Ten quotes: Obama’s journey from ‘yes we can’ to ‘so sue me’

President Obama has gone from “yes we can” to “so sue me.”

The president’s standoffish remark this week about a Republican lawsuit was a reminder of how much Obama’s rhetoric has changed since his 2008 campaign and its promise to deliver a new kind of politics.

These ten Obama quotations illustrate the transformation.


1. July 27, 2004: “There's not a liberal America and a conservative America. There's the United States of America.”

Obama vaults onto the national stage with a call for unity at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

2. Feb. 5, 2008: “We know that what began as a whisper has now swelled to a chorus that cannot be ignored, that will not be deterred, that will ring out across this land as a hymn that will heal this nation, repair this world, make this time different than all the rest. Yes, we can.”

Obama voices his hopes in a speech on Super Tuesday during the 2008 campaign.

3. Jan. 20, 2009: “What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them, that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.” 

Obama takes the oath of office in front of a record crowd on the National Mall.


4. Sept. 9, 2009: “The time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together, and show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.” 

After a summer of protests against health reform legislation, Obama addresses Congress to make one more push. He acknowledges there has been opposition, but still hopes “both parties” can work together on the issue.

5. May 1, 2010: “As I found out after a year in the White House, changing this type of politics is not easy.”

Obama admits in a University of Michigan commencement address that he’s had a tough time changing politics. He calls for civility and listening to the other side.

6. July 11, 2011: “If each side takes a maximalist position, if each side wants 100 percent of what its ideological predispositions are, then we can’t get anything done.”

In a press conference amidst the marathon negotiations over raising the debt ceiling, Obama urges both parties to make sacrifices to reach a deal.

7. June 1, 2012: “I believe that if we're successful in this election, when we're successful in this election, that the fever may break, because there's a tradition in the Republican Party of more common sense than that.”

With hopes of a “grand bargain” on spending dashed and the election ahead, Obama tells donors in Minneapolis he hopes that if he wins reelection, Republicans will be more willing to work with him.

8. Oct. 3, 2013: “If you're being disrespected, it's because of that attitude you got that you deserve to get something for doing your job.” 

Obama’s criticism of the GOP grew more strident during the government shutdown. He mocked Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.) for saying, “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

9. June 27, 2014: “They don’t do anything. Except block me. And call me names.”

Obama gives a harsh assessment of the GOP in Minneapolis as he accelerated his use of executive actions to accomplish things without Congress.

10. July 1, 2014: “Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff.  So sue me.”

At a speech in Washington, the journey away from the politics of compromise appears to be complete.