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. TonyD

    And Romney got nothing done in Mass. ranking 47th out of 50 in job growth. All the while increasing his own personal wealth.

    September 24, 2012 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  2. K-Doh

    ""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.""

    And we're supposed to believe this with the Tea Party backing him? Really?

    A group that has been called absolutists by other Republicans? Where Murkowski said about the Tea Party:

    “Those that believe that compromise is a dirty word, that believe that there is no place for compromise within their efforts, I think are damaging the process,” she said yesterday.

    I find this utterly and entirely laughable.

    September 24, 2012 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  3. aaron

    Short memory that Romney and Fox News have of Obama's first 2 years. Repubs filibustered everything in the House to keep any of Obama's legislation from getting passed. Most of the economic recovery legislation was actually passed under Bush, but, of course, Obama got blamed for running up the deficit by complying with the will of Congress at the time Bush was there.

    September 24, 2012 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  4. Roger Westaler

    Political Climate you say?
    This after you shoved Healthcare Overhaul down the throats of voters in a very partisan way.
    This after build your whole re-election creating class warfare "Those rich need to pay they're fair share" knowing full well you could tax the rich up to they're eyeballs and it would amount to about 70 Billion a year. Hardly put a dent in the nearly 6 Trillion debt you piled on the American taxpayer.
    This after you promised the economy was top priority only come back to it after you concentrate your efforts on healthcare while American Employment was bleeding.

    September 24, 2012 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  5. haloguy628

    Obama is out of his league. This is not community organizing where you just start trouble and foment class warfare. As the President you actually have to be constructive and solve problems.

    You failed Obama, so pack your bags. We don't need the Chicago corrupt machine running this country.

    September 24, 2012 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  6. John Oboho

    All he need do,is refer to McConnels statement,that "the no.1 priority of the Republicans,is to make him a 1 term president".In as much it is not a Dictatorship regime,I think,the Republicans in congress should take 99% of the blame for the partisan impasse,based on McConnels statement.

    September 24, 2012 12:53 am at 12:53 am |
  7. billy davis

    The Republicans Strategy since President Obama won election was to make sure he failed even to the detriment of America. On Inauguration 13 Republicans met to work on ways to block everything and as of last week they even blocked a jobs bill for Veterans. The GOP is simply un-American.

    September 24, 2012 12:57 am at 12:57 am |
  8. Gene

    And, President Obama started "changing" the tone in Washington during the negotiations on the stimulus package. To Republican points in the discussion, he answered, "I won."

    September 24, 2012 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  9. JL

    "My biggest disappointment is that we haven't changed the tone in Washington as much as I would have liked," Hmmm, I thought he just told everyone at Univision that his biggest disappointment was his failure to fix immigration laws. I would have said it was his failure to create more economic growth, get unemployment down and people out of poverty. Many would say it was his spending of over 5 trillion in just 4 years and trashing America's credit. So many good choices I guess.

    September 24, 2012 01:04 am at 1:04 am |
  10. Tom in San Diego

    After Obama shoved Obamacare down the public and the republicans throat, NO ONE is going to co-operate with him EVER...Because nobody feels like they can trust HIM...and HIM alone....

    September 24, 2012 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  11. Bryan

    Almost all presidents have to deal with Congress controlled by the other party at some point. Good ones like Clinton and Reagan work with them. Bad ones don't

    September 24, 2012 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  12. rosethornne

    I guess Rmoney never heard of a filibuster.

    It doesn't matter if you have a Senate majority because the rules have perverted the definition of majority so it no longer means half-plus-one, it takes 60 out of a hundred since anyone who feels like it can place secret holds for any reason, or just if they feel like gumming up the works.

    And the worst part is, it doesn't take a simple half-plus-one majority to change that rule, it takes the same impossible 60 out of a/hundted as e erything else nowdays, which is why literally nothing can be accomplished.

    If filubuster rules were returned to the classic definition (nothing done in secret, no other business can proceed, and it lasts only as long as the objecting person stands there and talks), then a whole lot more would get done.

