A screenshot of President Obama's taped interview on "CBS This… (CBS News / Los Angeles Times )
WASHINGTON – As senior aides for President Obama and GOP rival Mitt Romney stepped up their political attacks, the president said he was frustrated that he had failed to change the toxic political atmosphere in Washington after he was elected in 2008.
“Washington feels as broken as it did four years ago,” Obama said Sunday in a taped interview on the “CBS This Morning” show.
“And if you asked me what is the one thing that has frustrated me most over the last four years, it’s not the hard work. It’s not the enormity of the decisions. It’s not the pace. It is that I haven’t been able to change the atmosphere here in Washington to reflect the decency and common sense of ordinary people – Democrats, Republicans and independents – who I think just want to see their leadership solve problems.”
He added, “There’s enough blame to go around for that.”
Yet on other Sunday talk shows his top supporters, along with those for former Massachusetts Gov. Romney, continued to argue whether the presumptive Republican nominee had a role in shipping jobs offshore when he was a businessman, and used lucrative tax loopholes unavailable to most Americans.
David Axelrod, Obama’s chief political strategist, said that when Romney ran Bain Capital, a Boston-based private equity firm, he was “involved in outsourcing” jobs and that he has shielded investments in offshore tax havens and kept a now-closed Swiss bank account.
“I’m not suggesting that based on what we know, he’s done anything illegal,” Axelrod said. “But what I am suggesting is that he's taken advantage of every single conceivable tax shelter and loophole that we can see.”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) alleged that Romney is trying to distance himself from his record running Bain Capital because of mounting questions about whether the firm advised some companies to lay off U.S. employees and replace them with workers overseas.
“Why is Mitt running away from his company, Bain Capital, like a scalded cat?” the Senate majority whip asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Although Securities and Exchange Commission documents list Romney as CEO of Bain through 2002, Romney insisted in TV interviews last week that he had no active management role at the company after February 1999, when he left to run the Salt Lake City Olympics. Bain’s known involvement with companies that moved jobs overseas came after 1999.
Ed Gillespie, Romney’s campaign adviser, said on “Meet the Press” that outsourcing continues in the current U.S. economy partly because the Obama administration has imposed “excessive regulations” and has insisted on a high corporate tax rate.
He added that the political attacks against Romney’s business record were a “distraction” from more burning issues, like improving the U.S. economy.
“This president will say or do anything to keep the highest office in the land, even if it means demeaning the highest office in the land,” Gillespie said.
On CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) echoed that charge. “This is not the 2008 Barack Obama we thought we were getting,” said Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman and a potential Republican candidate for vice president. “This is not the candidate of hope and change.”
Rather, he said, “This is a candidate who is hoping to change the subject by attacking his opponent with attacks that have already been labeled by independent fact checkers as deceitful and untrue.”
As the campaign aides continued to spar, Obama said that if reelected, he hopes to shore up jobs, end the economic downturn, and give new hope for the middle class.
“The question right now for the American people is which vision, mine or Mr. Romney’s, is most likely to deliver for those folks, because that is where the majority of American people live,” he said.
Both candidates otherwise took the day off. Obama went golfing at Fort Belvoir in Virginia, while Romney attended church in Wolfeboro, N.H., with his wife Ann, his sons Josh and Matt and their children. He spent the day at his family retreat on nearby Lake Winnipesaukee.