TRANSCRIPT: Charles Gibson Interviews President Barack Obama

VIDEO: Charles Gibson interviews President Obama.

The following is the full transcript of ABC News' Charles Gibson's interview with President Barack Obama for "World News" on Dec. 16, 2009 in Washington, D.C..

CHARLES GIBSON: Mr. President, a year ago today, you were in Chicago. You knew you were going to be president, but you weren't. What didn't you anticipate? What did you underestimate? What didn't you know?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think the main thing is we didn't understand the rapidity of job losses in those first three months -- January, February, March -- actually, starting in December. You saw 700,000 jobs lost or 650,000 jobs lost in each of those months. So none of the economists had anticipated that.


By the time we were in legislative session, had actually passed a Recovery Act, you had already seen over 3 million jobs lost, on top of what had been lost the previous year, and that meant that unemployment was going to go up higher, and even as we moved aggressively to start boosting economic growth, we knew at that point that job growth was going to be lagging severely and that that was going to be one of our greatest challenges.

GIBSON: You surprised me a little, because I think -- and I've heard other presidents say -- the thing that you can't anticipate is the weight of the job when it comes to you, particularly when it comes to committing young men and women to war.

OBAMA: Well, I will tell you that, unfortunately, I anticipated the difficulties involved in managing two wars at the same time. I think Iraq has actually gone better than we anticipated, or at least as well as we could have anticipated. And I've been very fortunate to have extraordinary leadership not only in the secretary of defense, Bob Gates, who understood all the ramifications of our wartime policies, but also having Ray Odierno on the ground, who's been doing outstanding work.

So Iraq, I think, we knew we could manage, and we have. Afghanistan we understood was going to be a problem.

Now, we have been disappointed, I think, in the fact that the Taliban had gained more momentum during the course of the year than was anticipated. When General McChrystal came back with his assessment, the sense of what deterioration had taken place on the ground was worse than what had been initially reported.

The weight of making decisions around sending young men and women into war is something that, frankly, I foresaw being difficult. When you're in the midst of making the decisions, though, nothing compares. And when you meet with families and you talk to soldiers who've come home disabled as a consequence of their service, the -- the -- the sheer emotional force of that I think is something that you can't anticipate. It's something that hits you like a ton of bricks.

GIBSON: I've always been fascinated by this question of -- of what it takes and what you have to go through internally to send kids off, as you said a few moments -- when you were in the Nobel speech, you said some will kill and some will be killed.

OBAMA: Right.

GIBSON: It's an enormous responsibility. And before Gulf War I, I went to Kuwait, and I talked to the commanders, Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, and I asked them, what does it feel like to commit kids to war? And they all said, "We don't. The president does. It's his job. We just carry out his order."

OBAMA: Right.

GIBSON: And I thought, "Holy God, what a weight that is on your shoulders."

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