President Obama admitted to "tactical" missteps during the first two-years of his administration and suggested it might be easier to work with Republicans during the next two years.
In a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times to be published Sunday, Obama said he let himself be perceived as “the same old tax-and-spend liberal Democrat," as opposed to the new model of politician some thought he would be following his 2008 campaign.
With regard to his first large legislative effort, the $787 billion federal stimulus, it took too long for him to realize “there’s no such thing as shovel-ready projects," Obama said.
The Times's Peter Baker wrote: "Perhaps he should not have proposed tax breaks as part of his stimulus and instead 'let the Republicans insist on the tax cuts' so it could be seen as a bipartisan compromise."
Though Obama has accused Republicans of opposing his agenda for political gain, in the interview the president said whatever the result of the midterms, his relationship the GOP would be different starting in 2011.
"It may be that regardless of what happens after this election, they feel more responsible,” he said. "Either because they didn’t do as well as they anticipated, and so the strategy of just saying no to everything and sitting on the sidelines and throwing bombs didn’t work for them, or they did reasonably well, in which case the American people are going to be looking to them to offer serious proposals and work with me in a serious way."
Obama also predicted Congress would spend more of its time in the next two years ensuring the implementation of healthcare reform and the financial regulatory overhaul.
"Even if I had the exact same Congress, even if we don’t lose a seat in the Senate and we don’t lose a seat in the House, I think the rhythms of the next two years would inevitably be different from the rhythms of the first two years,” Obama said. "There’s going to be a lot of work in this administration just doing things right and making sure that new laws are stood up in the ways they’re intended."
Even with the slow pace of the economic recovery, which has also created a tough environment for Democrats and tamped down his approval ratings, Obama did not express regret.
"The mythology has emerged somehow that we ran this flawless campaign, I never made a mistake, that we were master communicators, everything worked in lock step," he said. "And somehow now, as president, things are messy and they don’t always work as planned and people are mad at us. That’s not how I look at stuff, because I remember what the campaign was like. And it was just as messy and just as difficult. And there were all sorts of moments when our supporters lost hope, and it looked like we weren’t going to win. And we’re going through that same period here.
"I make no apologies for having set high expectations for myself and for the country, because I think we can meet those expectations," he added. "Now, the one thing that I will say — which I anticipated and can be tough — is the fact that in a big, messy democracy like this, everything takes time. And we’re not a culture that’s built on patience."