Transcript: Diane Sawyer Interviews Obama

OBAMA: And that was -- that -- that's something that I take responsibility for. I will also say, though, that what we've actually been fighting to get done is entirely consistent with what I campaigned on.

It -- it's trying to figure out how we can make sure that, you know, the -- the woman I meet in Iowa, who has lost her job and now doesn't have health insurance, how she can get some help. It's -- it's the small businessman in -- in New Hampshire, who is -- is looking at suddenly his premiums going up 40, 50 percent and is having to make a decision about either cutting health care for his employees or losing an employee.

And -- and those are the voices in my head when I wake up in the morning, and those are the voices in my head when I go to bed at night. And I don't make apologies for trying to solve some big problems that this town has proven incapable of solving for way too long.

SAWYER: Ever in the middle of all that's coming did you think maybe one term is enough?

OBAMA: You know, I -- I would say that when I -- the one thing I'm clear about is that I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president. And I -- and I believe that.

You know, there's a tendency in Washington to think that our job description of elected officials is to get re-elected. That's not our job description. Our job description is to solve problems and to help people. And, you know, that's not just the view of elected officials themselves. That's also the filter through which the media reads things.


And the reason I can say this with confidence is I've gone through this before. I went through this through the campaign.

When your poll numbers drop, you're an idiot. When your poll numbers are high, you're a genius. If my poll numbers are low, then I'm cool and cerebral and cold and detached. If my poll numbers are high, well, he's calm and reasoned.

So that's -- that's the filter through which a lot of this stuff is interpreted. But...

SAWYER: Do you think there's a lot of bed wetting, as David Plouffe said?

OBAMA: I do think that people are always thinking in the cable news cycle, and whatever appears that given day is how people view the world. That is not how I look at things. You know, I went to Iowa -- I went to Ohio last week on Friday. And I went to a company that the family had owned for years -- third generation. They make machine tools.

And you go and you talk to the workers there and you talk to the owners and then you go to the diner and you're meeting with people and talk to them. You know, they are not interested in whether Democrats are scoring points on Republicans or vice versa. What they're interested in is, you know, I can't get a loan from my bank right now. I'm trying to save for my kid's college education. You know, I'm worried that my 401(k), although it's bounced back a little bit, still doesn't leave me enough for retirement.

Those are the things that people talk to me about. And so that's what I spend a lot of my time thinking about.

SAWYER: Two diametrically opposing paths have been laid out by your supporters. One is come out swinging, go down for history, let everyone -- let the Republicans filibuster and do it and the other is slow down, scale back, less money. Which is it going to be?

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