Obama admits to mistakes, but no big ones

WASHINGTON Mon Nov 9, 2009 7:39pm EST

President Barack Obama answers questions during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, November 9, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

President Barack Obama answers questions during an interview with Reuters in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, November 9, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Barack Obama says he probably makes one mistake a day, but doesn't think he has made any fundamental ones in almost 10 months as president of the United States.

Toward the end of his first term, his predecessor George W. Bush famously said in answer to a question that he could not think of any mistakes he had made -- a comment which long dogged him as the U.S. overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003 led to chaos in Iraq.

When Obama was asked the same question on Monday, he was quicker on his feet.

"Oh, we make at least one mistake a day," he said with a smile.

"But I will say this, I don't think we've made big mistakes," he told Reuters in an interview in the Oval Office. "I don't think we've made fundamental mistakes."

When asked to give a few examples of errors, Obama regretted how his team had handled some of the early vetting of administration appointments, a reference to problems with personal taxes that knocked some key picks out of contention.

He also mentioned regret over how he had "phrased commentary" on the controversial arrest of a prominent African American Harvard University scholar in Cambridge earlier this year, when he said police had acted stupidly and was later forced to backtrack.

"I mean, there are constant sort of things that I think have proven unnecessary distractions," he said.

"But in terms of the core decisions that we've made to rescue the economy, to move forward on a path for moving our troops from Iraq, on making sure that we've gone through a rigorous process in Afghanistan, to how we have moved healthcare to a place that seven presidents have not been able to get to, I feel very good about our progress."

(Editing by Frances Kerry)

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