As he campaigns for re-election, President Obama is ruminating over the biggest mistake of his first term — and it might surprise supporters and critics alike.
In the president’s view, he has not been a good enough storyteller, putting policy goals ahead of laying out a clear narrative for the American public.
“The mistake of my first term. . .was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right. And that’s important,” Obama told “CBS This Morning” anchor Charlie Rose in a White House interview that will be broadcast Sunday and Monday.
“But the nature of this office,” the president added, “is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times.”
The answer might seem incongruous. After all, when the going gets tough, Obama has been known to turn to his rhetorical prowess by delivering a big speech. He did it again last month when he flew to Cleveland for an address on the economy after taking heat from Republican rivals over a comment at a news conference that the private sector was “doing fine.”
Obama noted the irony.
“It’s funny — when I ran, everybody said, well, he can give a good speech but can he actually manage the job?” Obama told Rose. “And in my first two years, I think the notion was, ‘Well, he’s been juggling and managing a lot of stuff, but where’s the story that tells us where he’s going?’ And I think that was a legitimate criticism.”
Republican rival Mitt Romney quickly mocked Obama’s answer.
Obama “believes that millions of Americans have lost their homes, their jobs and their livelihood because he failed to tell a good story,” Romney said in a statement released by his campaign. “Being president is not about telling stories. Being president is about leading, and President Obama has failed to lead.”
Obama, joined in the interview by first lady Michelle Obama, added that he needed to do a better job getting out of Washington and “getting into a conversation” with ordinary Americans.