Obama: Polarization 'gnaws on me' in final year in office


President Obama said in an interview broadcast Sunday morning that his inability to reduce polarization between the political parties in Washington "gnaws" on him as he settles into his final year in office.

β€œThe one thing that gnaws on me is the degree of continued polarization," he said during an interview broadcast on "CBS Sunday Morning."

"It's gotten worse over the last several years," Obama continued. "And I think that in those early months my expectation was is that we could pull the parties together a little more effectively."

Obama campaigned in 2008 on a platform of reducing polarization in Washington. He first entered national prominence after a speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention that was built around the idea of their not being a "red America" or a "blue America."

Obama said he does not regret his initial campaign promises to bridge the partisan divide, even as he laments the lack of success now in his final year.

"Well, here's the thing," ye said. "That's what the American people believe. And that's what I still believe."

Obama said he would not run for a third term, even if he was not barred from doing so by the Constitution.

"Number one, Michelle wouldn't let me," he said with a laugh.

"You know, this is a big sacrifice and a great privilege, but it takes a toll on family life," Obama continued. "This is a process in which the office should be continually renewed by new energy and new ideas and new insights. And although I think I am as good of a president as I have ever been right now. I also think that there comes a point where you don't have fresh legs.

"And you know, that's when you start making mistakes. Or that's when you start thinking that you are what's important as opposed to the mission being more important," he concluded.

Obama said he is not worried about Republicans undoing things he accomplished during his eight years in office if they win the White House later this year.

"Well, you think about that. But what you discover when you're president is that the institutions and programs and things that you have put in place and built β€” if you've done a good job and you've done them sensibly β€” you know, in some cases may need tinkering with. Can be improved. But if they're good things, they're harder to undo than you think," he said.

Obama said he will be content with his tenure as president when he leaves office next year.

"When I turn over the keys to the next occupant β€” one thing I'm confident about, and maybe why I don't feel obliged to yearn for a third term, is I'm very confident I'll be able to say that things are a lot better now than they were when I came into office," he said. "And, you know, that's a pretty good eight years' worth of work."