Improving a president’s game

IMPROVING A PRESIDENT’S GAME…. There’s a famous story about JFK’s first meeting with Khrushchev in 1961, just five months after Kennedy took office. It didn’t go well for the young president, and JFK later conceded that the Soviet leader “just beat the hell out of” him.

On ABC’s “This Week,” George Stephanopoulos asked President Obama if he’s had a similar experience since taking office, inquiring if there’s been a moment at which the president told himself, “Man, I need to step up my game.”

OBAMA: You know, it’s an interesting question. I — I mean I don’t mean to be immodest here, but I don’t think I’ve had that moment with a — with a world leader, where I said gee, you know — you know, we’ve got to really tighten things up.

I think there have been times where I have said I’ve got to step up my game in terms of talking to the American people about issues like health care. I mean I think during this whole health care debate, I’ve — there have been times where I’ve said…

STEPHANOPOULOS: You lost control?

OBAMA: Well, not so much lost control, but where I’ve said to myself, somehow I’m not breaking through. And — and it’s not — you know, I know my critics would just say well, it’s because you — you know, the plan is just, you know, the — the wrong one.

But it’s — it — that’s not so much it. It’s — this has been a sufficiently tough, complicated issue with so many moving parts that, you know, no matter how much I’ve — I’ve tried to keep it digestible, you know, it’s very hard for people to get their — their whole arms around it. And that’s been a case where I have been humbled and I just keep on trying harder, because I — I really think it’s the right thing to do for the country.

I think that’s a pretty strong answer to the question. That said, just once I would have loved to see someone in the media ask George W. Bush, at any point during his eight years in office, if there’d been a moment at which he told himself, “Man, I need to step up my game.”