By Dan Froomkin
9:23 AM ET, 02/11/2009
In an interview with ABC News's Terry Moran yesterday, President Obama said that his honeymoon is still going strong, despite resistance from congressional Republicans.
He also criticized Washington for its "narrow way of keeping score," said no one should underestimate the value of civility, and spoke of his struggle to stay free of the White House bubble.
Moran: "Mr. President, you got no honeymoon. Not a single Republican vote in the House on your first major piece of legislation --"
Obama: "Oh, I'm getting, I'm getting a big honeymoon from the American people."
Moran: "But what happened in Washington --"
Obama: "Oh -- oh, what happened in Washington was, I think that they made a decision that they want to continue the same fights that we've been having over the last decade. The American people, on the other hand, realize that we want something different; hence, the results of the election.
"And, you know, I think if you look at how people are doing right now and how the Republicans have responded to a great deal of overtures by me, I think it's pretty clear that the American people would like to see a different way of doing business. But old habits break hard and, and you know, I, I understand that and so we're going to keep on reaching out and eventually, I have confidence that it's going to pay off...."
Moran: "I wonder, in coming into the presidency, maybe you were too nice. If I'm a Republican senator or a Republican Congress, I think you're a very nice guy but I don't have enough reason to fear you..."
Obama (laughing): "Well, I tell you what -- you know, that accusation -- I think, if I'm not mistaken, was leveled at me a couple years ago and I'm going to be flying out on Air Force One in a little bit. So, people shouldn't underestimate the, the value of civility and, and try to get people to work together.
"Over the long term, it pays off. I think Washington has a very narrow way of keeping score. You know, who's up, who's down, who won this vote, who didn't and what kind of tactical maneuvers did they make, who's getting on cable. You know, who's dominating the chatter in mid-day with these not-so-vast audiences of, of political junkies.
"The American people are [sic] keeping score. What they're asking is, does this person seem to be really trying to work for us, create jobs, help us keep our home, send our kids to college. That's the measure that they're looking at. And, and as long as I stay focused on that, I think the politics will take care of itself."
Moran: "Nice guys don't finish last."
Obama: "I haven't so far."
Moran trailed along with Obama yesterday during his trip to Fort Myers, Fla. After the town-hall meeting there, in a part of the interview shown on "Nightline" but not in the ABC transcript, Obama spoke of the importance of getting out of town.
Obama: "When you hear directly from a contractor who's losing business or a woman who is living in her car, then it reminds you of what this work's about. And sometimes when you're in Washington it's all about keeping score and what are the cable stations saying and, you know, what's happening on this vote or that vote. And you forget this is why we're supposed to be doing this."
Moran: "So where, for you, is the power of the presidency? In Washington? Or out here?"
Obama: "Oh, it's always out here. Now, you have to be skilled enough to translate the energy and enormous need that you see here into action in Washington and that's hard. And so part of what we're going to try to do over the course of my presidency is get out at least once a week just to remind everybody -- myself included -- that these are the folks who we're working for."
Moran: "So had you missed this? Did you feel you had to do this, that you were kind of losing touch already?"
Obama: "You know, the bubble is powerful. And we did what we had to do, which is to set up an administration and, you know, cultivate relationships with members of Congress and, you know, spend time with the Washington press corps so they don't feel neglected....But ultimately if I don't get a dose of this, I do think that the possibilities of thinking inwardly are very great. And you see it happening. You see it happening to presidents and members of Congress and the Senate. When I was in the Senate, it was a little easier because I was going back home every weekend and, you know, then Michelle and I are going out to Target or taking the kids to a soccer game. Now that we're living where we work, it -- i think these kind of events become that much more important."