From NBC's Mark Murray and Domenico Montanaro
In his interview with NBC's Brian Williams, which will air this evening on Nightly News, President Obama discussed the withdrawal of Tom Daschle's nomination, the economic stimulus, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama said he was "angry and disappointed" to lose Daschle and Nancy Killefer, who also withdrew her nomination today over a failure to pay some taxes. And the president also took part of the blame. "I appointed these folks. I think they are outstanding people. I think Tom Daschle as an example could have led this health-care effort ... better than just about anybody," the president remarked. "But as he acknowledged, this was a mistake. I don't think it was intentional on his part but it was a serious mistake. He owned up to it and ultimately made a decision that we couldn't afford the distraction, and I've got to own up to my mistake which is that, ultimately, it's important for this administration to send a message that there aren't two sets of rules -- you know, one for prominent people and one for ordinary folks who have to pay their taxes."
Obama later added, "I'm here on television saying I screwed up, and that's part of the era of responsibility. It's not never making mistakes; it's owning up to them and trying to make sure you never repeat them and that's what we intend to do." He also offered one more mea culpa: "[S]o, did I screw up in this situation? Absolutely and I'm willing to take my lumps, you know that's part of the job here. But I think it's important not to paint a broad brush here, because overall, not only have we gotten in place a -- functioning government in record time -- but overall the quality of [the other appointments] are outstanding."
On the economy and his stimulus plan, Obama told Williams, "I'm waking up everyday thinking, 'How do I make sure that ordinary families are able to survive, thrive, send their kids to college, keep their homes, keep their jobs?' And there's no magic bullet. We dug a deep hole for ourselves, and because of some bad decisions that we made, we have the worst economy since the Great Depression."
And Obama also spoke about his consultations with the joint chiefs on Iraq and Afghanistan: "The encouraging thing is that there's actually I think a convergence between myself and the joint chiefs and my national security team about what we have to do. I think there's a general view that we've got to drawdown our troops from Iraq; that we've got to do it responsibly; that we've got to do it carefully. I think the timeframe is closer than it may have appeared during the campaign. I think there's also a shared view that Afghanistan is getting worse, not getting better. And that we have to have a comprehensive strategy that not only deals with the military side but also the diplomacy."