Obama: 'I'm Not the Caricature You See on Fox News'

Image: Obama: 'I'm Not the Caricature You See on Fox News'

Thursday, 23 Jan 2014 01:38 PM

By Lisa Barron

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Personal relations can have only a limited impact in politics, says President Barack Obama — who has frequently been criticized for for his failure to schmooze.

"There's no doubt that personal relations matter at the margins and can tip something over the finish line if things are aligned … for legislation to happen," he told David Remnick of The New Yorker magazine.

"I have no doubt that Ronald Reagan's relationship with Tip O'Neill helped to facilitate the Social Security deal getting done," Obama told Remnick in the phone call, referring to the 1983 agreement between the Republican president and Democratic House Speaker.

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"But had Tip O'Neill not seen it to be in his interests to do a deal with Ronald Reagan because he had a whole bunch of conservative and Southern Democrats whose districts had been won by Reagan — and had Reagan not been looking at polls from his advisers telling him that Social Security was a very popular program and that he couldn't be seen as antagonistic toward it — it wouldn't have mattered how many drinks Reagan and Tip O'Neill had together," he added.

Remnick interviewed Obama at the White House and on Air Force One for a profile. He posted the "personal relations" remarks, made in a phone call as the piece was closing for publication, in an addendum.

"One area where the President is particularly touchy is the often repeated notion, in Washington and elsewhere, that if he only courted and/or punished members of Congress more aggressively he would get more legislation through the House and Senate," Remnick wrote.

Obama said when he was in the Illinois state legislature he had great relationships with his Republican colleagues. "We had poker games and we had golf outings — so much so that I ended up having a number of Republicans say nice things about me when I ran for President. It came back to haunt them later."

But since occupying the Oval Office, he said, his image has been distorted.

"Another way of putting it, I guess, is that the issue has been the inability of my message to penetrate the Republican base so that they feel persuaded that I'm not the caricature that you see on Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, but I'm somebody who is interested in solving problems and is pretty practical, and that, actually, a lot of the things that we've put in place worked better than people might think," he claimed.

"And as long as there's that gap between perceptions of me within the average Republican primary voter and the reality, it's hard for folks like John Boehner to move too far in my direction."

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