President Obama predicted travails ahead for the struggle to pass healthcare reform but offered a hopeful outlook for passage of legislation providing access to insurance coverage for all, saying that “the stars may be aligned” for a deal on a goal that eluded the last Democratic president.
In a C-SPAN interview that aired Saturday, Obama said he was “absolutely committed” to moving forward with a healthcare plan and promised he would announce his Supreme Court nomination soon. The interview covered a broad range of subjects and touched on his family life and work habits in the White House.
The president described himself as a “night owl” who usually tucks his daughters in bed and then stays up until midnight going over stacks of work-related papers or writing.
After a grueling two-year national campaign and, before that, regular commutes between Washington and Chicago as a U.S. senator, he said the presidency has been “terrific” for family life, noting that the White House includes a “pretty nice home office” and that he is home for dinner most nights.
He even has been to a couple of his daughters’ soccer games, Obama said, portraying an everyday home life for the first family.
“We’ve got some issues like every other family has that they have to work through,” Obama said.
Despite the often-withering criticism he leveled against his predecessor during the presidential campaign, Obama said he has had conversations with President George W. Bush since the inauguration but offered no other details.
“I think that although I’ve only been president four months, I think a general policy of keeping confidence with your predecessors is important,” Obama said.
Obama said he believed he would be able to succeed where President Clinton failed on healthcare reform because escalating costs had shifted the political climate.
“The biggest change politically . . . is that businesses now recognize that if we don’t get a handle on this stuff that they are going to continue to be operating at a competitive disadvantage with other countries,” he said. “And so they anxiously seek serious reform.”
Asked about the financial crisis in California, Obama said he did not believe the federal government would provide a bailout, though he acknowledged the state faced “some very difficult choices.”
He said his administration would try to help California and other states overcome “uncertainty and anxiety in the credit markets” so they could continue to issue bonds to renew outstanding debt.
“We are talking to state treasurers across the country, including California, to figure out, are there some creative ways that we can just help them get through some of these difficult times,” Obama said.
The president is expected to announce his nomination to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter within the next week or two. In the interview, Obama repeated past statements that he was looking for a justice who combined intellect with common sense and empathy for the struggles of ordinary people.
“There is going to be 5% of the cases there where the language is ambiguous, where the constitutional precedent is not clear. And in those situations you want a judge who has a sense of what’s going on in the day-to-day lives of the American people and has some practical experience,” Obama said.
He deflected a question on whether he would be interested in serving on the court after his presidency. “You know,” Obama said, “I am not sure that I could get through Senate confirmation.”