Transcript: President Barack Obama, Part 2

"60 Minutes" Correspondent Steve Kroft Interviewed The President Nov. 4, 2010

Obama: The Full "60 Minutes" Interview
Obama: The Full "60 Minutes" Interview 01:10:01

On Thursday, Nov. 4, 2010 - two days after midterm elections - "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft interviewed President Barack Obama in the Oval Office. Below is a transcript of that interview. The video of this interview is also available on this Web site.

KROFT: The political landscape has changed. I mean, how do you plan to govern? President Clinton found himself in a very, very similar circumstance. And he reacted by pivoting to the middle, turning to the middle. And was successful at it. Is that what you're gonna do?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I when I . . . .

KROFT: You have to, don't you?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: What I'm gonna do is I'm gonna reach out to Republicans and I'm gonna say, "What can we work on together?" There are gonna be some things that we can't agree on. You know? Philosophically. And so, we will have those battles. And we'll save those decisions till after the next election. But in the meantime, there must be some things we can agree on.

Obama Interview Transcript, Part 1
Obama Interview Transcript, Part 2

60 Minutes Overtime: The Full Interview
Two days after his party's defeat in the midterm elections, President Obama granted only one interview: with "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft. Here is their entire conversation from start to finish.

KROFT: Haven't you tried that?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well I have, but I'm gonna keep on trying. And I'll give you an example that I mentioned yesterday at the press conference in energy. I think that you know the Republicans don't want to see some big comprehensive climate change bill. On the other hand, we can agree that we should be developing our natural gas resources more than we're doing. We can agree that making sure that electric cars are built here in the United States as opposed to just in Asia and Europe, make sense.

We can agree that a renewable energy standard that encourages things like biofuels could end up being an important component of our energy economy. We can agree on the idea of energy efficiency. Retooling our schools and our hospitals and other institutions so that they're using energy more efficiently, which drives down prices for everybody. You know, those are areas where we should be able to agree.

And what I'm gonna constantly be looking for are areas that draw from the Democratic ideas, Republican ideas to find that commonsense center, where we can move the country forward. Even though we'll still have some, you know, big disagreements and big debates on other issues.

KROFT: You said at a cabinet meeting you wanted to move forward on the people's agenda. Which people? The people who elected [incoming Florida Republican Senator] Marco Rubio and [incoming Kentucky Republican Senator] Rand Paul, or the people that reelected [Senate Majority Leader and Nevada Democrat] Harry Reid and [California Democrat and outgoing Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All people. You know it's interesting, while I was campaigning, even in this very partisan environment, the single line that always got the biggest applause, even in big, Democratic rallies, was, "Although we are proud to be Democrats, we are prouder to be Americans." And my expectation is that Republicans feel the same way.

And so there are huge overlaps in the interests of ordinary folks, whether they're Democrat or Republican. They want to make sure our schools are working. They want to make sure we've got the best scientists and engineers in the world. They want to make sure that we're competitive internationally. And what they don't want to see us do is to sit here for the next two years, having a long, drawn out political argument. When other countries are racing past us. I promise you, that's something that you know, whether you're a Democrat or Republican you know we just can't afford.

KROFT: No one at the news conference yesterday asked you about the Tea Party. According to the exit polls, four out of ten voters on Tuesday said they supported the movement. How seriously do you take the Tea Party, and will it make the task of finding common ground with the Republican Party more difficult?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, it'll be interesting to see how it evolves. We have a long tradition in this country of a desire for limited government, the suspicion of the federal government, of a concern that government spends too much money. You know? I mean, that's as American as apple pie. And although, you know, there's a new label to this, I mean those sentiments are ones that a lot of people support and give voice to. Including a lot of Democrats.

And so, the test is gonna be what happens over the next several years, when it's not just an abstraction, but we have to start making serious choices. I've got a deficit commission that I've put forward that is gonna be releasing recommendations for how we can start reducing the deficit. And I don't know yet what they're gonna say, but I do know what the federal budget looks like. And if you eliminate all the earmarks. If you eliminate all the foreign aid. If you eliminate all the waste and abuse that people, you know, talk about eliminating -- you're still confronted with a fact that the vast majority of the federal budget are things that people really think are important. Like Social Security and Medicare and defense.

And so, you then have to start making some tough decisions about how do we pay for those things that we think are important? And you know, we're not gonna be able to balance the budget just by slashing the National Parks budget, even if you didn't think that was a proper function of government. We're not gonna be able to balance the budget by, you know, eliminating the National Weather Service.

I mean, we're gonna have to, you know, tackle some big issues like entitlements that, you know, when you listen to the Tea Party or you listen to Republican candidates they promise we're not gonna touch.

I'll give you another example. We've probably done more than any Administration over the last 20-30 years when it comes to increasing veteran spending. Because we've got over a million folks who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan who've come back with post-traumatic stress disorder you know, traumatic brain injury.

And I think I've got a sacred trust as Commander in Chief -- and I think most Americans feel we've got a sacred trust -- to care for these veterans. Well, that's expensive. And if we're not spending that money to take care of them, what does that say about us, as a country. And if we are, we've gotta find a way to pay for it. And those are the choices that I think if you lay out a budget, Republicans and Tea Party members are gonna have to confront in a serious way.