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After election rebuff, Obama admits shortcomings

As he prepares to embark on a 10-day trip to Asia, President Barack Obama is acknowleding in the wake of this week's election rout that he hasn't been able to successfully promote his economic-rescue message to anxious Americans.
/ Source: news services

As he prepares to embark on a 10-day trip to Asia, President Barack Obama is acknowledging in the wake of this week's election rout that he hasn't been able to successfully promote his economic-rescue message to anxious Americans.

Obama says in an interview with CBS's "60 Minutes" that he "stopped paying attention" to the leadership style he displayed during his run for the presidency.

Obama also said he recognizes now that "leadership is not just legislation," and that "it's a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone. And making an argument that people can understand."

"And I think that - we haven't always been successful at that," he said. "And I take personal responsibility for that. And it's something that I've got to examine closely as I go forward."

Obama said that's the response he's giving to "some of my Democratic supporters who express some frustration."

Obama's Democratic Party lost control of the House in Tuesday's midterm elections, as Republicans picked up a net gain of at least 60 seats, setting up a more divided government — or shared governance — in January, depending to what extent the two parties can reach accommodation on such vexing issues as the economy, energy, immigration, education and the war in Afghanistan.

Democrats had held sway in both the House and Senate since the 2006 election. The balloting Tuesday also puts House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio into position to be the next speaker, succeeding California Democrat Nancy Pelosi. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., seems set to take position of House majority leader.

Democrats did retain control of the Senate, although their majority margin has been substantially decreased.

Warm welcome overseas?
Rebuffed domestically by the loss of control of the U.S. House of Representatives to Republicans on Tuesday, Obama can count on a warm reception in Asia where leaders want American power to counter Beijing, although some observers questioned how much the trip can yield given the pressures at home.  

He was set to depart on Air Force One Friday morning for Mumbai, where he was to arrive around noon local time Saturday after refueling in Germany. It's the first stop on a 10-day tour through India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan, the longest foreign outing of Obama's presidency.

Obama's trip aims to seek out economic benefit for the U.S., but advisers are also emphasizing his decision to visit four vibrant and growing democracies. It's an itinerary meant to reinforce support for democratic values at a time when the U.S. commitment to human rights worldwide has sometimes come into question.

The president is expected to get a last dose of bad economic news just before his departure, with the release of the government's closely-watched monthly employment report expected to show anemic jobs growth in October. U.S. unemployment is now 9.6 percent and has hovered at about that level for months.

Compromise with Republicans

Obama returns to the U.S. Nov. 14, a day ahead of a lame-duck congressional session in which the president will have to scratch for compromise with emboldened Republicans on extending Bush-era tax cuts, among other issues.

The Asia trip is anchored by must-attend gatherings of world leaders in South Korea and Japan. The timing is unconnected to Tuesday's midterm elections, but this week's Democratic bloodletting is sure to dog Obama to the other side of the world. He'll be meeting with growing powers certain to be keenly aware they're dealing with a newly weakened president backed by a divided Congress, its repercussions uncertain.

The trip to India is Obama's first to the burgeoning nation of 1.2 billion, a huge and growing trading partner where U.S. officials see infinite potential. The president is spending three days there, dividing his time between Mumbai, the financial center on the coast of the Arabian Sea, and the capital of New Delhi. It's the longest single stretch he's spent in any foreign country, a point U.S. officials are careful to emphasize.

"The primary purpose is to take a bunch of U.S. companies and open up markets so that we can sell in Asia, in some of the fastest-growing markets in the world, and we can create jobs here in the United States," Obama told reporters Thursday. "And my hope is, is that we've got some specific announcements that show the connection between what we're doing overseas and what happens here at home when it comes to job growth and economic growth."

The president will meet with U.S. and Indian business leaders, and the White House hopes some commercial deals will be finalized, possibly including purchases of Boeing aircraft by India. The U.S. also will be pushing for more favorable terms for U.S. exports. Obama often criticizes U.S. companies that outsource jobs overseas, but the president will have to address that topic delicately or not at all if he's to avoid troubling his hosts in a nation that's become associated in some U.S. minds with the call centers where people are routed for help with computer problems.

The abbreviated stop in Indonesia, where Obama lived with his mother and Indonesian stepfather between ages 6 and 10, was already canceled and rescheduled twice for domestic reasons, first because of final talks on the sweeping health care bill and then because of the Gulf oil spill.

This time Obama will spend less than 24 hours in the country and won't be visiting any old friends or childhood haunts; the White House says there's no time for that.