Following President Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday emphasizing an agenda to bypass Congress, the president insists his plans for the country haven't changed — despite a divided government. In an interview airing Friday with CNN, the president says neither his ambitions nor his expectations have been diminished and he hasn't altered the goals he had since he first ran for office. So, um, take that.
Obama's been criticized for his recent focus on executive orders and desires to cut around the nation's legislative body with his "I've got a pen and I've got a phone" method. It's a viewpoint that differs from his once-held belief that he could heal a divided nation. However, he says his newfound assertiveness doesn't mean his vision is shifting direction: rather, he's simply addressing the current political realities.
"Part of what's happened is that checklist that I had when I came into office, we have passed a lot of that and we're implementing a lot of it," the president tells CNN.
Included in that checklist are the restructuring of the health care system and the student loan program. There were also notable flubs: the firestorm Edward Snowden started by exposing NSA practices, the almost-war with Syria, and the government shutdown. Obama's looking to tackle some major areas during his second term, including climate change and unemployment.
With his final years in office ahead of him, the president is aiming for a more hardball approach, basically saying that things need to get done — with or without Congress.
In no way are my expectations diminished, or my ambitions diminished, but what is obviously true is we’ve got divided government right now. The House Republicans, in particular, have had difficulty rallying around any agenda, much less mine. And in that kind of environment, what I don't want is the American people to think that the only way for us to make big change is through legislation. We've all got to work together to continue to provide an opportunity for the next generation.
Obama also says he can't wait any longer, and neither can Americans. He says he'll continue to reach out to Congress, but it seems Republicans won't be too quick to take up the offer. Sen. Ted Cruz even called his actions part of "the imperial presidency," and Texas Rep. Randy Weber offered this gem before the State of the Union address:
"We make sure we're doing it within the authority that we have under the statute," Obama says. "But I am not going to make an apology for saying that if I can help middle class families and folks who are working hard to try to get in the middle class do a little bit better, then I'm going to do it.