romney has offered to demonstrate leadership by "working with both parties". But in the primary debates didnt he vow to reject a budget compromise even if it involved only $1 of tax increases for every $10 in spending cuts? How would he demonstrate leadership if the entire Democratic delegation signed pledges not to make any reductions in entitlement spending?

    September 23, 2012 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |

    Mitt Romney probably lives in a world that I don't live in. You know? He lives in a world - I hear he's worth, what, $250 million? And he comes from wealth. And most people I find that are born with that kind of money truly don't know what it's like to be out there.

    Because I know enough to know that the economy what you have today in the economy is the result of decisions made about three, four, or five years ago. Because that's how long it takes for them to get into this massive economy. So in my opinion, the Republicans are the ones responsible. And when Romney says he's going to create, well how many million jobs? that's total hogwash, and I'll tell you why. The only thing a government official can - can create is a government job. So if he's going to create 12 million new jobs, they're going to be paid for by taxes. Because jobs are created.Jobs are created in the private sector. Not by the president or the government unless they're government jobs.


    September 23, 2012 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  3. mishnu

    You did not address Romney's response to signing the Tax Pledge....You will address that issue hopefully soon.

    September 23, 2012 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  4. Keep us all on our heels...

    There was this one guy I knew, he kept telling me he could let a brown snake bite him several times and he would survive.. I heard that he finally tried it.. and at his funeral the person who was with him when it happened said that the guys last words were...."I was wrong." I am thinking he wasn't wrong, but he just wasn't man enough.. so I will be doing it soon.
    You think I am smart? Sorry Mitt, I didn't hear your answer?

    September 23, 2012 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  5. Dave

    Mr. Romney apparently has forgotten that George Bush once had a Republican congress and couldn't get his own legislation passed. Congress is too focused on the next election cycle...as a result, nothing can get done...from the inside or the outside.

    September 23, 2012 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  6. malcolm in St Louis

    it takes two tango and the repubs were not interested in fixing the US. Just getting back into power.

    September 23, 2012 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  7. Anonymous

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

    Except anything he can possibly blame on Bush. Or Europe. Or ATMs. Or Republicans. Or Congress....

    September 23, 2012 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  8. Ken

    Would Romney feel so confident that he could change the climate in DC if Democrats vowed on his inauguration day that they would oppose any, and everything he tried to accomplish so that he would be a one-term president? I think not.

    September 23, 2012 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
  9. Valar Morghulis

    The only reason Romney got anything done while governor was his willingness to compromise. Had the Republicans in the House and Senate adopted that position a lot of things would have gotten done. When the minority leader of the Senate states his party will work to ensure Obama only has one term it's pretty hard to see how any sort of compromise is possible.

    September 23, 2012 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  10. GathisNC

    At least he admits he failed to gives us the change he promised. I'm sure everyone has their own opinion as to whether or not there is hope if he stays in office. I personally feel that a businees man who has experience with money matters and in leading, as he did as Govenor, would make a much better leader for our country. I find Mitt to be unlikable, but That doesn't mean he isn't the right guy to lead a country that has serious financial issues. He would be more likely to work with Dems than Obama with the rebublicans. Obama has proven he can't reach across the isle to get things done.

    September 23, 2012 11:50 pm at 11:50 pm |
  11. savage24

    This sounds like just more rhetoric, since when has he took responsibility for anything except the killing of Usama Bin Laden and that was the biggest blunder he could make. Not the killing the talking about it before the body was even cold. National security means nothing to this fool , only political gain. This guy couldn't lead thirsty cows to water much less take responsibility for a country.

    September 23, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  12. Nameqrta

    Obama vs mitt . 47% vs $$$ ?

    September 23, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  13. The Left Wing

    Sometimes a spoiled child needs stern discipline. Once that discipline has been established, then one can proceed to an adult discussion. At the moment the Republican Party is that spoiled child. Mr. President, you were, perhaps, a little to gentle with them during your first term. I hope that the voters and you will not will further indulge these spoiled children.

    September 23, 2012 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  14. Rick McDaniel

    Obama has NEVER accepted responsibility for ANYTHING!

    It is ALWAYS, someone else, who is at fault!

    September 24, 2012 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  15. ccb

    Amazing, POTUS is honest and tells of his failings. Meanwhile, Romney disses 47%, is dishonest, a big liar and evangelicals still support him??? Go figure!

    September 24, 2012 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  16. Bill, NY

    Some of the blame must go to those who simply had a goal of you failing, not the United States succeeding.

    September 24, 2012 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  17. packerfans

    Obama still failed same sex marraige, pentaly who dont have insurance, not urgent for leak oil at gulf mexico, debts 5.5 trillions increase and forward increase more?? take away platform God on coins?? stole old senior citzen and others pension income living cutting three years!! broken vow the Untioed States law few times without vote Rep and Congress!! losing buiness and dont know how save America . He want to be king and not President United States and more. He does not serve second terms

    September 24, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  18. packerfans

    Vote Mitt Romney and Ryan who can save America with God.. Obama does not side God!!

    September 24, 2012 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  19. TexDoc

    Obama's last budget was defeated in the democratically control senate 99-0. Not a single democrat voted for it. He's failure is worse than reaching across the isle, he's failed at leading his own party.

    September 24, 2012 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  20. Truly

    Of course he bears responsibility; it's about time he admitted it rather than blaming Bush.

    September 24, 2012 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  21. Anthony in California

    But did Romney's state democrats take an oath on the first day he was in office to make him a one term Governor?

    People keep leaving this vital piece of information out.

    Obama has proven to be the only adult in the room time and time again, despite the lies, name calling and obstruction.

    And these are the reasons he will win his second term as well as a sweep in the Senate and House.

    Republicans, care to offer any reasons why Romney is the better choice? I'll wait....

    September 24, 2012 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  22. penny wright

    Bush's SEC let Wall Street run a derivatives Ponzi scheme that destroyed the world economy.

    George W. Bush was the goose that flew into the engine.

    Obama landed the plane in the Hudson.

    September 24, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  23. Miriam

    When Governor left his state, it was a mess. He will do the same for America as President. Vote for Obama.

    September 24, 2012 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  24. enuff

    Obama has at least demonstrated one characteristic that Romney obviously does not have: HUMILITY. Guess what? That is NOT a weakness in my book, but shows strength.

    September 24, 2012 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  25. Give the man a little help and some respect for the office

    He has done more to move the country in the right direction than Bush did in 8years. Lend a hand for the good of all people,not just the haves but the have nots as well.

    September 24, 2012 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
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