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

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Kroft: I mean, you were really talking about income inequality, which suggests redistribution of wealth.

Obama: I'm gonna interrupt you there, Steve.

Kroft: There are gonna be people who say, 'This is the socialist Obama and he's come out of the closet.'

Obama: Look, the-- everybody's at-- concerned about inequality. Those folks in there, who were listenin' to the speech, those are teachers and small business people, and probably some small town bankers, who are in there thinking to themselves, 'How is it that I, we're workin' so hard,' and meanwhile, they know that corporate profits are at a record level, that a lot of folks are doin' very well. What's happened to the bargain? What's happened to the American deal that says, you know, we are focused on building a strong middle class?

Kroft: This is the class warfare you have been accused of by the Republicans?

Obama: Look, the problem is, is that our politics has gotten to the point, where we can't have an honest conversation about the greatest income inequality since the 1920s. And we can't have an honest conversation about the irresponsibility that resulted in the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, without somebody sayin' that somehow we're bein' divisive. No, we're bein' honest about what happened and we've gotta be honest about how we move forward.

Kroft: Look, we're getting close to the start of the presidential campaign. Does this mean no more governing for the next year until next November? I don't mean just for you, I mean, for Congress. Do you have any hope that anything is gonna get accomplished between now and the next election?

Obama: If I have anything to do about it, absolutely. We're gonna keep on pushing to get things done. I want to work with Congress. I want to work with both parties in Congress. I think that we can still make progress on a balanced approach to deficit reduction. What I'm not gonna do is wait for Congress. So wherever we have an opportunity and I have the executive authority to go ahead and get some things done, we're just gonna go ahead and do 'em.

After returning to Washington, he was even more combative when he was asked about Republican charges that his foreign policy in the Middle East is one of appeasement.

[Obama at press conference, 12/8/11: Ask Osama bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al Qaeda leaders who were taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement. Or, whoever's left out there. Ask them about that.]

We talked to him about this new approach Friday morning at the White House.

Kroft: Since the midterm elections, you made an effort at bipartisanship. It hasn't worked out that way. And it seems to me, it appears, watching you the last month or so, that you're-- stopped reaching out to Republicans. That you're being-- that you're going on the offensive.

Obama: Well, I-- look--

Kroft: And taking your message to the voters.

Obama: I think that when I came into office in 2008, it was my firm belief that at such an important moment in our history, there was no reason why Democrats and Republicans couldn't put some of the old ideological baggage aside and focus on common sense, what works, practical solutions to the tough problems we were facing. And I think the Republicans made a different calculation, which was, 'You know what? We really screwed up the economy. Obama seems popular. Our best bet is to stand on the sidelines, 'cause we think the economy's gonna get worse, and at some point, just blame him.' And so we haven't gotten the kind of engagement from them that I would have liked.