President Obama Meets Democrats at the Newseum
WASHINGTON — Advising Democratic leaders to remember why they became involved in politics, President Barack Obama urged them Wednesday to "finish the job, even though it's hard."
Obama spoke at the Senate Democratic Conference Feb. 3 at the Newseum, following a similar question-and-answer meeting he held with House Republican leaders Jan. 29.
In his Q&A with the Democrats, Obama responded to questions on China, health-care reform, the budget deficit, energy policy and the holdup in confirming judicial and federal appointments.
Obama blamed partisanship on the gridlock in government and cited the top vacancy at the General Services Administration.
"They're blocking [the GSA administrator appointment] because of some unrelated matter, and that has to stop," he said.
Governing "can't be about just scoring points," he said. "If you want to govern, then you can't just say no."
Obama called for a "genuine spirit of compromise, instead of just shutting the place down."
He said the Democrats must "constantly have our cards out on the table and welcome challenges." He added that the more open and transparent Democrats are, the better off they are.
Obama acknowledged that Democrats have lost the public's trust, which he partly attributed to "bad timing" in the economic and financial collapse at the beginning of his administration. He made an analogy to a cartoon character that is handed a ticking time bomb, though he wasn't the one who created the bomb.
When asked how Democrats should respond when asked why they should be trusted, Obama pointed to past accomplishments.
"The last time the budget was balanced was under a Democratic president," he said. "We've got to constantly make our case and not play an insider's game."
Obama suggested the leaders turn off their television sets and "just go talk to folks out there," instead of being inside an "echo chamber" where the topic is constantly politics.
"The mistake I made last year was not getting out here enough," he said.
Obama said Democrats should not be afraid to explain their policies and explain to the American people that the problems are not going to be solved overnight.
"I'm confident that good policy over the long term is good politics," he said.