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In Super Bowl Interview Obama backs away from fundamentally transforming America

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"We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America." — Barack Obama, October 30, 2008

In his Super Bowl Interview with Bill O'Reilly yesterday, President Obama finally backed away from his infamously radically extreme comment about "fundamentally transforming the United States of America. In an exchange at the end of the interview Obama denied that he thinks "we" have to fundamentally America:

O'REILLY: "Mr. President, why do you feel it's necessary to fundamentally transform the nation that has afforded you so much opportunity and success?"

OBAMA: I don't think we have to fundamentally transform the nation...

O'REILLY: But those are your words.

OBAMA: I think that what we have to do is make sure that here in America, if you work hard, you can get ahead. Bill, you and I benefitted from this incredible country of ours, in part, because there were good jobs out there that paid a good wage, because you had public schools that functioned well, that we could get scholarships if we didn't come from a wealthy family, in order to go to college.

O'REILLY: Right.

OBAMA: That, you know, if you worked hard, not only did you have a good job, but you also had decent benefits, decent health care...

O'REILLY: They're cutting me off...

OBAMA: -- and for a lot of folks, we don't have that. We've got to make sure that we're doing everything we can to expand the middle class...

O'REILLY: All right...

OBAMA: -- and work hard and people who are working hard can get into the middle class.

You can watch the exchange in the accompanying video, beginning at the 8:43 mark.

So why would Obama, after five years, finally back away from his radical fundamentally changing America remark?

Has he decided, as George Will suggested Obama should in his excellent 2012 "Obama: the real radical" column, to finally take a "first step toward accommodation with a country increasingly concerned about his unmasked determination to 'transform' what the Founders considered 'fundamentals?'"

Or, as I think more likely, has Obama surveyed the fundamental transformation he has already wreaked, considered the 2014 political outlook and decided his radicalism has gone as far as it now can?

In that October 1, 2013, "Obama: Transforming America" column linked above, Victor Davis Hanson discusses how much Obama has succeeded in transforming the United States in many areas including:

  • Federal Spending;
  • Taxes and Debt;
  • Health Care;
  • Interest Rates;
  • The Presidency, with regard to scandals -- the Benghazi Deception, the IRS Scandal, the NSA Disclosures, the AP Monitoring and Fast and Furious;
  • Politics;
  • Energy;
  • Race;
  • Illegal Immigration;
  • Foreign policy; and
  • Guns.

O'Reilly's interview has been called tense and contentious. I didn't see it that way. What I saw was a well-prepared Obama smoothly pivoting on every question to his talking points. He made O'Reilly look bad.

On the ObamaCare roll out train wreck:

OBAMA: Well, I think we all anticipated there would be glitches, because any time you've got technology, a new program rolling out, there are going to be some glitches. I don't think I anticipated or anybody anticipated the degree of the problems with the Web site. And...

On not firing Kathleen Sebelius:

OBAMA: Yes, well, I -- I promise you that we hold everybody up and down the line accountable. But when we're...

And that was after several talking points putting a positive spin on ObamaCare's horrendous numbers.

On the political lie of the year, Obama's oft repeated, if you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance:

OBAMA: -- you were very generous in saying I look pretty good considering I've been in the presidency for five years. And I think part of the reason is, I try to focus not on the fumbles, but on the next plan.

O'Reilly tried the hardest on Benghazi. If any part of the interview was contentious, it was Benghazi. Still I think Obama kept the upper hand:

OBAMA: -- Bill, listen, I -- I -- I've gone through this and we have had multiple hearings on it. What happens is you have an attack like this taking place and you have a mix of folks who are just troublemakers. You have folks who have an ideological agenda.

O'REILLY: All right.

OBAMA: You have some who are affiliated with terrorist organizations. You have some that are not. But the main thing that all of us have to take away from this is our diplomats are serving in some very dangerous places.

Then there was the politicization of the IRS:

O'REILLY: But no mass corruption?

OBAMA: Not even mass corruption, not even a smidgen of corruption, I would say.

All and all a good interview for Obama.

You can read the entire transcript below:

BILL O'REILLY: Mr. President, thank you for doing this.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Great to be with you.

O'REILLY: Really appreciate it.

I want to get some things on the record.

So let's begin with health care.

OBAMA: Yes?

O'REILLY: October 1st it rolls out.

OBAMA: Right.

O'REILLY: Immediately, there are problems with the computers.

OBAMA: Right.

O'REILLY: When did you know there were going to be problems with those computers?

