In an interview with the reporter Steve Kroft, taped on Tuesday and Friday, Mr. Obama said it didn’t matter who his Republican challenger would be in next year’s presidential election, because, he said, comparing Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, “the core philosophy that they are expressing is the same.”
Obama predicted the fight to the Republican nomination won’t be resolved quickly. “I think that they will be going at it for a while,” he said.
He described both of the top GOP candidates, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, as political fixtures. Of Gingrich he said: “He’s somebody who’s been around a long time, and is good on TV, is good in debates.”
“But Mitt Romney has shown himself to be somebody who’s … who’s good at politics, as well,” he said. “He’s had a lot of practice at it.”
But he added: “The contrast in visions between where I want to take the country and where they say they want to take the country is stark. The American people are going to have a good choice. And it’s going to be a good debate.”
Obama is counting on voters giving him credit for avoiding a second Great Depression, bailing out the auto industry and passing a signature health care law even while acknowledging that the public is hardly satisfied with the direction of the country.
He also listed such achievements as ending the Pentagon’s policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” for gay service members and the elimination of Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaida leaders.
Confronted with a new CBS poll that showed 75 percent of Americans believed the country was headed in the wrong direction and 54 percent believed Mr. Obama did not deserve to be re-elected.
The president said: “I would be surprised if the American people felt satisfied right now. They shouldn’t feel satisfied. We have a lot more work to do in order to get this country and the economy moving in a way that benefits everybody, as opposed to just a few.”
When asked by interviewer Steve Kroft whether he had made too many promises to Americans during his hope-and-change campaign in 2008, Obama insisted that he “always believed that this was a long-term project.”
The president said he knew that “reversing a culture here in Washington dominated by special interests would take more than year, more than two years, more than one term, probably take more than one president.”
He vowed that he and first lady Michelle Obama have not thought about bowing out after a single term.
“One thing I pride myself on before becoming president and that has continued as president: I’m a persistent son of a gun. I stay at it. I keep staying at it,” he said.
Mr. Obama compared himself to a sea captain navigating a ship through a bad storm. He said it was inevitable that people on the ship wouldn’t enjoy the ride and would blame the captain.
“But when it comes to the economy, we’ve got a lot more work to do,” he conceded.
He rejected Republican criticism that his economic policies amount to class warfare, saying he is simply trying to restore an “American deal” that focuses on building a strong middle class.
Mr. Obama said the question in next year’s election is whether the Republicans present a more compelling vision that includes “cutting taxes further, including on the wealthy, cutting taxes on corporations, gutting regulations.”
He added, “If the American people think that is a recipe for success, and a majority is persuaded by that, then I am going to lose.”
Obama spoke with Kroft briefly after the president’s appearance in Osawatomie, Kan., on Tuesday and sat down with the correspondent for an extended interview on Friday at the White House.
In a major speech in Osawatomie Obama argued that even before the recent recession hit, Americans at the top of the income scale grew wealthier while others struggled and racked up debt.
He also has called for spending on jobs initiatives and for an extension of a payroll tax cut that would be paid for by increasing taxes on taxpayers who make $1 million or more.
“There are going to be people who say, ‘This is the socialist Obama and he’s come out of the closet,'” Obama said. “The problem is that our politics has gotten to the point, where we can’t have an honest conversation about the greatest income inequality since the 1920s.”
“And we can’t have an honest conversation about the irresponsibility that resulted in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, without somebody saying that somehow we’re being divisive,” he added. [via Huffington Post, The Caucus and The Washington Post]