President Obama won’t be caught criticizing Mitt Romney for arguing that his administration hasn’t pulled the economy far enough out of the hole it was in four years ago, the president told CBS News in an exclusive interview, “because if I was in his shoes, I’d be making the same argument.”
Sitting down recently with Charlie Rose in the Blue Room of the White House, Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama reflected on lessons learned during their first term, one of the biggest being, “In this office, everything takes a little longer than you’d like,” the president said.
“I think it’s important to know we did an awful lot in the first four years,” Mr. Obama told Rose when asked why he was seeking reelection. “But when I think about the next four years, what’s undone?”
The president argued that another term would help congeal policies he’s put in place to make sure the middle class is “strong and growing,” and said, “The question right now for the American people is, which vision – mine or Mr. Romney’s – is most likely to deliver for those folks?”
Rose asked about the current campaign compared to the 2008 race in which Mr. Obama ran on “hope,” “change,” and “Yes, we can.” “What happened to that? Because that’s not the narrative today,” said Rose.
“Well, it’s funny, you know? I just came back from a bus tour in Ohio. And we’re now starting to get in the campaign swing. And I tell people, ‘This campaign’s still about hope.’ If somebody asks me, it’s still about change.”
But the president said what has frustrated him most since coming to office is “not the hard work. It’s not the, you know, enormity of the decisions. It’s not the pace. It is that I haven’t been able to change the atmosphere here in Washington to reflect the decency and common sense of ordinary people – Democrats, Republicans, and independents – who I think just want to see their leadership solve problems. And, you know, there’s enough blame to go around for that.”
“And do you blame yourself for that?” asked Rose.
“Well, I think there is no doubt that I underestimated the degree to which in this town politics trumps problem-solving,” Mr. Obama replied.
Mrs. Obama, though, said she marvels at her husband’s steadiness, both on the job and as a family man. “He shows us in the way he looks at me and the girls, when he comes home at 6:30, that there’s nothing more important than being there with us,” she said.
“I think this place magnifies the good parts and the bad parts of you,” the first lady continued. “And I have just been so proud to watch him maneuver through some pretty interesting waters, and to retain himself.”
Likewise, the president said he relies on Mrs. Obama – a fixture on the campaign trail and policy promoter of health initiatives in America – now more than ever.
“I am happily surprised,” he said, “at how I think this experience has strengthened, rather than diminished our marriage.”
For more of Charlie Rose’s interview with the Obamas, tune in to “CBS This Morning” on Monday, July 16, at 7 a.m. ET.
Source: CBS Interactive Inc.