Friday 28 July 2017

I don't control the weather, Obama warns his critics

US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughter Sasha greet children at the 'Christmas in Washington' celebration at the National Building Museum in Washington at the weekend
US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughter Sasha greet children at the 'Christmas in Washington' celebration at the National Building Museum in Washington at the weekend

Jon Swaine in Washington

Barack Obama is reminded by his wife Michelle that he "volunteered for this" when he is trying to deal with the relentless criticism of his presidency, he has revealed.

Mr Obama indicated that the First Lady offered little sympathy for his unpopularity, as he pleaded that despite doing the best he could to steer the US through stormy waters "I don't control the weather".

Since he wowed fans on entering the limelight seven years ago, Mr Obama's approval rating has tumbled to 43pc -- lower than Jimmy Carter's when he prepared his doomed run for re-election in 1979.

But he insisted this went with the territory of "exercising responsibility" and stressed that predecessors, including Bill Clinton, were repeatedly "beat up with some of the same stuff" from left and right.

"If my goal was to maintain the extraordinary popularity that I had right after I made my convention speech in 2004, then I would have never left the Senate," he said.

"I took a different path. And as Michelle reminds me, 'you volunteered for this thing'."

In a wide-ranging interview with CBS's '60 Minutes', Mr Obama compared himself to the captain of a ship in severe storms, in which "people are getting sick" and "being buffeted by the winds and rain".

Despite having officially been out of recession for more than two years, the US has suffered sluggish growth, and joblessness has not been so high for so long since the Great Depression.

"People are going to say: 'You know what? A good captain would have had us in some smooth waters and sunny skies, at this point'," Mr Obama admitted, conceding: "I don't control the weather."

Infamous

The comment was in marked contrast to an infamous quote from an unnamed aide to George W Bush that his administration was so powerful that "when we act, we 'create our own reality'."

Yet Mr Obama claimed he was "very confident" he could beat a Republican rival next November.

"It doesn't really matter who the nominee is," he said. "The core philosophy they're expressing is the same."

Mr Obama damned his two likeliest challengers with faint praise.

He said of Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker: "He's somebody who's been around a long time, and is good on TV, good in debates."

Meanwhile, "Mitt Romney has shown himself to be somebody who is good at politics, as well", he said. "He's had a lot of practice at it."

Mr Romney, who tries to style himself as an outsider rooted in the private sector, was Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007 and lost a bid for his party's nomination in 2008.

Mr Obama came to power vowing to revolutionise Washington, yet has come under pressure for conceding that his reforms will take longer than he had hoped. But he insisted: "I didn't over-promise. And I didn't underestimate how tough this was gonna be."

He also pledged that Washington would remain a strong partner for Iraq as US troops exit by year-end, and played down the risk that this departure creates a power vacuum Iran can exploit.

Despite the buffetting, Mr Obama, asked if he had considered not standing for re-election, answered: "No".

But he added: "Not because our quality of life might not be better if I were not president. Not because Michelle is so enamoured with me being president. But because we both think that what we're doing is really important for a lot of people." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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