Feb. 9, 2010— -- Michelle Obama defended her husband against some of his most vocal critics, saying President Obama did a "phenomenal" job this year and that change is a long-term process.
"I think my husband has done a phenomenal job staying on course, looking his critics in the eye, coming up with clear solutions against staying the course," Michelle Obama told Robin Roberts in an exclusive morning television interview on "Good Morning America." "That's what leadership is. But people have the right to criticize the president of the United States."
Michelle Obama's comments came in response to recent criticism from Sarah Palin, who told Tea Party conventioneers in Nashville, Tenn., this weekend that she wants to ask Obama supporters, "How is that hope-y, change-y stuff working out for you?"
"Rightfully, some people are frustrated, right?" the first lady said. "But one of the things that Barack Obama said and continues to say is change isn't easy, and it doesn't happen overnight. And it certainly doesn't happen in a year.
"He's not done yet. He's got more time," she said.
Obama has invited the Democratic and Republican leadership to a health care meeting Feb. 25 at Blair House, across the street from the White House. The president told CBS News' Katie Couric in a pre-Super Bowl interview Sunday that he wants to look at specific Republican ideas, and that he will question them about what they intend to do about the health crisis facing the United States.
"I think that what I want to do is to look at the Republican ideas that are out there and I want to be very specific: How do you guys want to lower costs? How do you guys intend to reform the insurance markets so people with pre-existing conditions, for example, can get health care? How do you want to make sure that the 30 million people who don't have health insurance can get it? What are your ideas specifically?" Obama told Couric.
"And if we can go step by step through a series of these issues and arrive at some agreements, then procedurally there's no reason why we can't do it a lot faster than the process took last year," he said.
The president is standing firm on his health care overhaul efforts despite hesitation from many Democrats facing a tough fight in this year's midterm elections. Addressing the Democratic National Committee meeting Saturday, Obama said he is "not going to walk away from health insurance reform."
The president compared the forces he's facing to the winter storm that hit Washington, D.C., this weekend, dubbed the "snopocalypse."
"We are moving forward," he said. "Sometimes we may be moving forward against the prevailing winds. Sometimes it may be against a blizzard. But we're going to live up to our responsibility to lead."
With this month's summit, the White House is hoping to recapture the energy of Obama's appearance at the House Republican retreat last month. The president was praised then for engaging with Republicans, and the administration is hoping to replicate that scene with this bipartisan summit that they have opened to cameras.
For Republicans and conservatives, the invitation comes at a time when they feel the White House is on the defensive.