Obama on Midterm Shellacking: ‘It Feels Bad’

President Obama said he was humbled by the Republican gains in the House and talked of bipartisanship in his post-election news conference Wednesday at the White House.

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    A short time later, President Obama met reporters in the East Room of the White House.


    Some election nights are more fun than others. Some are exhilarating. Some are humbling.

    But every election, regardless of who wins and who loses, is a reminder that in our democracy power rests not with those of us in elected office, but with the people we have the privilege to serve.

    And I told John Boehner and Mitch McConnell last night, I am very eager to sit down with members of both parties and figure out how we can move forward together.

    I'm not suggesting this will be easy. And I won't pretend that we'll be able to bridge every difference or solve every disagreement. There's a reason we have two parties in this country, and both Democrats and Republicans have certain beliefs and certain principles that each feels cannot be compromised.

    So on a whole range of issues there are going to be areas where we disagree. I think the overwhelming message that I hear from the voters is that we want everybody to act responsibly in Washington, we want you to work harder to arrive at consensus, we want you to focus completely on jobs and the economy and growing it, so that we're ensuring a better future for our children and our grandchildren.

    And, you know, I think that there's no doubt that as I reflect on the results of the election it underscores for me that I have got to do a better job, just like everybody else in Washington does. So, with that, let me take some questions.


    I'm wondering, sir, if you believe that health care reform that you worked so hard on is in danger at this point and whether there's a threat, as a result of this election.


    If the Republicans have ideas for how to improve our health care system, if they want to suggest modifications that would deliver faster and more effective reform to a health care system that, you know, has been wildly expensive for too many families and businesses, and certainly for our federal government, I'm happy to consider some of those ideas.

    So there are going to be examples where I think, you know, we can tweak and make improvements on the progress that we've made.That's true for any significant piece of legislation.

    But I don't think that if you ask the American people, "Should we stop trying to close the donut hole that will help senior citizens get prescription drugs? Should we go back to a situation where people with preexisting can't — conditions — can't get health insurance? Should we allow insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick, even though you've been paying premiums?" I don't think that you'd have a strong vote for people saying, you know, "Those are provisions I want to eliminate."


    President Bush, when he went through a similar thing, came out and he said this was a thumpin'. You talked about how it was humbling — or you alluded to it…




    … perhaps being humbling. And I'm wondering, when you — when you call your friends, like Congressman Perriello or Governor Strickland, and you see 19 state legislatures go to the other side, governorships in swing states, the Democratic Party setback, what does it feel like?


    It feels bad.


    You know, the toughest thing over the last couple of days is seeing really terrific public servants not have the opportunity to serve anymore, at least in the short term.

    And you mentioned — they're just some terrific members of Congress who took really tough votes because they thought it was the right thing, even though they knew this could cause them political problems.

    With respect to the tax cut issue, my goal is to make sure that we don't have a huge spike in taxes for middle-class families.

    So my goal is to sit down with speaker-elect Boehner and Mitch McConnell, Harry and Nancy some time in the next few weeks and see where we can move forward in a way that, first of all, does no harm, that extends those tax cuts that are very important for middle-class families; also extends those provisions that are important to encourage businesses to invest and provide businesses some certainty over the next year or two.

    And how that negotiation works itself out, I think it's too early to say.


    So, you're willing to negotiate?


    Absolutely. I think it's important to point out, as well, that, you know, a couple of great communicators, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, were standing at this podium two years into their presidency getting very similar questions, because, you know, the economy wasn't working the way it needed to be, and there were a whole range of factors that made people concerned that maybe the party in power wasn't listening to them.

    You know, this is something that I think every president needs to go through, because the — you know, the responsibilities of this office are so enormous and so many people are depending on what we do, and in the rush of activity sometimes we lose track of — you know, the — the ways that we connected with folks that got us here in the first place.

    And — and that's something that — now, I'm not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like I did last night.



    You know, I'm sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons.

    But I do think that, you know, this is a growth process and — and an evolution. And the relationship that I have had with the American people is one that built slowly, peaked at this incredible high, and then during the course of the last two years, as we've together gone through some very difficult times, has gotten rockier and tougher.

    And, you know, it's going to, I'm sure, have some more ups and downs during the course of me being in this office.