Kroft: Have the events that took place in the Middle East, the recent events in the Middle East given you any pause about your support for the governments that have come to power following the Arab Spring?
Obama: Well, I'd said even at the time that this is going to be a rocky path. The question presumes that somehow we could have stopped this wave of change. I think it was absolutely the right thing for us to do to align ourselves with democracy, universal rights, a notion that people have to be able to participate in their own governance. But I was pretty certain and continue to be pretty certain that there are going to be bumps in the road because, you know, in a lot of these places, the one organizing principle has been Islam. The one part of society that hasn't been controlled completely by the government. There are strains of extremism, and anti-Americanism, and anti-Western sentiment. And, you know, can be tapped into by demagogues. There will probably be some times where we bump up against some of these countries and have strong disagreements, but I do think that over the long term we are more likely to get a Middle East and North Africa that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more aligned with our interests.
Obama [Golden, Colo., Sept. 13, 2012]: This is a tumultuous time that we're in. But we can and we will meet those challenges if we stay true to who we are.
The day after our White House interview, we followed the president to the suburbs of Denver, Colo., a crucial swing state in the upcoming election, to ask a few more questions central to the campaign.
Kroft: Most Americans think we're spending too much money. The national debt has gone up 60 percent in the four years that you've been in office.
Obama: First of all, Steve, I think it's important to understand the context here. When I came into office, I inherited the biggest deficit in our history. And over the last four years, the deficit has gone up, but 90 percent of that is as a consequence of two wars that weren't paid for, as a consequence of tax cuts that weren't paid for, a prescription drug plan that was not paid for, and then the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Now we took some emergency actions, but that accounts for about 10 percent of this increase in the deficit, and we have actually seen the federal government grow at a slower pace than at any time since Dwight Eisenhower. In fact, substantially lower than the federal government grew under either Ronald Reagan or George Bush.
Kroft: Since the Benghazi tragedy, your opponent has attacked you as being weak on national defense and weak on foreign policy. He says you need to be more aggressive in Iran, haven't done enough to support the revolt in Syria, and that our friends don't know where we stand, and our enemies think we're weak.
Obama: Well, let's see what I've done since I came into office. I said I'd end the war in Iraq. I did. I said that we'd go after al Qaeda. They've been decimated in the Fatah. That we'd go after bin Laden. He's gone. So I've executed on my foreign policy. And it's one that the American people largely agree with. So if Gov. Romney is suggesting that we should start another war, he should say so.
We'll be back with President Obama and Gov. Romney in a moment.