Transcript: Diane Sawyer Interviews Obama

DIANE SAWYER, ABC'S "WORLD NEWS" ANCHOR: Mr. President, thank you.


SAWYER: So, looking back a year, going before a joint session of Congress. What's the biggest difference in going this week?

OBAMA: Well, you know, this may seem counterintuitive, but the biggest difference is that I was more worried about where the country was going a year ago than I am now. Keep in mind that when I made that joint session speech, we still didn't know whether the financial system was going to stabilize. We still were looking at five, six, seven hundred thousand jobs per month being lost. It still wasn't clear whether or not we were going to be able to generate economic growth again.

And so, the steps that we took at the beginning of this year have meant that the potential meltdown of the economy has gone away. What hasn't gone away is the desperation that people are feeling who were one of the 7 million who lost jobs during that period, and so right now, I think there's frustration and anger about why can't we get this thing moving faster? And it's a frustration that I feel as well…

SAWYER: Republicans are already out today saying what you're talking about so far for Wednesday night is not going to create any new jobs.

OBAMA: The -- well, I would suggest that they save the rebuttal for after the speech. They haven't really heard what we're proposing.

SAWYER: But what is it going to be? New stimulus money -- as we know, in the House, they have talked about $170 billion or so for new stimulus money…

OBAMA: Here's what we're going to talk about. We're going to talk about how we can first of all, focus on job creation and growth. And I've met with the Republicans, by the way, several weeks ago. So, I have their ideas. I know what they're proposing. And some of the things we propose are things that actually should get some strong bipartisan support.

We're also going to make sure we're focused on some issues that have been burdening the middle class well before the crisis hit. You know, what's happening in terms of affordability of college. How can people save for their retirement in a more secure way? How do they deal with both child care and elderly parents that they've got to take care of?

So, there are going to be a set of proposals that we put forward that help to stabilize the situation and deal with the growing insecurity and anxiety of people who, even if they haven't lost their job, are still feeling squeezed by their incomes shrinking and their costs going up.

SAWYER: But a year ago, you said the first item on the agenda, a year ago, jobs.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

SAWYER: Painted a picture of jobs from coast to...

OBAMA: Well, now, Diane, I think that's not fair. Here's what I said...

SAWYER: A hope for jobs, at least, infrastructure...


OBAMA: Here's what I said, was that our number one priority was stopping the economic contraction and putting people back to work. Now, we have stopped the economic contraction. The economy is growing again, and we did create or save several million of jobs. That's not my opinion. That's the opinion of conservative economists as well as liberal economists, was that the Recovery Act, which is a combination of tax cuts, infrastructure improvements, helping states stabilize their budgets -- all those things helped to lessen the fall.

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