Here's an excerpt from my seventh interview with President Obama, this one Friday in the Oval Office. Read the entire interview or listen to it here.
Michael Smerconish: Let's talk polarization. . . . You've been unsuccessful in getting Republicans to work with you. Today, I noted that the Washington Post . . . said that you've been isolated. . . . What can, what will, you do in a second term to win cooperation from Republicans?
President Obama: Well, I think the most important thing is, after the election - and I believe I'm going to win - to once again bring the Republicans together with my administration and Democrats and say to them, the election is over; we still have some big problems to solve, and the goal of making me a one-term president is behind us. And the question now is, how do we move forward in a way that strengthens middle-class families, makes sure that job growth is strong, and that wages are going up.
Probably the first piece of business is going to be to go ahead and fix our deficit and debt issues, and make a decision about how big our government is and how we're going to pay for it. And I put forward a $4 trillion deficit reduction plan - we've already cut a trillion dollars' worth of government spending. We can do the rest by a sensible combination of spending cuts and some revenue.
And if we can spend the first four, five, six months getting that done, so that the American people feel like the parties came together and put us on a more solid fiscal footing, where we don't have to worry about taxes going up sky high for everybody, we don't have to worry about massive cuts that would hurt our economy and our growth, then I think that that will break the fever here in Washington.
Q: Will you make the first move? Will you go to Capitol Hill?
A: Listen, I've said to folks, I'll go to Capitol Hill, I'll wash [House Speaker] John Boehner's car, I'll walk [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell's dog - I'll do whatever is required to get this done. And I think the key that the American people want right now is for us to tackle some big challenges that we face in a common-sense, balanced, sensible way.
Q: Will you resurrect and fight for Simpson-Bowles by way of example?
A: Well, Simpson-Bowles is a great example - for your listeners who aren't completely familiar with it, this was a commission I put together, bipartisan, to find a way to reduce our deficit and stabilize our government finances in a balanced, sensible way.
And we didn't accept every one of the recommendations, because they, for example, wanted defense cuts that were steeper than I felt comfortable with as commander-in-chief. They wanted revenues that would have required us eliminating home-mortgage deductions for middle-class families, and charitable deductions for middle-class families, which I thought went too far.
But what we did was take the basic principles that they put forward, which is you've got to have spending cuts, you've got to get control of our health-care programs - Medicare and Medicaid - and you've got to make sure that you raise some revenue. And we put together a package that allows us to meet the same targets that they've been talking about. . . .
Q: Can you give my listeners an example of a major change that they can get from President Obama in a second term?
A: Well, I just gave you an example, which is we can get our deficit and debt under control in a sensible, balanced way. That's number one. Number two, we can build on the success we've had with the auto industry by encouraging manufacturing to come back to our shores. . . .
I think most workers understand that having a strong manufacturing base makes our economy stronger as a whole. And so for us to change our tax code to lower corporate tax rates for manufacturers who are making stuff here, closing loopholes for companies that are shipping jobs overseas so that they're not getting tax breaks for setting up shop in China - that's a big piece of business.
On energy, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020. We have done more on energy to reduce our dependence on foreign oil over the last four years than we've done in the previous 20. But we've got an opportunity now to really free ourselves from dependence on Middle East oil, for example, and Venezuelan oil, and some of these other turbulent places in the world. That would make a huge difference not only in terms of gas prices, but it would also make a difference in terms of our national security.
Originally published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.