Transcript: Charles Gibson Interviews Barack Obama

Read Charles Gibson's interview with President Obama on the economy and Daschle.

ByABC News
February 3, 2009, 5:10 PM

Feb. 3, 2009— -- The following is an excerpted transcript of ABC News' Charles Gibson's interview with President Barack Obama. The president discusses the controversy surrounding Tom Daschle's withdrawal, his economic stimulus proposal and how his agenda is faring thus far, for "World News With Charles Gibson" in Washington, D.C., Feb. 3, 2009.

CHARLES GIBSON: Mr. President, has this been an embarrassing day for the administration?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think it has. I mean, I think that any time one of your nominees pulls out, that's an issue. And, you know, as I've said publicly, you know, ultimately, I take responsibility for the situation that we're in. But what I also think is important is to stay focused on the overarching theme of this administration, which is making sure that we get this economy back on track, that we provide health care for people who are in desperate need of it.

You know, I think Tom Daschle would have been the best person to help shepherd through a health care bill through a very difficult process in Congress. And so, you know, I regret the fact that he's not going to be serving, but we're going to move forward.

CHARLES GIBSON: But there's more of a problem than just Daschle, and you're the one, in your inaugural speech, who talked about an era of responsibility.


CHARLES GIBSON: You've now got three major appointees who, it turns out, haven't paid all their taxes. What kind of a message does that send about responsibility?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I think it sends the wrong one. And that's, you know, something I take responsibility for.

I think that all of these were honest mistakes, but ultimately there's no excuse for them. And, you know, I think that Tom, as well as myself, understood that. I think he made the assessment that it was going to be too much of a distraction. And the most important thing, from my perspective, is making sure that the American people understand we don't have two sets of rules here, that everybody has responsibilities. In this situation, I take responsibility for it.

CHARLES GIBSON: If we don't have two sets of rules, is the position of your treasury secretary, though confirmed, untenable since he had the same kind of problem?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, as I said, I think everybody makes mistakes. Tim owned up to them. And I think I've been very clear of the fact that this was a bad mistake. I don't think it was purposeful, but I think it was a mistake.

But I think it's important, Charlie, to look at sort of the overarching approach that we've taken in this administration. We've set the highest standards possible in terms of dealing with lobbyists. We are filling in record time hundreds of appointments. Everybody, I think, assesses that these people are of high quality and high integrity.

We're going to have some glitches, and I understand that that's what people are going to focus on. And I'm focused on it because I don't want glitches. We can't afford glitches because, right now, what I should be spending time talking to you about is how we're going to put three to four million people back to work. And so this is a self-induced injury that I'm angry about, and we're going to make sure we get it fixed.