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ROLLING STONE INTERVIEWS BARACK OBAMA
So much here to like. For example:
What’s your relationship with the GOP leadership at this point? A little frosty?
It’s not frosty. This isn’t personal. When John Boehner and I sit down, I enjoy a conversation with him. I don’t think he’s a bad person. I think he’s patriotic. I think that the Republicans up on the Hill care about this country, but they have a very ideologically rigid view of how to move this country forward, and a lot of how they approach issues is defined by “Will this help us defeat the president?” as opposed to “Will this move the country forward?”
Is there any way to break through that obstructionism by Republicans?
My hope is that if the American people send a message to them that’s consistent with the fact that Congress is polling at 13 percent right now, and they suffer some losses in this next election, that there’s going to be some self-reflection going on – that it might break the fever. They might say to themselves, “You know what, we’ve lost our way here. We need to refocus on trying to get things done for the American people.”
Frankly, I know that there are good, decent Republicans on Capitol Hill who, in a different environment, would welcome the capacity to work with me. But right now, in an atmosphere in which folks like Rush Limbaugh and Grover Norquist are defining what it means to be a true conservative, they are lying low. My hope is that after this next election, they’ll feel a little more liberated to go out and say, “Let’s redirect the Republican Party back to those traditions in which a Dwight Eisenhower can build an interstate highway system.”
In regard to Wall Street . . . why is nobody on trial?
First of all, we’re a nation of laws. So in some cases, really irresponsible practices that hurt a lot of people might not have been technically against the law. They might have been the wrong thing to do, but prosecutors are required to actually build cases based on what the law is. That’s part of the reason we’ve passed Wall Street reform: to make much clearer what is prohibited and what is not, to set up rules and regulations that say, “You can’t do this, and if you do do it, there are going to be consequences.”
Now, that isn’t to say that there may not be more wrongdoing out there. One of the things people have not been clear about, for example, is this recent housing settlement. It was based on banks violating civil laws with those auto-penning of foreclosures, and it was narrowly drawn so that banks have to put up billions of dollars to help families who have been affected, but it still leaves in place the possibility of prosecution. It doesn’t provide any criminal immunity whatsoever. We’ve set up a task force not just with the federal government, but with state attorney generals, that as we speak are actively going through all the records, issuing subpoenas. They will, on the basis of law, make determinations as to whether there are prosecutions out there.
So you think there’s still a possibility of criminal prosecution.
I think there’s still possibilities of criminal prosecutions. But what I’ve instructed the attorney general to do is to follow the evidence and follow the law. That’s how our system works.
What is very relevant, I think, is that you have a Republican Congress, and Republican candidates for president, who have actively stated that they want to roll back the financial regulations that have been put in place. They want to eliminate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is one more example of how they have drifted off of what had traditionally been bipartisan ideas. The notion that we would roll back an agency whose sole purpose is to make sure that consumers of financial products aren’t defrauded, aren’t tricked, aren’t duped, and that will somehow make our economy stronger – after everything we’ve been through, that makes absolutely no sense.
There’s so much more. I think you’ll be interested. Have a great weekend.