Obama Outlines What Went Wrong, What's Next
STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
: NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro
ARI SHAPIRO: When Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006, President George W. Bush called it a thumping. Twelve years before that, when Democrats lost the House and Senate, President Clinton said: We were held accountable.
INSKEEP: This is something I think every president needs to go through.
BARACK OBAMA: Now, I'm not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking, like I did last night.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
OBAMA: You know, I'm sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons.
SHAPIRO: That moment of levity was the exception in an otherwise somber post- mortem with the media. One reporter after another asked him, in essence, how does it feel?
OBAMA: It feels bad.
(SOUNDBITE OF MURMURING)
OBAMA: You know, the toughest thing, over the last couple of days, is seeing really terrific public servants not have the opportunity to serve any more.
SHAPIRO: The president spent much of the news conference defending his policy choices. He said he believes the backlash against his party was largely due to the sluggish economic recovery.
OBAMA: If, right now, we had five percent unemployment instead of 9.6 percent unemployment, then people would have had more confidence in those policy choices.
SHAPIRO: Mr. Obama's rhetoric yesterday recalled, at several points, the message that President Clinton tried to deliver in 1994, and even President Reagan's speech on the morning after the 1982 midterms.
RONALD REAGAN: We look forward to working with this Congress now, in bipartisan fashion, to solving the major problems that still have to be solved.
SHAPIRO: That was then. This is now.
OBAMA: I've been willing to compromise in the past, and I'll going to be willing to compromise going forward...
SHAPIRO: It's similar to the message Mr. Obama has delivered from time to time for the last two years, that no one party has a monopoly on good ideas.
OBAMA: The top Republican Senator, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, held a press conference on Capitol Hill, yesterday, where he said the American people voted for change, and there are two ways to get there.
MITCH MCCONNELL: Our friends on the other side can change now, and work with us to address the issues that are important to the American people - that we all understood. Or, further change obviously can happen in 2012.
SHAPIRO: This back and forth sounds very familiar to Pat Griffin, who was Legislative Affairs director in the Clinton White House.
PAT GRIFFIN: I think the real question is, whether or not the opposition really sees it in their self-interest to cooperate on any matter; and if so, what matter and then, when.
SHAPIRO: In the '90s, there was a year and a half of outright war between congressional Republicans and President Clinton. Eventually, the two sides decided to work together on issues such as updating welfare.
GRIFFIN: Both sides have to say it is our now-political self-interest to try to find a way to make a deal. I don't think that threshold decision has been made either in general or in specific.
SHAPIRO: Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.
INSKEEP: We're hearing many voices, throughout the program today, on the results of the election. Elsewhere, we've heard from John Boehner, the presumptive speaker of the House; members of the Tea Party Movement; Democrats; Republicans; analysts. And you can get the full picture at NPR.org.
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