Elections 2012: Barack Obama Reflects on His Biggest Mistake as President

President Obama’s biggest mistake during his first term has been putting policy over storytelling.

President Obama tells CBS News that the biggest mistake of his first term boils down to communication with the public: emphasizing policy over storytelling. Photo: CBS News/YouTube

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama sat down Thursday with “CBS This Morning” anchor Charlie Rose in the White House Blue Room, where they discussed the failures and successes of his administration as he heads into another election, among other things, reports CBS News.

“What do you think the lesson has been that might guarantee success in the second term, if that happened?” Charlie Rose asked the president.

“When I think about what we’ve done well and what we haven’t done well,” Obama responded. “The mistake of my first term – couple of years – was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right.”

“And that’s important. But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times,” Obama said.

The president added: “It’s funny, when I ran, people said, ‘Well, he can give a great speech, but can he actually manage the job?’ And then in my first two years, I think the notion was, “Well, you know, he’s been juggling and managing a lot of stuff, but where’s the story that tells us where he’s going?’ And I think that was a legitimate criticism.”

“So getting out of this town, spending more time with the American people, listening to them, and also, then, being in a conversation with them about where do we go together as a country, I need to do a better job of that in my second term,” the president said.

Pressed by Rose about what he felt he needed to explain better to the American people, the president corrected that he wanted to do more “explaining, but also inspiring.”

“Because hope is still there,” Mrs. Obama added.

ABC News writes that presidents — as well as politicians in general — tend to sidestep questions about their biggest mistake in office, though they sometimes stumble spectacularly over them (as George W. Bush did in April 2004), or offer up a self-serving answer that might be lampooned as “I just love America too much.”

However, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney hit out hard at Obama following the interview.

“President Obama believes that millions of Americans have lost their homes, their jobs and their livelihood because he failed to tell a good story. Being president is not about telling stories. Being president is about leading, and President Obama has failed to lead. No wonder Americans are losing faith in his presidency,” the Romney campaign said in the statement.

Republican spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said Obama’s economic policies are the problem.

“With 23 million people struggling under our slow economy, the decision for voters isn’t ‘can the president tell a good story,'” Kukowski said. “It’s ‘can the president create jobs?'”

For more of the interview with President and Mrs. Obama, watch “CBS Sunday Morning” this Sunday, July 15, and “CBS This Morning” on Monday, July 16.

Share this article

We welcome comments that advance the story directly or with relevant tangential information. We try to block comments that use offensive language, all capital letters or appear to be spam, and we review comments frequently to ensure they meet our standards. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Coinspeaker Ltd.