Obama: I bear 'full responsibility for everything'
September 23rd, 2012
07:39 PM ET
2 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. Larry G

    Congress hasn't done diddly & America has been watching! Obstruction at every corner & holding the American people hostage to ideology should not be tolerated in any way, shape, or form from either side, just for the sake of Political Posturing to try to win an election down the road & to try to make the President look bad. I think all members of Congress should only be paid by PIECEWORK. On what they actually produce or get done! Oh, & no paid vacations either, like that's what they deserve LOL! Obama, I know in my heart & his, Lord knows, given the plate he started with, has tried like noone else even could under the circumstances & probably feels kind of disappointed, abandoned in a way feeling how ungrateful & divisive America has become & has always held all Americans, from every race & or creed & or sex & or sexual preference & or monetary status & or medical situation & or life in a foreign land serving our country so very close to his heart & how what ever decision he is/was making was going to affect them. I want to say from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU MR. PRESIDENT OBAMA for all that & much more! After you win, they'll have to start, oh now that dirty word COMPROMISING & working with you or they'll be out of a job come the next election. With any luck, the American people will see what's been happening for what it is & give you a majority to MOVE things FORWARD too! It takes a much LARGER MAN to take responsibility for any shortfalls, than one who says the opposite of what he said before, just to cover his tracks. You've got my vote! You can count on it.

    September 24, 2012 05:26 am at 5:26 am |
  2. Tony in Maine

    You can't have a meeting of minds without at least two minds. The Republicans would not sit at the table, hoping the American electorate would be stupid enough to blame President Obama for the intransigence of Republican leadership and the tea partiers.

    September 24, 2012 05:36 am at 5:36 am |
  3. fatlip11

    Proud of the president for taking the high road and for taking responsibility however EVERYBODY knows how obstructive and destructive the republicans have been especially the tea party. Shame on them.

    September 24, 2012 05:41 am at 5:41 am |
  4. eww

    It is truly a shame the Obama Administration never had the opportunity of a honeymoon with Congress. Somewhere between the day after the election and Inauguration Day, republicans had met secretly for the purpose of derailing this administration at the expense of the American people before it came into office. The American people aren't aware of this because the media hasn't been so informative about it. As a result, the economy continues to grow however at a much smaller rate than what could have been. Republicans keep lying and deceiving the American people with their innuendo of things that are truly non-existent. There needs to be a stronger Democratic presence in Congress in order for this Administration to move forward its policies which would benefit the American people at all levels of the socio-economic totem pole.

    September 24, 2012 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  5. ddtrey

    Hmmm, maybe it's because in your first two years, you rammed Obama-care down the throats of Americans with around a 60% disapproval rating for the measure. Kind of the same way when the vote for God and Jerusalem hit the floor in Charlotte, your party rebelled against it in majority. But somehow, you and your cohorts said "the heck with what they want, I even know better than the people in my own party." The best thing going for Obama is that he created enough distraction with Gay Marriage and other fluff issues that the Dems do not see his gross and negligent inadequacies as a president. ALL HAIL KING OBAMA!

    September 24, 2012 05:52 am at 5:52 am |
  6. Name

    He hit it on the nail Obama now if he is having trouble what make Romney think he can do any better

    September 24, 2012 05:52 am at 5:52 am |
  7. onlyfacts

    Mitch McConnel said it all, "our goal is to make Obama a one term president".

    September 24, 2012 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
  8. Liliana

    P.S. And now! We elected a good man. From the start, openly the opposition declared to get rid of him no matter what!
    SHAME!!! Now we have a puppet pulled by the strings by the ugly base. SHAME! They are loosing but they go on pretending that nothing is happening.The saddest thing of all, when Obama WILL win the second election, the whole thing will happen again, worse than before; unless the congress will also be transformed so that Obama will have more power.
    I have a dream, that the party of lies will see the light and change its ways, the way it was long time ago.
    Once upon a time they were people who loved their contry, we were together, we were the UNITED states.
    I came here form Italy a long time ago, I see the decline...SHAME!!! SHAME!!!

    September 24, 2012 05:56 am at 5:56 am |
  9. SMJ

    Yeah, you did so well in MA, Mitt, that the state is BLUE for President Obama! Those who have been governed know best...that is why MA, MI, and WI are all going to go to the President.

