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Obama Outlines What Went Wrong, What's Next


It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

: NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro

ARI SHAPIRO: When Republicans lost control of Congress in 2006, President George W. Bush called it a thumping. Twelve years before that, when Democrats lost the House and Senate, President Clinton said: We were held accountable.

INSKEEP: This is something I think every president needs to go through.

BARACK OBAMA: Now, I'm not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking, like I did last night.


OBAMA: You know, I'm sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons.

SHAPIRO: That moment of levity was the exception in an otherwise somber post- mortem with the media. One reporter after another asked him, in essence, how does it feel?

OBAMA: It feels bad.


OBAMA: You know, the toughest thing, over the last couple of days, is seeing really terrific public servants not have the opportunity to serve any more.

SHAPIRO: The president spent much of the news conference defending his policy choices. He said he believes the backlash against his party was largely due to the sluggish economic recovery.

OBAMA: If, right now, we had five percent unemployment instead of 9.6 percent unemployment, then people would have had more confidence in those policy choices.

SHAPIRO: Mr. Obama's rhetoric yesterday recalled, at several points, the message that President Clinton tried to deliver in 1994, and even President Reagan's speech on the morning after the 1982 midterms.

RONALD REAGAN: We look forward to working with this Congress now, in bipartisan fashion, to solving the major problems that still have to be solved.

SHAPIRO: That was then. This is now.

OBAMA: I've been willing to compromise in the past, and I'll going to be willing to compromise going forward...

SHAPIRO: It's similar to the message Mr. Obama has delivered from time to time for the last two years, that no one party has a monopoly on good ideas.

OBAMA: The top Republican Senator, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, held a press conference on Capitol Hill, yesterday, where he said the American people voted for change, and there are two ways to get there.

MITCH MCCONNELL: Our friends on the other side can change now, and work with us to address the issues that are important to the American people - that we all understood. Or, further change obviously can happen in 2012.

SHAPIRO: This back and forth sounds very familiar to Pat Griffin, who was Legislative Affairs director in the Clinton White House.

PAT GRIFFIN: I think the real question is, whether or not the opposition really sees it in their self-interest to cooperate on any matter; and if so, what matter and then, when.

SHAPIRO: In the '90s, there was a year and a half of outright war between congressional Republicans and President Clinton. Eventually, the two sides decided to work together on issues such as updating welfare.

GRIFFIN: Both sides have to say it is our now-political self-interest to try to find a way to make a deal. I don't think that threshold decision has been made either in general or in specific.

SHAPIRO: Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

INSKEEP: We're hearing many voices, throughout the program today, on the results of the election. Elsewhere, we've heard from John Boehner, the presumptive speaker of the House; members of the Tea Party Movement; Democrats; Republicans; analysts. And you can get the full picture at NPR.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.