PRESIDENT OBAMA (PO): This last year and a half has been a pretty exceptional year and a half. Where we’ve had to make some very tough decisions, very quickly, in less than optimal conditions.
When I look at what we’ve done well, I think the core decisions we’ve made have been the right ones. The economy is in a much better place.
On the foreign policy front, our approach has restored America’s standing in the world. You’re starting to see concrete progress on things like the START Treaty and our ability to mobilize the international community against Iran.
What I have not done as well as I would have liked is to consistently communicate to the general public why we’re making some of the decisions that we’re making. My capacity to connect with folks and explain clearly what we’re doing and why I think it’s best is something I was able to do effectively on the campaign trail. When you’re in the White House, you feel like you’re in the proverbial bubble. And it’s hard to break through. One of the things we’ve been trying to do is to say, “Boy, let’s get out of here more often.”
The Securities Exchange Commission accused Goldman Sachs of securities fraud just as the financial regulation reform debate was heating up in the Senate. Was there something fishy and political about that?
PO: I gave a speech about financial regulatory reform in 2007. Before our current crisis. We’re not Johnny Come Lately’s to this thing. We’ve been pushing this hard throughout. And the SEC is an entirely independent agency and they never discussed with us anything.
In the 2008 campaign, you got million dollars from Goldman Sachs employees.
PO: I got a lot of money from a lot of people. And the vast majority of the money I got was from small donors all across the country. Anybody who gave me money during the course of my campaign knew that I was on record, again in 2007 and 2008, pushing very strongly that we needed to reform how Wall Street did business.
Should average Americans think about big Wall Street institutions the way that some have come to think about tobacco companies, companies whose core activities are harmful to the country?
PO: No. I’ve said this repeatedly, we have to have a thriving financial sector. Because part of what’s made America so successful is [that] if we’ve got a dream and we want to go get some financing…and make it happen.