    September 24, 2012 05:58 am at 5:58 am |
  10. GI Joe

    We know – Mitt keeps telling us how you vote 235 times against yourself on jobs bills (Or could that 235 be the Republican House of Delegates?) --- Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    September 24, 2012 06:00 am at 6:00 am |
  11. bill baumgarte

    Oh how soon people forget or maybe it did not effect you. 2008 and 2009 posted many of the worst numbers in 3 decades.
    Stock #s, unemployment #s and overall attitude of the country. That is why we have Obama. Look at the #s now and compare and then choose Obama. Let him finish what he started. We gave Bush 8 years to ruin our economy, give Obama
    time to fix it.

    September 24, 2012 06:11 am at 6:11 am |
  12. Liliana

    P.S. I hope that you understood that the puppet is Romney who keeps on rumbling incoherently, and the stupid people applaude....Mamma mia!

    September 24, 2012 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
  13. Purush

    It was probably envisaged as a system of checks and balances. But over the years this has become a big hurdle race. Specially when the partisan politics takes centre stage. And that is the cost the nation pays. In fact world over this is the biggest cost of democracy and probably the biggest question mark against it. In other democracies of the world it acquires the form of Coalition politics – India, UK, France, Germany, Greece, ....and so on. Specially harmful when no one has a clear winner and no one is willing to compromise either.

    September 24, 2012 06:19 am at 6:19 am |
  14. cm

    Move forward Mr President-Obama 2012

    September 24, 2012 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  15. Catmandew

    I guess time for Obama to go home

    September 24, 2012 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  16. obama is Out Of Touch with reality

    obama you are responsible for all of the destruction to America and destroying the American Drream, you and only you are responsible for the last 4 years so grow a pair and buck up, you own it wnd you did it, you are useless.

    September 24, 2012 06:23 am at 6:23 am |
  17. jnpa

    If the President has failed it is a direct result of the obstructionists in Congress. The only way he could have accomplished anything would not have been through compromise, but giving in to the republicans, which was not about to happen. This is reflected is the extremely low ratings given to Congress by the American people. Most people blame Congress and not the President!

    September 24, 2012 06:24 am at 6:24 am |
  18. Caitlin

    The headline quote that the president takes "full responsibility". In the quote in the article the President never uses the word full, rather he uses the phrases "to some degree". Which did he actually say. I think he means that Congress share some of the responsibility

    September 24, 2012 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
  19. David

    "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."...Yeah, how'd that work for Massachusetts? Note the next govenor was NOT republican.

    September 24, 2012 06:33 am at 6:33 am |
  20. jacksays

    When pressed during the 60 Minutes piece for details, Mr. Romney still failed to deliver. Give me some details, Mr. Romney, not vague statements of grandeur if you want me to consider giving you my vote. I'm not going for vague, empty promises this time around.

    September 24, 2012 06:34 am at 6:34 am |
  21. dnokc

    Indeed...the office of the president is tasked to present their vision and unite it's citizens. He has been less than candid on many issues creating a lack of confidence from more than half of Americans. His lack of leadership and endless gift of divisiveness are the reason he.... and our country are failing.

    September 24, 2012 06:35 am at 6:35 am |
  22. mike

    Obama is clueless and CBS is as well

    September 24, 2012 06:36 am at 6:36 am |
  23. Nick

    ..."to some degree". Can we get a reading on what degree? That would really help the narrative.

    September 24, 2012 06:45 am at 6:45 am |
  24. Toby Hill

    What is this "didn't change the tone" crap? People don't care about the "tone", they want jobs but instead they got lower wages, higher health insurance cost, more regulation, higher debt, higher unemployment, higher gas cost, etc. Obama never ran as much as a lemonade stand before running for public office so it's kind of hard for him to understand where the real middle-class is coming from. Many people claim they have all the answers and it may look good on paper or revisionist history but as the layers are peeled off the lies people start to see reality and it ain't pretty.

    September 24, 2012 06:48 am at 6:48 am |
  25. Vote for Seamus, elect Kolob's next dog catcher

    Mr. President, the whole country should accept responsibility for allowing the Republicans and their Tea Party to win the 2010 elections, making the Congress a fatality in their scorched earth tactics.

    Their number one priority is to take you out, at all cost to obstruct and embarrass you.

    Not constructive dialogue to improve the nation or identify common values.

    They are narrow one issue elected officials, who want to move the goal posts during the game.

    September 24, 2012 06:53 am at 6:53 am |
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