"Well, you think about that," he replied. "But what you discover when you're president is that the institutions and programs and things that you have put in place and built, if you've done a good job and you've done them sensibly, you know, in some cases may need tinkering with, can be improved. But if they're good things, they're harder to undo than you think."
He admits there were policies under the Bush administration he disagreed with as a candidate, but once he viewed them inside from the Oval Office himself, he changed his mind.
"There are a bunch of things that we do to fight terrorism that, before I was president, I might have questioned, that when I look at it really carefully I say, 'On balance this is something that we need to do to keep us safe,'" he said.
There is a lot he'll miss about the job -- Air Force One, for example, isn't too shabby. But what he won't miss is what he calls the bubble of the office.
Cowan asked, "'When you're out at stuff like this, I mean, can you really enjoy it? Or is it always, because everything that you're at always becomes --"
"A scene," Mr. Obama continued. "Look, the bubble is the hardest thing about the presidency. And I don't think anybody with sense ever gets used to it. It's the thing that makes me happiest about my tenure coming to an end."
Where the Obamas will live and what they may do post-White House are all matters of great speculation.
But for now, the Senator who campaigned on being "fired up and ready to go" is now ready to see if history will be kind or not.
"When I turn over the keys to the next occupant, one thing I'm confident about, and maybe why I don't feel obliged to yearn for a third term, is I'm very confident I'll be able to say that things are a lot better now than they were when I came into office," Mr. Obama said. "And, you know, that's a pretty good eight years' worth of work."
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