While Sawyer’s inquiry questioned the possibility that Obama would be too discouraged by his first term in office to run for a second term, his response indicates that being a one-term president would be less by choice and more a result of pushing his increasingly unpopular agenda.
Undaunted by this realization, however, Obama believes that a popular president is not necessarily a successful one. He claims that he does not intend to “nurture his own popularity” at the expense of “not solving problems that are vital to making sure the American dream continues for the next generation.”
Obama’s remarks come days after what is widely perceived as a striking blow to his administration: the election of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate. The upset has forced media speculation on the future of the president’s healthcare legislation.
“The easiest thing for me to do, Diane would be to go small bore, avoid controversy, just make sure that everybody’s comfortable and we only propose things that don’t threaten any special interests in Washington,” Obama explains. “I am not backing off the need for us to tackle these big problems in a serious way,” he adds.
Seemingly undeterred by his reported current 48 percent approval rating, President Obama intends to pursue the policies he outlined during his campaign and in his first year as president, most notably healthcare reform.
During Monday night’s interview, Sawyer and Obama discussed some of the issues plaguing the nation. Since President Obama signed the $787 billion stimulus package, 4 million jobs have been lost in 2009, the worst year for job losses since World War II. In his interview with Sawyer, he assures the American people that the economy will continue to be the prime focus of his administration. Additionally, the plight of the middle and lower-income classes, particularly in terms of affording childcare, college, and preparing for retirement, remains a top priority. Of course, the administration's approach to these problems is for government to interject itself into the economy via bailouts and regulation, as opposed to getting government out of the way.
While Obama argues that the proposals addressed in his State of the Union address will invoke bipartisan support, he is prepared for what may come, including continued drops in his approval ratings. Obama says “When your poll numbers drop, you’re an idiot. When your poll numbers are high, you’re a genius.” At the close of his interview, he reiterates, “I’m not worrying about what the latest headline is.”
If Obama does indeed become a one-term president, he will join the ranks of men like President Jimmy Carter, who much like Obama, enjoyed a relatively high approval rating until acts of terrorism and economic issues caused his ratings to plummet. To date, Carter has the third lowest approval rating of any president. Other one-term presidents include Martin Van Buren, Herbert Hoover, and George Bush, Sr.