OBAMA: Well, I think we all anticipated there would be glitches, because any time you've got technology, a new program rolling out, there are going to be some glitches. I don't think I anticipated or anybody anticipated the degree of the problems with the Web site. And...

O'REILLY: So you just didn't know when it rolled out that this was going to be...

OBAMA: Well, I don't think...

O'REILLY: -- a problem?

OBAMA: -- as I said, I don't think anybody anticipated the degree of problems that you had on HealthCare.gov. The good news is that right away, we decided how are we going to fix it, it got fixed within a month and a half, it was up and running and now it's working the way it's supposed to and we've signed up three million people.

O'REILLY: I don't know about that, because last week, there was an Associated Press call of people who actually went to the Web site and only 8 percent of them feel that it's working well, working well.

Why didn't you fire Sebelius, the secretary in charge of this...

OBAMA: (INAUDIBLE).

O'REILLY: -- because I mean she had to know, after all those years and all that money, that it wasn't going to work?

OBAMA: You know, my main priority right now is making sure that it delivers for the American people. And what we...

O'REILLY: You're not going to answer that?

OBAMA: -- what -- what we've ended up doing is we've got three million people signed up so far. We're about a month behind of where we anticipated we wanted to be. We've got over six million people who have signed up for Medicaid.

O'REILLY: Yes.

OBAMA: We've got three million young people under the age of 26 who have signed up on their parents' plan. And so what we're constantly figuring out is how do we continue to improve it, how do we make sure that the folks who don't have health insurance can get health insurance...

O'REILLY: OK...

OBAMA: -- and those who are underinsured are able to get better health insurance.

O'REILLY: I'm sure -- I'm sure that the intent is noble, but I'm a taxpayer.

OBAMA: Yes.

O'REILLY: And I'm paying Kathleen Sebelius' salary and she screwed up.

OBAMA: Yes.

O'REILLY: And you're not holding her accountable.

OBAMA: Yes, well, I -- I promise you that we hold everybody up and down the line accountable. But when we're...

O'REILLY: But she's still there.

OBAMA: -- when we're in midstream, Bill, we want to make sure that our main focus is how do we make this thing work so that people are able to sign up?

And that's what we've done.

O'REILLY: All right.

Was it the biggest mistake of your presidency to tell the nation over and over, if you like your insurance, you can keep your insurance?

OBAMA: Oh, Bill, you've got a long list of my mistakes of my presidency...

O'REILLY: But, no, really, for you...

OBAMA: -- as I've (INAUDIBLE)...

O'REILLY: -- wasn't that the biggest one?

OBAMA: But this is -- this is one that I regret and I've said I regretted, in part because we put in a grandfather clause in the original law saying that, in fact, you were supposed to be able to keep it. It obviously didn't cover everybody that we needed to and that's why we changed it, so that we further grandfathered in folks and many people who thought originally, when they got that cancellation notice, they couldn't keep it or not (INAUDIBLE)...

O'REILLY: It's in the past. But isn't that the...

OBAMA: So...

O'REILLY: -- biggest mistake?

OBAMA: Well, I, you know, Bill, as I said...

O'REILLY: You gave your enemies...

OBAMA: You...

O'REILLY: -- a lot of fodder for it.

OBAMA: -- you were very generous in saying I look pretty good considering I've been in the presidency for five years. And I think part of the reason is, I try to focus not on the fumbles, but on the next plan.

O'REILLY: All right.

Libya, House Armed Services testimony, General Carter Ham, you know, the general?

OBAMA: Yes. Right.

O'REILLY: Security in Africa.

OBAMA: Yes.

O'REILLY: He testified that on the day that the ambassador was murdered and the three other Americans, all right, he told Secretary Panetta it was a terrorist attack. Shortly after Ham, General Ham, said that, Secretary Panetta came in to you.

OBAMA: Yes.

O'REILLY: Did he tell you, Secretary Panetta, it was a terrorist attack?

OBAMA: You know what he told me was that there was an attack on our compound...

O'REILLY: He didn't tell you...

OBAMA: -- (INAUDIBLE)...

O'REILLY: -- he didn't use the word "terror?"

OBAMA: You know, in -- in the heat of the moment, Bill, what folks are focused on is what's happening on the ground, do we have eyes on it, how can we make sure our folks are secure...

O'REILLY: Because I just want to get this on the record...

OBAMA: So, I...

O'REILLY: -- did he tell you it was a terror attack?

OBAMA: Bill -- and what I'm -- I'm answering your question. What he said to me was, we've got an attack on our compound. We don't know yet...

