ABC Video: Obama interview with George Stephanopoulos -- January 20, 2010
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you saw it coming by then?
OBAMA: By that time, we did. And here's my assessment of not just the vote in Massachusetts, but the mood around the country.
The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office.
People are angry, and they're frustrated. Not just because of what's happened in the last year or two years, but what's happened over the last eight years.
You've got really hard-working folks all across the country, who have seen their wages flat line and their incomes flat line.
They feel more secure than ever. Then suddenly you've got this bank crisis in which their 401Ks are evaporating, their home values -- their single-biggest investment -- is collapsing.
And here in Washington -- from their perspective -- the only thing that happens is that we bail out the banks.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're in charge, now.
OBAMA: No -- well -- absolutely. No, keep in mind the point that I'm making here.
It was the right thing to do for us to salvage the financial system, and I make no apologies for that, at all. But we knew at the time how politically toxic that was.
What it gave people a sense of is, "We're spending all this money, but I'm not getting any help."
And, "Gosh -- I wanted Obama to come in there to start making sure that I was getting help; not the big special-interest and the institutions."
Now if I tell them, "Well, it turns out that we will actually have gotten TARP paid back and that we're going to make sure that a fee's imposed on the big banks, so that this thing will cost taxpayers not a dime," that's helpful. But it doesn't eliminate the sense that their voices aren't heard, and that institutions are betraying them.
And I think that's been expressing itself all year. And they've gotten increasingly frustrated over the course of the year.
So I take complete responsibility for the fact that -- A -- we had to salvage a financial system that could have made things much worse. We had to take the steps that we did at the beginning of the year, in order to stabilize the economy.
And I am actually glad to see that the economy's now growing again, and we have the prospect of a much better economy in 2010. But that doesn't negate the anger and the frustration that people are feeling.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But a lot of the Republicans say that the anger goes beyond the bailout. The financial bailout.
I was talking to Michael Steele this morning -- the Republican National Committee Chair. He says it's repudiation of your entire agenda.
OBAMA: Well, I think if he's suggesting the people voted against credit-card reform, so that credit card companies can't take advantage of people, or prevention of housing fraud reform, or that they were voting against national service, or they were voting against the 4 million children who have health insurance now because of the steps that we've taken... I don't think that's a plausible point.