During an interview set to air Tuesday evening on “Nightline,” President Barack Obama told ABC’s Jake Tapper that he “understands the frustrations” expressed by Occupy Wall Street protesters and that he “understands their struggles” and is “on their side.”
“The most important thing we can do right now is those of us in leadership letting people know that we understand their struggles and we are on their side, and that we want to set up a system in which hard work, responsibility, doing what you’re supposed to do, is rewarded,” Obama said. “And that people who are irresponsible, who are reckless, who don’t feel a sense of obligation to their communities and their companies and their workers that those folks aren’t rewarded.”
Despite having disparaged the Tea Party not too long ago, Obama even compared the current Occupy movement to the Tea Party, stating:
“In some ways, they’re not that different from some of the protests that we saw coming from the Tea Party. Both on the left and the right, I think people feel separated from their government. They feel that their institutions aren’t looking out for them.”
“We’re at a critical moment in this country where if we can regain some of the values that helped build this country that people, I think, long for, when they feel that everybody gets a fair shake but we’re also asking a fair share from everybody, if we can go back to that then I think a lot of that anger, that frustration dissipates,” Obama said.
Of course, Obama hinted that his jobs plan, the American Jobs Act, which would be funded in part by raising taxes on wealthy Americans, is part of making certain individuals pay their “fair share.”
Obama acknowledged that widespread popular frustration is directed at him because of the administration’s failure to jumpstart job creation and economic growth. But he shrugged off the suggestion that he could have done more from the start, including focusing less on health care legislation.
“You ever wonder that if you had focused entirely, exclusively, not to take away your work on healthcare and Wall Street reform, but if you had just focus on jobs as some people suggest you should have been doing, that maybe it would be different than now?” Tapper asked Obama.
“Probably not,” Obama replied. “Every day, I think about other things we could be doing different and the truth of the matter is, we passed a very big recovery act that we knew was going to take some time to take effect. It made a difference.”
If Obama understands and can show solidarity with the Occupy protesters, and if, as Obama suggests, the Occupy movement is not so different to the Tea Party movement, does the president then suggest he was wrong about the Tea Party and now supports them as well?