Stephanopoulos to Obama: Are You 'Disappointed' in Americans for Losing Confidence in You?

In an exclusive interview with Barack Obama, George Stephanopoulos on Friday hinted that the President is disappointed in the American people. The overall interview actually included some tough questions on subjects such as Iraq and the crisis of illegal immigration. But the Good Morning America co-host sympathized with Obama when discussing his crumbling poll numbers and noted that "the public is blaming" the President. 

Stephanopoulos then worried, "More than half of the Americans have lost confidence in your ability to lead the country and get the job done. That must have been stunning to you. Disappointing?" The journalist optimistically wondered, "How do you turn it around?" [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

Overall, Stephanopoulos, a former Democratic operative, was surprisingly tough on the man who granted an interview on Air Force One. The President looked incredulous when the host actually threw past quotes at him: 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you a final question about foreign policy: It comes from something you wrote in 2006 in Audacity of Hope. You were talking about President Bush's foreign policy strategy and you said, "Without a well-articulated strategy that the public support and the world understands America will lack legitimacy and, ultimately, the power it needs to make the world safer than it is today. The majority of Americans don't support your path on foreign policy. Are you failing by your own standard? 

OBAMA: You know, George, I know we go back to the polls. But let me just say, throughout the first half of my presidency, the polls showed strong support for my foreign policy. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the public has to support it, doesn't it? 

Fumbling, Obama responded, "Not every minute, George. Not every week." Stephanopoulos pressed on illegal immigration: "There's a humanitarian crisis on the border. Some of your critics have said you need to speak out directly to the people of Central America and say, 'don't come. If you come, you will be deported.'" 

The anchor followed up, demanding, "Is your message don't come?" 

However, after spending five and a half minutes offering the President mostly tough questions, Stephanopoulos offered a follow-up segment in the 8am hour. The two watched the U.S. World Cup game on Air Force One and discussed soccer. 

A transcript of the June 27 segment is below: 


7:09am ET

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we're going to turn now to my exclusive interview with President Obama. Comes at a tough moment of his presidency with crises at our border and overseas, stalemate with Congress, some of his lowest polls ever. We talked about all that as he traveled to Minnesota for the first of what he's calling "day in the life" visits across America. 

BARACK OBAMA: Hello, Minneapolis. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: The President's trip is one more move to break out of the White House bubble and convince the country he's working for people like Rebekah Erler, who he came to see after she wrote the President about her family's struggles. 

OBAMA: She's asking if I'm working really hard, can I find affordable child care? You know, if I'm going back to school, why am I not eligible for some tax credits to offset the tuition?" And it breaks my heart sometimes to think that we can't get our act together enough to do that. For us not to try, makes a mockery of our democracy. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: But will trips like this make a difference? Obama blames Republicans for not passing his proposals. But now, the public is blaming him. More than half of the Americans have lost confidence in your ability to lead the country and get the job done. That must have been stunning to you. Disappointing?

OBAMA: I've been dealing with stuff like this since 2009. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you turn it around? 

OBAMA: There's been a number of times where, you know, the punditry said, "Gosh. You how do you turn it around?" And what we do is stay focused on what matters. And chip away at it and try to make progress. People have health care. The economy has gotten a lot better. What I do worry about is that right now, we got a Republican Party that seems to only care about saying no to me. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, he's gone around Congress, using the President's executive power and setting up a new high-stakes battle with Republicans. You have got Speaker Boehner talking about suing you for executive actions that he says has crossed the line. We elected a president. We didn't elect a monarch or a king. 

OBAMA: Well, you know, he didn't specifically say what exactly he was objecting to. I'm not going to apologize for trying to do something while they're doing nothing. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if you get sued? 

OBAMA: You know, the suit is a stunt. But what I've told Speaker Boehner directly is, if you're really concerned about me taking too many executive actions, why don't you try getting something done through Congress? The majority of American people want to see immigration reform done. We had a bipartisan bill through the Senate. And you're going to squawk if I try to fix some parts of it administratively that are within my authority, while you are not doing anything? 

STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned immigration. There's a humanitarian crisis on the border. Some of your critics have said you need to speak out directly to the people of Central America and say, don't come. If you come, you will be deported. 

OBAMA: Well, we've done that. The problem is that under current law, once the kids come across the border, there's a system in which we're supposed to process them, take care of them, until we can send them back. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is your message don't come? 

OBAMA: Oh, our message absolutely is don't send your children, unaccompanied on trains or through a bunch of smugglers. That's our direct message to the families in Central America. Don't send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they'll get sent back. More importantly, they may not make it. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about Iraq. How serious is the ISIS threat to people in Minnesota and around the country? I was so struck by an article that Ryan Crocker, who served as ambassador under you, wrote. He said, "Make no mistake. This is global jihad. It's coming our way. They have 2,000 fighters with western passports. Don't need a visa to get in. Are we under serious threat right now from ISIS? 

OBAMA: You know, we've been under serious threat my entire presidency. And we were under serious threat predating 9/11, from those who embrace this ideology. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: But they're gaining strength, aren't they? 

OBAMA: They're gaining strength in some places. But we've also got a lot better at protecting ourselves. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you a final question about foreign policy: It comes from something you wrote in 2006 in Audacity of Hope. You were talking about President Bush's foreign policy strategy and you said, "Without a well-articulated strategy that the public support and the world understands America will lack legitimacy and, ultimately, the power it needs to make the world safer than it is today. The majority of Americans don't support your path on foreign policy. Are you failing by your own standard? 

OBAMA: You know, George, I know we go back to the polls. But let me just say, throughout the first half of my presidency, the polls showed strong support for my foreign policy. 

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the public has to support it, doesn't it? 

OBAMA: Not at every minute, George. Not every week. 'Cause there's going to be times when the world is messy. One thing you realize during the course of five years is, if the problems were easy, somebody else would have solved them already. And one of the great challenges of this job, but  one of the great privileges of this job is that, you know, you're tackling stuff that is really tough. And I'm glad that after five years, I'm still here, able to do it.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org