WASHINGTON-Hours after the news of a massive Republican sweep of the House of Representatives, President Obama held a press conference at the White House saying he took some responsibility for the results, which he called a "shellacking."
"Every election . . . is a reminder that power rests not with those of us in elected office but with the people we have the privilege to serve," he said.
Obama, to a degree, echoed President Bill Clinton's comments in a press conference after the "Republican Revolution" in 1994.
"With the Democrats in control of both the White House and the Congress, we were held accountable yesterday," Clinton said then. "And I accept my share of the responsibility in the result of the elections."
Clinton, unlike Obama, also promised to pursue smaller government. When a reporter asked what message voters were sending, Clinton responded, "I think they want a smaller government that gives them better value for their dollar, that reflects both their interest and their values, that is not a burden to them but that empowers them. That's what I have tried to do, but I don't think they believe we're there yet, by a long shot."
Obama said he was "sympathetic" to those who think his initiatives, like the stimulus, were a "potential overreach" but that they were misunderstanding his intentions.
"People started looking at all this and it felt as if government was getting much more intrusive in people's lives than people were accustomed to," he said. "The reason was it was an emergency situation. People said this is an agenda rather than an emergency situation."
The president said he would be open to working with Republicans on cutting spending and added that he would be willing to "tweak" healthcare reform, like getting rid of the 1099 provision, which requires small businesses to file forms with the IRS for any purchases or payments over $600. But despite reporters asking him again and again if he regretted actions from the last two years, he insisted that Democrats had made "progress" though "people aren't feeling that progress." He commended the Democrats who joined him on votes, saying they showed "courage" and "conviction."
"It's clear that choosing the president over your constituents is not a winning strategy," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday about lawmakers who went along with President Obama's agenda.
House Democrats felt deep losses that were certainly tied to risky votes they made-some for supporting healthcare reform, others in coal country for supporting cap-and-trade. But Democratic members who bucked the Obama agenda, at least from time to time, lost too. Rep. Frank Kratovil, who lost in Maryland, voted against the budget and cap-and-trade. Rep. Glenn Nye, who lost in Virginia, voted against healthcare and cap-and-trade.
"There are some terrific members of Congress who took really tough votes even though they knew it would cause them political problems," Obama said. "There's a lot of questioning on my part. Could I have done something differently . . . so that those folks could still be here?"
See WORLD's interactive national map for complete election results from across the country.