Obama: ‘Screw-ups’ Happen

Photograph by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

Chris Matthews talks with President Barack Obama during an appearance on MSNBC’S ‘Hardball with Chris Matthews’ at American University on December 5, 2013 in Washington, DC.

President Barack Obama faces a certain challenge in the declining public support for his presidency measured in poll after poll.

As “Hardball” Chris Matthews put it in that televised interview of the president yesterday at American University, it’s a question of arresting a “decline in faith in you doing the right thing.” And addressing “this skepticism that’s out there.”

“Well, look, the cynicism and the skepticism is deep,” Obama said. “I distinguish between, you know, just management of government and the basic blocking and tackling of getting stuff done to help the American people and then the ability to move big policy changes that are going to help more Americans.”

“When it comes to the management of government, part of the reason people are so skeptical is that when we do things right, they don’t get a lot of attention. If we do something that is perceived at least initially as a screw-up, it will be on the nightly news for a week.”

No one talks about FEMA anymore, he suggested, because Craig Fugate is running a tight ship at the emergency management agency.  “He is doing a heck of a job,” Obama said to laughter, playing off the infamous line that former President George W. Bush delivered about his FEMA director, Michael Brown, blamed for bungling after Hurricane Katrina.

But it’s the screw-ups like the IRS employee who allowed that certain politically motivated nonprofits were getting extra scrutiny that grab the headlines, he said. “That is what gets news,” Obama said.

In the aftermath — at least the administration hopes this is the aftermath  – of the president’s admittedly `fumbled” Obamacare roll-out, the president warns that more trouble could be lurking anywhere.

“You know, there are a couple million people working for the federal government,” he said. “And remember Bob Gates, my former secretary of defense — wonderful public servant, had served under seven presidents  – when I first came in, I asked him, `So Bob, you got any advice for me?’ He says, `Mr. President, just understand you’ve got a lot of people working for you. Somebody, somewhere, at this very moment is screwing something up.”’

 

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