O'REILLY: No terror attack?

OBAMA: -- we don't know yet who's doing it. Understand, by definition, Bill, when somebody is attacking our compound...

O'REILLY: Yes?

OBAMA: -- that's an act of terror, which is how I characterized it the day after it happened. So the -- so the question ends up being who, in fact, was attacking us?

O'REILLY: But it's more than that...

OBAMA: And that...

O'REILLY: -- though...

OBAMA: -- well, we...

O'REILLY: -- because of Susan Rice.

OBAMA: No, it...

O'REILLY: It's more than that because if Susan Rice goes out and tells the world that it was a spontaneous demonstration...

OBAMA: Bill...

O'REILLY: -- off a videotape but your...

OBAMA: Bill...

O'REILLY: -- your commanders and the secretary of Defense know it's a terror attack...

OBAMA: Now, Bill...

O'REILLY: Just...

OBAMA: -- Bill...

O'REILLY: -- as an American...

OBAMA: -- Bill -- Bill...

O'REILLY: -- I'm just confused.

OBAMA: And I'm -- and I'm trying to explain it to, if you want to listen. The fact of the matter is is that people understood, at the time, something very dangerous was happening, that we were focused on making sure that we did everything we can -- could -- to protect them. In the aftermath, what became clear was that the security was lax, that not all the precautions and -- that needed to be taken were taken and both myself and Secretary Clinton and others indicated as much.

But at the moment, when these things happen, Bill, on the other side of the world, people...

O'REILLY: It's the fog of war...

OBAMA: -- people -- that's -- people don't know at the very moment exactly why something like this happens. And when you look at the videotape of this whole thing unfolding, this is not some systematic, well organized process. You see...

O'REILLY: Well, it was heavy weapons used...

OBAMA: -- you...

O'REILLY: -- and that...

OBAMA: -- what you...

O'REILLY: -- that's the thing...

OBAMA: -- what you see -- Bill...

O'REILLY: -- heavy weapons coming in.

OBAMA: -- Bill, listen, I -- I -- I've gone through this and we have had multiple hearings on it. What happens is you have an attack like this taking place and you have a mix of folks who are just troublemakers. You have folks who have an ideological agenda.

O'REILLY: All right.

OBAMA: You have some who are affiliated with terrorist organizations. You have some that are not. But the main thing that all of us have to take away from this is our diplomats are serving in some very dangerous places.

O'REILLY: But there's more...

OBAMA: And we've got...

O'REILLY: -- there's more than that...

OBAMA: -- and we've got -- and we've got to make sure that not only have we implemented all the reforms that were recommended...

O'REILLY: OK.

OBAMA: -- by the independent agency...

O'REILLY: I...

OBAMA: -- but we also have to make sure that we understand our folks out there are in a hazardous, dangerous situation...

O'REILLY: I think everybody understands that...

OBAMA: -- and we...

O'REILLY: -- Mr. President.

OBAMA: No, but -- but, actually, not everybody does, because what ends up happening...

O'REILLY: I think they do.

OBAMA: -- what ends up happening is we end up creating a political agenda...

O'REILLY: Absolutely...

OBAMA: -- over something...

O'REILLY: -- and that's...

OBAMA: -- (INAUDIBLE)...

O'REILLY: -- that was my next question.

OBAMA: -- which Democrats and Republicans should be unified in trying to figure out how are we going to protect people (INAUDIBLE)?

O'REILLY: I've got to get to the IRS...

OBAMA: OK.

O'REILLY: -- but I just want to say that they're -- your detractors believe that you did not tell the world it was a terror attack because your campaign didn't want that out.

OBAMA: Bill, think about...

O'REILLY: That's what they believe.

OBAMA: -- and they believe it because folks like you are telling them that.

O'REILLY: No, I'm not telling them that.

(LAUGHTER)

O'REILLY: I'm asking you whether you were told...

OBAMA: But -- and what I'm saying is...

O'REILLY: -- it was a terror attack and you...

OBAMA: -- and what I'm saying is that is inaccurate.

O'REILLY: All right.

OBAMA: We -- we revealed to the American people exactly what we understood at the time. The notion that we would hide the ball for political purposes when, a week later, we all said, in fact, there was a terrorist attack taking place the day after, I said it was an act of terror, that wouldn't be a very good cover-up...

O'REILLY: All right.

OBAMA: -- if that's what we were interested in.

O'REILLY: I've got to get to the IRS...

OBAMA: Yes.

