President Obama, in an interview on CBS's "60 Minutes," said he and his administration "made all the right moves" to rescue the economy he inherited from President Bush.
Obama, often criticized for being a stoic policy wonk, showed emotion when admitting Sunday night that he was "frustrated” by the still-sluggish economy and said Americans “have every reason to be impatient."
“Reversing structural problems in our economy that have been building up for two decades, that [is] going to take time,” Obama told CBS. “It was going to take more than a year. It was going to take more than two years. It was going to take more than one term.”
Obama though rejected the notion that he promised too much in terms of his ability to right America’s fiscal ship and sharply defended his administration’s efforts to bolster the economy, cutting off interviewer Steve Croft to dismiss the notion that his economic stimulus package did not work.
The president said his administration “made all the right moves” to bolster the sour economy it inherited. His policies have improved things, but they have not been able to offset the damage done during the “six to nine months” before they took effect, Obama said.
Asked if he has had any doubts about seeking a second term, Obama replied: “No.”
The president listed preventing another Great Depression, pushing a bill to reduce healthcare costs, reforming the financial system, ending the military’s ban on openly gay members and “dismantling al Qaeda” as his top accomplishments.
In the interview, the president also reached out to middle-class voters, saying he wants to rebuild the nation’s tradition of an “American deal,” and brushed off the assertion that his focus on inequality sounds like a move to redistribute wealth, a charge his GOP enemies often dub socialism.
“Look, everybody's concerned about inequality,” Obama said.
While middle-class Americans feel like, despite working multiple jobs, the best they can do is “treading water,” those same people “know that corporate profits are at a record level, that a lot of folks are doing very well,” he noted.
“What's happened to the bargain?” Obama asked. “What's happened to the American deal that says ... we are focused on building a strong middle class?
“That is not a left or right position,” the president said. “That is an American position.”
In the 2012 presidential election, Obama said, voters will have to answer the question of “whether or not we are able to reclaim that vital center of American thought and American values that says, ‘We're all in this together and, you know, it matters if we are building a broad-based middle class, where everybody is able to do their part and everybody's able to succeed.’”
The president had also harsh words for congressional Republicans, saying they made a calculation after he was elected that “we screwed up the economy” and so the best approach would be to sit “on the sidelines” while the economy worsened — and then blame his administration.
He criticized congressional Republicans for failing to present workable and “balanced” plans and accused GOP leaders of opposing anything he supports.
Obama said the deficit will only be pared when Democrats give ground on entitlements and Republicans are willing to allow new federal revenues.
The president also reached out to GOP voters in his comments, noting that opinion polls show they agree with him on issues like taking “a balanced approach” to deficit-reduction and infrastructure investment.
The nation’s jobless rate — and its overall economic health — will be the biggest issue throughout the 2012 election cycle. A failure to improve either could spell electoral doom for Obama.
The president, however, quickly noted he is “in the job of putting in place the tools that allow the economy to thrive and Americans to succeed” not “the job of prognosticating on the economy.”
The unemployment rate declined by 0.4 percent in November, falling to 8.6 percent, according to the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.
From April through October, the unemployment rate hovered between 9 percent and 9.2 percent, according to bureau data. The total number of unemployed people declined by 594,000 last month, while the labor force shrunk to about half that figure.
GOP presidential candidates have blasted Obama’s vision for reviving the American economy.
Mitt Romney, one of the two Republican front runners, used his first television ad in late November to slam Obama over the stagnant economy. And the other, Newt Gingrich, has labeled the president “a left-wing radical who wants to raise taxes” and is hell bent on “creating bureaucratic socialism.”
Asked about the new GOP front runner, Gingrich, Obama said the former House speaker was “good on TV and good in debates.” Romney also is a good debater, largely because “he’s had a lot of practice,” he added.
This post was updated at 9:01 p.m.