“When I won in 2008, 47 percent of the American people voted for John McCain,” Obama said. “They didn’t vote for me and what I said on election night was: ‘Even though you didn’t vote for me, I hear your voices, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to be your president.’”
Obama said presidential candidates are always under the microscope and are going to make mistakes. Letterman reminded the president of his own gaffe in the 2008 campaign, when he spoke of conservatives who “cling to guns or religion.” But Obama noted that he immediately apologized for the statement — an apparent contrast to Romney’s defense of his comments, which Romney called “inelegant” but reflective of his views.
The statements in question came to light on Monday, when Mother Jones released videos from a private fundraiser in Florida in May in which Romney dismisses Obama’s supporters as “victims” who take no responsibility for their livelihoods and who think they are entitled to government handouts. He said that his job “is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Mother Jones released the full video, including controversial remarks showing the Republican nominee saying that Palestinians have “no interest whatsoever” in reaching a peace agreement with Israel.
In the Letterman interview, Obama said traveling the country he never meets anyone ”who doesn’t believe in the American dream.”
“There are not a lot of people out there who think they’re victims,” he said. “There are not a lot of people who think they’re entitled to something.”
But, he added: “We’ve got some obligations to each other, and there’s nothing wrong with us giving each other a helping hand so that that single mom’s kid, even after all the work she’s done, can afford to go to college.”
Tuesday was Obama’s second appearance on the Letterman show since he became president. First lady Michelle Obama was a guest on the show earlier this month. The program was scheduled to air at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday.
The president was Letterman’s sole guest Tuesday, and he sat for a wide-ranging interview that included a few lighter moments as well as more serious ones. Letterman lingered on a number of serious topics, asking Obama to explain the nation’s budget crisis at length and to comment on the gridlock that much of the nation sees in Washington.
“There’s more than enough blame to spread around,” Obama said. “These problems have been around for a decade or more.”
Asked about the violence in Libya last week that led to the death of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Obama said the administration’s top priorities now are to “refortify” security at American embassies abroad and to bring the murderers to justice. He criticized the offending anti-Muslim video that triggered the violence, but he said the video was not an excuse for violence.