    It's a serious structural impediment to governance that IS NOT IN THE CONSTITUTIONAL, and it needs to go.

    September 24, 2012 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  13. xfiler93

    Nov. 6, 2012: sending him and his socialist goons back to Chicagoland where they belong.

    September 24, 2012 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  14. B Barton

    Up until now it was Bush's fault. Why change now?

    September 24, 2012 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  15. Mike James

    "The buck stops here."

    Harry S Truman, 1945

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

    Barack H. Obama, 2012

    September 24, 2012 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  16. Michael

    Ha.. Romney's trolling and lying as usual. Not gonna help you get elected, Mitt.

    September 24, 2012 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  17. Alex in Wisconsin

    I feel bad for anyone who actually thinks President Obama didn't bend over backwards to accomodate Republicans. Almost every idea that Republicans hate today are ideas Republicans created or championed before president Obama took office.

    September 24, 2012 01:49 am at 1:49 am |
  18. Geoff

    Leadership is a word the Republicans don't know. All the elephant party knows is NO NO NO and making sure we take care of our enemies abroad and buy Chinese junk. Penguins would never be that dumb.

    September 24, 2012 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  19. Martin

    Its difficult to get a working relationship with someone like Mich McConnell who has stated openly that his only goal was to make Mr. Obama a "one term President". Throughout the last four years this theme has appeared time and again; no compromise, no surrender.

    September 24, 2012 01:59 am at 1:59 am |
  20. Thomas

    Hey Obama , your a decent President , your a great father to your two girls. I hope I can be such a father to my child.

    I want her to be in a country where if she studies and works hard she too could become president.

    Unlike Romney's father who told his son Mitt. If you want to be president , you need to be rich . There are things in this world you can't buy or sell and you can't insure . It's called Honor and respect .

    September 24, 2012 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  21. garwin1

    The political chasm has become too wide to bridge.

    September 24, 2012 02:08 am at 2:08 am |
  22. Dan

    He never said "full" responsibility–he said, "responsibility to some degree." CNN's headline is misleading.

    September 24, 2012 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  23. Congo

    "I bear 'full responsibility for everything'"

    What a crock! Obama's been saying its all of Bush's fault, now he's trying to look presidential and assume responsibility?!?


    September 24, 2012 02:29 am at 2:29 am |
  24. Barry Van Kleeck

    Mr. Romney is a wealthy individual. Period. The only thing
    he is considering by becoming president is expanding, and growing his wealth.
    To think otherwise (as a voter) is absurd.

    Yes, the Democratic Party attacking him for being a growth
    investment leader is absolutely the right thing to do. Investing in and running
    a company to the limit for every penny and then running it into the ground is
    what he is all about. The failed thinking there is that many people suffer
    because of it. It is clear that Mr. Romney wants to use this same strategy as
    president. I personally will do everything to prevent that. Mid-wealthy
    business owners and investors believe that he is right, but I have this to say
    to them: Mitt does not care about you. Any breaks that he may give to you in
    the beginning—will be short lived. Your businesses, and short-lived start-ups—will
    become the property of his constituents. Oh, Mitt has a master plan all right,
    but it does not include any of the hard working middle to lower class
    Americans. If you cannot see that in the way he carries himself, and the way he
    falsely promises we American voters—then you are truly blind.

    September 24, 2012 02:29 am at 2:29 am |
  25. Marry

    President Obama did all he possibly could to work with Congress! But when you face “extremists” that openly state they do not want you to succeed and so show distain not only for the President but also for the choice the people made, it shows to be difficult. So we will not blame the President but the GOP/TP Congress and for sure, the party of “NO” will feel that in November! Yes, the change is going to come from the “outside”!
    Do not let the GOP steal the election! Registered? Got your voter ID ready? Than have some fun on November the 6th!!!!

    September 24, 2012 02:34 am at 2:34 am |
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