WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama insisted the U.S. is not in danger of falling into another recession, but acknowledged in a televised interview aired Sunday that his re-election will hinge on the economy.
In the interview with CBS News taped last week – after a new Gallup poll found just 26 percent approve of the way he is handling the economy – Obama said, “I’m the president of the United States and when people aren’t happy with what’s happening in Washington … I’m going to be impacted just like Congress is. And you know, I completely understand that and we expected that.”
He blamed voters’ frustration and the recent stock market turmoil on an economy that’s “not growing fast enough.”
As Obama toured the rural Midwest by bus last week, he seemed to be in campaign mode, daring Republicans to block his upcoming jobs package and calling on voters to “send a message to folks in Washington.” He pledged to send the jobs proposal to Congress and to campaign against lawmakers if they refused to pass it.
But in the CBS interview, the president acknowledged that voters could blame everyone in Washington – including him.
“And for me to argue, ‘Look, we’ve actually made the right decisions; things would have been much worse had we not made those decisions’ – that’s not that satisfying if you don’t have a job right now,” he said. He added that he expects “to be judged a year from now on whether or not things have continued to get better.”
Economic growth has been weak and the unemployment rate has been above 9 percent for months.
Obama attributed August’s stock market roller coaster to “a lot of head winds” from world events – the debt crisis in Europe, the earthquake in Japan and the spike in gas prices caused by the wave of protests that hit the Middle East last spring. The Dow Jones industrial average is down 6.6 percent for the year.
“I don’t think we’re in danger of another recession, but we are in danger of not having a recovery that’s fast enough to deal with what is a genuine unemployment crisis for a whole lot of folks out there,” he said. “And that’s why we need to be doing more.”
Echoing the hopeful message that served him well during the 2008 campaign, Obama insisted that Washington is not as broken as voters may think.
“There have been times when Congress was just as dysfunctional; there’s been times where the country was full of vitriol in its politics,” he said. “So this isn’t unique in our time.”
He criticized Republicans for recent “brinkmanship” over raising the nation’s debt ceiling but said he “absolutely can do business with them.”
Obama said he would push Democrats to find “common ground and compromise.”
“And if that’s happening on both sides, there’s no reason why we can’t solve problems,” he said.