In interview, Obama says race not a factor in congressional gridlock

President Obama late Wednesday dismissed the notion that partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill is the result of his stature as the country's first black president, instead accusing Republicans of a "habit" of attempting to "delegitimize" Democratic presidents.

Obama noted that he had shared a stage at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington earlier in the day with President Clinton, and he remembered "him having a pretty hard time with the Republicans as well."

"There does [seem to] be a habit sometimes of just Democratic presidents generally being – efforts being made to delegitimize them in some fashion," Obama told the PBS NewsHour. "And that’s fine because, you know, politics is – is not – is not bean bag, as they used to say – it’s not a noncontact sport. And I don’t worry about it personally."

Obama did say that he had observed a resistance to "any change in the status quo, particularly when it came to economic opportunity," but chalked that up "less to ... my race" than sentiments that "the government’s the problem instead of the solution."

"I think it – it doesn’t have to do with my race in particular; it has to do with an effort to make sure people who might otherwise challenge the existing ways that things work are divided," Obama said.

The president also said that he was troubled that his economic policies haven't done more to address inequity.

"It certainly weighs on me," Obama admitted.

Still, the president said, key aspects of his agenda had "met resistance from the Republicans in Congress."

Obama also said he was troubled that growing economic disparity was "a trend that’s actually been going on for a couple of decades now."

"So what we need to do is to go back to that principle that, if you look at our economic history, has always been the case," Obama said. "When we have broad-based growth, when the middle class does well, when people at the bottom have a shot, it turns out that’s good for everybody. It’s good for folks at the top. It’s good for businesses, because now they’ve got consumers who are spending more money."

Earlier Wednesday, Obama called providing economic equality and opportunity the “great unfinished business” of the civil rights era at his speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" address.

“In too many communities across this country, in cities and suburbs, the shadow of poverty casts over our youth, their lives a fortress of substandard schools and diminished prospects, inadequate health care and perennial violence,” Obama said.