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In his own words: Obama's regrets and lessons at the halfway point

November 4, 2010 |  2:44 am

Democrat president Barack Obama at his post election News Conference 11-3-10

In the first public comments about the drubbing that his programs and Democratic Party took in the administration's first midterm elections Tuesday, President Obama misspoke. Calling the historic loss of a half-dozen Senate seats and at least five dozen House districts a "shellacking," Obama added:

"This is something that I think every president needs to go through."

It would likely annoy him to recall that his predecessor -- the Texan of eight years of failed you-know-what -- didn't take a drubbing in his first midterm elections. In fact, in 2002 George W. Bush's Republican Party went against history and actually gained two Senate seats that year plus captured eight more districts in the House, only the second presidency to pull that off after its first two years.

In the more than 8,000 words he uttered during his Wednesday news conference ...

... Obama sought to acknowledge that he understood the voters' message and to appear willing to work with Republicans for the people's good. He sees voters as frustrated with jobs, not with him or his priorities.

There are numerous critics, however, who said the Harvard grad finds it impossible to apologize for ramming ahead with his healthcare legislation, for instance, while Americans consistently told pollsters the economy and jobs were their top priority.  Or for appearing arrogant and disconnected and when appearing to address that question, disingenuously dissembling on unrelated issues.

Obama's remarks seemed to try to merge the administration's hectic response to the economic crisis with inattention to public communicating, as if he hasn't explained his policies sufficiently. Despite the fact that in the summer of 2009, he had 59 healthcare town hall sessions. When acknowledging slips Wednesday, he seemed to include others as responsible too.

So, overnight, we went through the news conference transcript which, as always, we published in full right here. And we pulled out excerpts when he appeared to be expressing regret or retrospection.

We'll reprint them down below. So you can draw your own impressions and conclusions and share them with us and other readers in the Comments section:

I do hope to make progress on the very serious problems facing us right now. And that’s going to require all of us, including me, to work harder at building consensus....

My core responsibility is making sure that we’ve got an economy that's growing, a middle class that feels secure, that jobs are being created.  And so I think I've got to take direct responsibility for the fact that we have not made as much progress as we need to make....

I think the overwhelming message that I hear from the voters is that we want everybody to act responsibly in Washington.  We want you to work harder to arrive at consensus.  We want you to focus completely on jobs and the economy and growing it, so that we’re ensuring a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

And I think that there’s no doubt that as I reflect on the results of the election, it underscores for me that I've got to do a better job, just like everybody else in Washington does....

But what is absolutely true is that with all that stuff coming at folks fast and furious -- a recovery package, what we had to do with respect to the banks, what we had to Democrat president Barack Obama at his midterm news conference 11-3-10do with respect to the auto companies -- I think people started looking at all this and it felt as if government was getting much more intrusive into people’s lives than they were accustomed to. 

Now, the reason was it was an emergency situation.  But I think it’s understandable that folks said to themselves, you know, maybe this is the agenda, as opposed to a response to an emergency. 

And that’s something that I think everybody in the White House understood was a danger.  We thought it was necessary, but I’m sympathetic to folks who looked at it and said this is looking like potential overreach....

When I won election in 2008, one of the reasons I think that people were excited about the campaign was the prospect that we would change how business is done in Washington.  And we were in such a hurry to get things done that we didn’t change how things got done.  And I think that frustrated people....

I think that what I think is absolutely true is voters are not satisfied with the outcomes.  If right now we had 5 percent unemployment instead of 9.6 percent unemployment, then people would have more confidence in those policy choices.  The fact is, is that for most folks, proof of whether they work or not is has the economy gotten back to where it needs to be.  And it hasn’t....

I think the American people want to see more transparency, more openness.  As I said, in the midst of economic crisis, I think one of the things I take responsibility for is not having pushed harder on some of those issues.  And I think if you take Republicans and Democrats at their word this is an area that they want to deliver on for the American people, I want to be supportive of that effort....

(About seeing so many Democrats unelected on Tuesday) There is a not only sadness about seeing them go, but there’s also a lot of questioning on my part in terms of could I have done something differently or done something more so that those folks would still be here. It’s hard.  And I take responsibility for it in a lot of ways....

(About not changing the way Washington works) You are absolutely right that when you are navigating through a House and a Senate in this kind of pretty partisan environment that it’s a ugly mess when it comes to process.  And I think that is something that really affected how people viewed the outcome. That is something that I regret -- that we couldn’t have made the process more -- healthier than it ended up being. But I think the outcome was a good one....

As I reflect on what’s happened over the last two years, one of the things that I think has not been managed by me as well as it needed to be was finding the right balance in making sure that businesses have rules of the road and are treating customers fairly and -- whether it’s their credit cards or insurance or their mortgages -- but also making absolutely clear that the only way America succeeds is if businesses are succeeding.... 

There is a inherent danger in being in the White House and being in the bubble. I mean, folks didn’t have any complaints about my leadership style when I was running around Iowa for a year. And they got a pretty good look at me up close and personal, and they were able to lift the hood and kick the tires, and I think they understood that my story was theirs. I might have a funny name, I might have lived in some different places, but the values of hard work and responsibility and honesty and looking out for one another that had been instilled in them by their parents, those were the same values that I took from my mom and my grandparents.

And so the track record has been that when I’m out of this place, that's not an issue. When you’re in this place, it is hard not to seem removed. And one of the challenges that we’ve got to think about is how do I meet my responsibilities here in the White House, which require a lot of hours and a lot of work, but still have that opportunity to engage with the American people on a day-to-day basis, and know -- give them confidence that I’m listening to them.

Related Item:

Look what the GOP also pulled off at the state level

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Alex Wong / Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images.