His approval ratings are largely stagnant and his prospects for reelection in doubt. But President Obama says it’s all to be expected.
“We’ve gone through an incredibly difficult time in this country. And I would be surprised if the American people felt satisfied right now,” Obama told CBS’ Steve Kroft in an interview to air on “60 Minutes” on Sunday. “They shouldn’t feel satisfied. We’ve got 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.”
Put another way, Obama said he compared himself with a ship captain in stormy waters.
“No matter how well we’re steering the ship, if the boat’s rocking back and forth and people are getting sick and, you know, they’re being buffeted by the winds and the rain ... if you’re asking, ‘Are you enjoying the ride right now?’ folks are going to say, ‘No.’ ” Obama said. “People are going to say, ‘You know what? A good captain would have had us in some smooth waters and sunny skies at this point.’ And I don’t control the weather.”
Kroft interviewed the president twice last week, first after a speech in Osawatomie, Kan., that was viewed as laying the groundwork for his reelection campaign. Obama spoke about the growing income inequality in America, and called it a “make-or-break moment” for the middle class.
Kroft noted the criticism that Obama is engaging in class warfare and calling for a “redistribution of wealth.”
“The problem is, 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,” Obama said. “No, we’re being honest about what happened, and we’ve got to be honest about how we move forward.”
A CBS/New York Times poll released this weekend found that 54% of Americans think Obama doesn’t deserve another term. Kroft asked Obama to make his case.
He rattled off a familiar list of accomplishments, starting with “saving this country from a Great Depression” and rescuing the auto industry. There’s also healthcare reform, financial reforms, ending “don’t ask, don’t tell” and “decimating” Al Qaeda, including the death of Osama bin Laden.
“But you know, but when it comes to the economy, we’ve got a lot more work to do. And we’re, we’re going to keep on at it.”
The president also quoted his vice president in describing why he’s not worried about poll numbers at this point.
“I’m being judged against the ideal. And, you know, Joe Biden has a good expression. He says, ‘Don’t judge me against the Almighty, judge me against the alternative.’ ”
Asked about the Republican race, Obama said it wouldn’t matter who the nominee was because all were expressing the same core philosophy. He thinks Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich “will be going at it for a while.” Gingrich has “been around a long time,” and as for Romney: He’s “shown himself to be somebody who’s good at politics, as well. He’s had a lot of practice at it.”
The interview closes with Kroft recalling the speech Obama gave announcing his candidacy, and asking him whether he promised more than he could deliver.
“I didn’t overpromise. And I didn’t underestimate how tough this was going to be,” he said. “It was going to take more than a year. It was going to take more than two years. It was going to take more than one term. Probably takes more than one president. The one thing I’ve prided myself on before I was president, and it turns out that continues to be true as president: I’m a persistent son of a gun.”