President Barack Obama said he deserves re-election because his policies prevented a second depression, will lower health-care costs and make sure Wall Street has tougher regulations and resulted in eliminating al- Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
“But, you know, but when it comes to the economy, we’ve got a lot more work to do,” Obama said in an interview with the CBS program “60 minutes,” according to an excerpt released at the start of tonight’s broadcast. “We’re going to keep on at it.”
Obama predicted that the Republican president candidates “will be going at it for a while” and said it doesn’t matter to him who the Republican nominee is because both former Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney are expressing the same “core philosophy.”
In a part of the interview released on Dec. 9, Obama said that restoring the U.S. to robust economic growth is “a long- term project” and will take more than one term and likely “more than one president.”
He said Americans “have every reason to be impatient” with the pace of the economic recovery while holding out hope that the nation’s unemployment rate may fall to 8 percent by the time of the 2012 election. “It’s possible,” he said, adding, “I’m not in the job of prognosticating on the economy.”
Economy Is Top Issue
The state of the economy likely will be the top issue in the presidential race as the Republican candidates have been making Obama’s policies a central part of their campaigns.
While employers added 120,000 jobs to their payrolls last month and unemployment fell to 8.6 percent, the recovery remains fragile and jobs aren’t being created fast enough, Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic advisers, said Dec. 2 after the jobs data was released. Wage gains were limited, restraining consumers’ ability to boost spending that accounts for 70 percent of the economy.
Unemployment will average 8.7 percent in 2012, according to the median forecast by economists surveyed by Bloomberg News from Dec. 2-8.
Republicans, including Romney and Gingrich, have faulted Obama for a forecast released at the start of his administration that the stimulus package he pushed through Congress would keep the unemployment rate from rising above 8 percent. It’s been above that level since February 2009 and hit a peak of 10.1 percent in October of that year.
“It doesn’t really matter who the nominee is going to be,” Obama said about the Republican contest. “The American people are going to have a good choice and it’s going to be a good debate.”
In answering a question on why he deserved a second term, Obama listed his legislative accomplishments, the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prevented gays from serving openly in the military and the death of bin Laden. His actions as commander-in-chief have been responsible for “decimating al Qaeda, including Bin Laden being taken off the field,” he said.
At a press conference four days ago, Obama dismissed Republicans’ criticism of his foreign policy, saying they should ask Osama bin Laden “whether I engage in appeasement.”
At a Dec. 7 forum in Washington, Romney echoed remarks by several Republican candidates running for their party’s presidential nomination, saying that Obama adopted “a course of appeasement” that has weakened the U.S. military and caused the U.S. to shirk commitments to allies.
Wall Street Prosecutions
In the interview the president declined to respond to the lack of criminal prosecutions on Wall Street, saying that he left those enforcement matters to his justice department.
“I can tell you, just from 40,000 feet, that some of the most damaging behavior on Wall Street, in some cases, some of the least ethical behavior on Wall Street, wasn’t illegal,” he said. “That’s exactly why we had to change the laws.”
Republicans are blocking Obama’s nominee to lead the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a signature piece of the Dodd-Frank legislation that the president signed into law last year. In his weekly radio address he pressed U.S. lawmakers not to “go home for the holidays” until they extend a payroll tax cut and confirm his nominee, Richard Cordray, to run the CFPB.
Obama told CBS that, when he talks with his staff, he uses the analogy of a ship “going through really bad storms.”
“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,’ Obama said. ‘‘And I don’t control the weather. What I can control are the policies we’re putting in place to make a difference in people’s lives.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Hans Nichols in Washington, DC at firstname.lastname@example.org