Obama Regrets Divided U.S. Before Final State of the Union

State of the Union Preview: Charlie Rose
  • Obama interviewed by NBC's ``Today'' show from White House
  • President will deliver final annual address tonight at Capitol

President Barack Obama said he regrets that political divisiveness in the U.S. grew during his seven years in the White House and he plans to use his final State of the Union address Tuesday night to call for the nation to unite.

“There’s no doubt that politics in Washington are so much more divided than the American people are,” Obama said Tuesday morning in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show. “Part of what I want to do in this last address is remind people we have a lot of good things going for us. And if we can get our politics right it turns out we are not as divided on the ideological spectrum as people make us out to be.”

Obama will use his prime-time speech from the House chamber to set up his legacy, touting economic progress and the recovery of industries including auto manufacturing even amid political rancor.

The optimistic portrait of progress and possibility lifts the curtain on a final year in office in which he will try to extend the influence of his presidency by securing the election of a Democratic successor.

In a change of tactic from his past addresses, Obama will use the speech as less of a recitation of legislative goals, particularly given the political divisions between the White House and the Republican majority in Congress.

2016 Priorities

At the same time, Obama is trying to set the stage for movement in his last year on priorities including gun control, immigration and enacting a trade agreement with Asia-Pacific nations. Republicans in Congress have said they’re not interested in prioritizing the president’s legislative agenda. And the White House has said publicly it’s given up hopes of working with the Republican-controlled House and Senate on many of those issues.

Obama said in the NBC interview aired Tuesday that he wanted to remind Americans that the U.S. remains “the strongest nation on Earth by far” despite the Iraq war, the worst financial crisis in a generation, and continuing threats from terrorists.

“It is sometimes important for us to stand back and take measure of how far we’ve come,” Obama said. “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t own the 21st Century.”

Trump Candidacy

Obama also weighed in on the possibility of billionaire businessman Donald Trump, who is running for the Republican nomination to become the next U.S. president, winning in 2016.

“I can imagine it in a ‘Saturday Night’ skit,” he said, referring to NBC’s “Saturday Night Live.” He added quickly, ”Look, anything is possible.”

Obama rejected Trump’s policies, which he said were feeding the fears of voters.

“I am pretty confident that the overwhelming majority of Americans are looking for the kind of politics that does feed our hopes and not our fears, that does work together and doesn’t try to divide us, that isn’t looking for simplistic solutions,” he said.

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