WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said in an interview published on Tuesday that it is "inexcusable" for Democratic voters to stand on the sidelines in November 2 congressional elections and urged them to shake off their lethargy.
Facing a bleak election outcome in congressional elections on November 2, Obama said Democrats who are not satisfied with what he has been able to accomplish so far need to realize that giving Republicans increased power could bring back economic policies he believes have been discredited.
"The idea that we've got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible," Obama told Rolling Stone magazine (here). "We have to get folks off the sidelines. People need to shake off this lethargy, people need to buck up."
Obama and his Democrats face an angry electorate with the U.S. jobless rate at a stubbornly high 9.6 percent. Republicans are far more enthusiastic about voting on November 2 and believe they may be able to take control of the U.S. House of Representatives from Democrats and make gains in the Senate.
Democrats, on the other hand, are struggling to persuade their liberal base of supporters to get fired up. Many liberals do not believe Obama has gone far enough in pursuit of their agenda, complaining for example that the healthcare overhaul did not include a government-based insurance option.
Obama's decision to grant an interview of more than an hour to the hip magazine Rolling Stone reflected a bid to energize young voters who helped propel him to the presidency two years ago, an effort that includes a trip to college campuses this week.
Obama revealed that he has about 2,000 songs on his iPod, many of them the music of his youth, such as Stevie Wonder and Bob Dylan. Personal aide Reggie Love helped him update his music list with some rap performers.
"Thanks to Reggie, my rap palate has greatly improved. Jay-Z used to be sort of what predominated, but now I've got a little Nas and a little Lil Wayne and some other stuff," he said.
But much of the interview was about serious subjects and what seemed to be an effort to shore up support from the Democrats' liberal base.
Obama said he has a list to keep track of campaign promises he has fulfilled.
"I keep in my pocket a checklist of the promises I made during the campaign, and here I am, halfway through my first term, and we've probably accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do," he said.
Obama defended his economic team against criticism from the left that the financial regulatory overhaul Democrats pushed through Congress was not tough enough on Wall Street.
"Is it going to solve every potential problem in Wall Street in a multi-trillion-dollar, worldwide, capital market? Probably not. There could end up being new schemes, new loopholes that folks are going to try to exploit," he said.
The president said he had been surprised by some complaints from Wall Street that he has been anti-business. He said Wall Street executives should have to pay their fair share of taxes like everyone else.
"I know a lot of these guys who started hedge funds. They are making large profits, taking home large incomes, but because of a rule called 'carried interest,' they are paying lower tax rates than their secretaries," he said.
Obama expressed suspicion about the funding of the conservative Tea Party movement, saying it is being bankrolled by "very conservative industries and forces that are opposed to enforcement of environmental laws."
And he said he believes the Fox News Channel expresses a point of view that, "I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle-class and is competitive in the world."
Additional reporting by Jeff Mason; Editing by Stacey Joyce