President Obama: The economy, the Congress, the future

Steve Kroft questions the president on a wide range of critical topics, including his performance in office, the U.S. economy and unemployment, and the budget woes in Washington

Steve Kroft interviews the president on a wide range of critical topics, including Obama's performance in office; the U.S. economy and the state of unemployment; congressional gridlock; and the mounting deficit. President Obama also sizes up his competition in the 2012 presidential race as he begins his own quest for re-election.


The following is a script of "President Obama" which aired on Dec. 11, 2011. Steve Kroft is the correspondent, Frank Devine and Michael Radutzky, producers.

After months of listening to attacks from Republican presidential candidates and congressional leaders, President Obama took off the gloves this past week and emerged in full campaign mode.

It began with a major speech in the nation's heartland, with a vigorous defense of his economic policies, directed at the middle class. And it spilled over into the White House Press Room with a contentious response to Republican criticisms of his foreign policy.

On Friday morning, in the White House Cabinet Room, we sat down with the president and questioned him about his record, his leadership, the economy and his prospects for re-election.

President Obama: The full "60 Minutes" interview
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Steve Kroft: We have a new CBS poll, which is out this weekend. And I'll give you the news that's good for you first. People like you. They respect you. They think that you're working hard. And they realize that you faced an enormous amount of trouble and problems, many of them inherited. And your approval rating is four times higher than the Congress.

President Barack Obama: That's a low bar, I gather.

Kroft: But they're not happy with the way you're doing your job. You've got 75 percent of the people in the country think it's headed in the wrong direction. Seventy-five percent. And 54 percent don't think that you deserve to be re-elected. I mean, those are not good numbers with 11 months to go before the election.

Obama: Well, look. We've gone through an incredibly difficult time in this country. And I would be surprised if the American people felt satisfied right now. They shouldn't feel satisfied. We've got a lot more work to do in order to get this country and the economy moving in a way that benefits everybody, as opposed to just a few.

On Tuesday, we accompanied the president as he took that message to the middle of the country for what's been called the unofficial launch of his re-election campaign. In Osawatomie, Kansas, where Theodore Roosevelt unveiled the basic tenets of the Progressive Movement just over 100 years ago, President Obama spoke out against the growing economic inequality he says is destroying the middle class.

[Obama in Kansas: This is a make or break moment for the middle class and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. Because what's at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.]

The president, in laying out the broad themes for his re-election bid, said the system has been rigged against the middle class. And he blamed the Republicans for fighting tougher regulations on the financial industry and opposing higher taxes for the wealthy.

[Obama in Kansas: Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules. I am here to say they are wrong.]

Obama: Steve.

Kroft: Mr. President.

Obama: Good to see you, sir.

Kroft: Good to see you.

We spoke to the president immediately following the 55 minute speech, which he wrote mostly himself, clearly drawing the battle lines for the next election.

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