O'REILLY: -- because I don't know what happened there and I'm hoping maybe you can tell us. Douglas Shulman, former IRS chief, he was cleared into the White House 157 times, more than any of your cabinet members, more than any other IRS guy in the history, by far.

OK, why was Douglas Shulman here 157 times?

Why?

OBAMA: Mr. Shulman, as the head of the IRS, is constantly coming in, because at the time, we were trying to set up the, uh, HealthCare.gov and the IRS...

O'REILLY: What did he have to do with that?

OBAMA: -- and the IRS is involved in making sure that that works as part of the overall health care team.

O'REILLY: So it was all health care?

OBAMA: Number two, we've also got the IRS involved when it comes to some of the financial reforms to make sure that we don't have taxpayer funded bailouts in the future. So you had all these different agendas in which the head of the IRS is naturally involved.

O'REILLY: Did you speak to him a lot...

OBAMA: -- (INAUDIBLE).

O'REILLY: -- yourself?

OBAMA: I do not recall meeting with him in any of these meetings that are pretty routine meetings that we had.

O'REILLY: OK, so you don't -- you don't recall seeing Shulman, because what some people are saying is that the IRS was used...

OBAMA: Yes.

O'REILLY: -- at a -- at a local level in Cincinnati, and maybe other places to go after...

OBAMA: Absolutely wrong.

O'REILLY: -- to go after.

OBAMA: Absolutely wrong.

O'REILLY: But how do you know that, because we -- we still don't know what happened there?

OBAMA: Bill, we do -- that's not what happened. They -- folks have, again, had multiple hearings on this. I mean these kinds of things keep on surfacing, in part because you and your TV station will promote them.

O'REILLY: But don't...

OBAMA: But when (INAUDIBLE)...

O'REILLY: -- think there are unanswered questions?

OBAMA: Bill, when you actually look at this stuff, there have been multiple hearings on it. What happened here was it that you've got a...

O'REILLY: But there's no definition on it.

OBAMA: -- you've got a 501(c)(4) law that people think is focusing. No -- that the folks did not know how to implement...

O'REILLY: OK...

OBAMA: -- because it basically says...

O'REILLY: -- so you're saying there was no...

OBAMA: -- if you are involved...

O'REILLY: -- no corruption there at all, none?

OBAMA: That's not what I'm saying.

O'REILLY: (INAUDIBLE).

OBAMA: That's actually...

O'REILLY: No, no, but I want to know what...

OBAMA: -- (INAUDIBLE)...

O'REILLY: -- you're saying. You're the leader of the country.

OBAMA: Absolutely.

O'REILLY: You're saying no corruption?

OBAMA: No.

O'REILLY: None?

No?

OBAMA: There were some -- there were some bone-headed decisions...

O'REILLY: Bone-headed decisions...

OBAMA: -- out of -- out of a local office...

O'REILLY: But no mass corruption?

OBAMA: Not even mass corruption, not even a smidgeon of corruption, I would say.

O'REILLY: OK. I got a letter from Kathy LaMaster (ph), Fresno, California. I said I would read one letter from the folks, all right?

OBAMA: All right.

O'REILLY: "Mr. President, why do you feel it's necessary to fundamentally transform the nation that has afforded you so much opportunity and success?"

OBAMA: I don't think we have to fundamentally transform the nation...

O'REILLY: But those are your words.

OBAMA: I think that what we have to do is make sure that here in America, if you work hard, you can get ahead. Bill, you and I benefitted from this incredible country of ours, in part, because there were good jobs out there that paid a good wage, because you had public schools that functioned well, that we could get scholarships if we didn't come from a wealthy family, in order to go to college.

O'REILLY: Right.

OBAMA: That, you know, if you worked hard, not only did you have a good job, but you also had decent benefits, decent health care...

O'REILLY: They're cutting me off...

OBAMA: -- and for a lot of folks, we don't have that. We've got to make sure that we're doing everything we can to expand the middle class...

O'REILLY: All right...

OBAMA: -- and work hard and people who are working hard can get into the middle class.

O'REILLY: I think -- I -- you know, I know you think maybe we haven't been fair, but I think your heart is in the right place.

Projection for the game -- who's going to win the Super Bowl?

OBAMA: I can't make a prediction. I don't know. These guys are too evenly matched. I think it is going to be 24-21, but I don't know who's going to be...

O'REILLY: You don't really know?

OBAMA: -- 24 and I don't know who's going to be 21.

O'REILLY: Mr. President, thanks very much.

OBAMA: I enjoyed it.

Thank you.

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