It wasn’t quite a Bill Clinton-style “I feel your pain” moment, but for President Barack Obama it was about as emotional as he ever gets in public.
Often criticized as aloof and cerebral, Obama showed his personal side at Wednesday’s news conference.
His tone throughout was one of a chastened leader, aware that voters had dealt him and his party a rebuke over the failure to fix the economy.
The contrition was palpable both in his words, his subdued demeanor and his admission that the election had been in part a referendum on him, and that he had gotten a “shellacking.”
“I’m doing a whole lot of reflecting and I think that there are going to be areas in policy where we’re going to have to do a better job.”
He made clear that he was reflecting on the need to keep his promises on transparency in decision-making and the need for better outreach to businesses, among other issues.
But when pressed directly on his leadership style toward the end of the news conference, Obama said he thinks the effects of being in the White House bubble had made him seem removed from the struggles of ordinary Americans.
He contrasted this with his famed ability to connect on the campaign trail in 2008.
“Folks didn’t have any complaints about my leadership style when I was running around Iowa for a year and they got a pretty good look at me, up close and personal, and they were able to lift the hood and kick the tires. And, you know, I think they understood that my story was theirs.”
Obama said his relationship with the American people was going through a “growth process.”
It peaked “at this incredible high,” then became “rockier and tougher,” he said. “And it’s going to, I’m sure, have some more ups and downs during the course of me being in this office.”