After eight years in the White House, President Barack Obama said he was most taken aback by how much partisanship affects progress in Washington, D.C.
“I was surprised and continue to be surprised by the severity of partisanship in this town,” Obama said in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes."
He added: “And I will confess that, I didn’t fully appreciate the ways in which individual senators or members of Congress now are pushed to the extremes by their voter bases. I did not expect, particularly in the midst of crisis, just how severe that partisanship would be.”
Obama said he had become a “lightning rod” for partisan battles, which stopped him from reaching set goals. But he explained that it didn't prevent him from making improvements in several aspects of the country.
“If you can look back and say, 'The economy’s better. Our security’s better. The environment’s better. Our kids’ education is better,'” if you can say that you’ve made things better, then considering all the challenges out there, you should feel good,” he said. “But I’m the first to acknowledge that I did not crack the code in terms of reducing this partisan fever.”
Obama pointed to the Republicans' successful effort to block him from appointing Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court as a major example of partisan fury.
“I mean, the fact that [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republicans, was able to just stop a nomination almost a year before the next election and really not pay a political price for it, that’s a sign that the incentives for politicians in this town to be so sharply partisan have gotten so outta hand that we’re weakening ourselves,” Obama said.
In an interview with NBC News, Obama blamed Republican leaders and conservative commentators, like Rush Limbaugh, for the partisan gridlock, Mediaite reports.
“Well, what is true is that the ability of Republican leaders to rile up their base -- helped along with by folks like Rush Limbaugh, some commentators on Fox News -- I think created an environment in which Republican voters would punish Republicans for cooperating with me,” Obama said.
Limbaugh fired back on his radio program.
“Poor Obama,” he said, according to The Blaze. “Most powerful man in the world, and he couldn’t overcome the guy on the radio.”