President Obama said Monday that Republicans are damaging the country and that partisan gridlock in Washington is caused solely by the GOP “denying the facts” on climate change and other issues.
In an interview with Vice News, Mr. Obama criticized 47 Republican senators who wrote to Iran last week to discourage a nuclear deal, calling it “a good example of where the state of our politics that leads Republicans to be more worried about a tea-party primary than they are about what ordinary folks are thinking.”
“It damages the country, it damages our standing, it’s not productive,” Mr. Obama said. “In this day and age, where we’ve got such big issues, we can’t afford it.”
The interview with Vice founder Shane Smith, recorded last week, focused on topics of particular interest to young voters, such as climate change. Mr. Obama said Democrats are not to blame for Washington’s dysfunction on such issues.
“Sometimes mainstream media reports this as a food fight, and it’s a problem of both parties just being partisan,” Mr. Obama said. “Well, that’s just not accurate. On climate change, 90 percent of Democrats agree with me. And 90 percent of Republicans oppose any action on it and a sizable portion of their party deny it even exists.”
He added, “Right now, on a lot of the issue that young people care about, it’s not both sides arguing and creating gridlock. You’ve got one side that is denying the facts, who are often motivated principally by opposing whatever it is that I propose. That’s not inevitable to our democracy. That’s a phase that the Republican Party is going through right now. It’ll outgrow that phase.”
While campaigning for reelection in 2012, Mr. Obama had predicted that his victory would help to break Republicans’ “fever” against him. Instead, in 2014, the GOP made big gains in Congress.
The president said Republicans were “rewarded” in the mid-term election last November, when the GOP captured control of the Senate and boosted its majority in the House, because too many young voters stayed home.
“The fact that a lot of them got rewarded with re-election and the people who were in power creating the gridlock stayed in power, that’s a consequence of everybody staying home and acting cynical,” Mr. Obama said.
At one point, Mr. Smith ridiculed Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican who challenges climate change, for tossing a snowball in the Senate chamber to call attention to the cold winter in Washington. Mr. Smith said it “would be funny” if it weren’t for Mr. Inhofe being chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
“That’s disturbing,” Mr. Obama agreed.
The president said too many elected officials from oil and gas states are “shills for the oil companies or the fossil fuel industry,” and he predicted that the Republican Party will “change its approach” on climate change eventually.
“Voters will insist upon it,” he said.
The president also laid out his plan for addressing the problem of climate change.
“If I’m able to double fuel-efficiency standards, if I’m able to make appliances more efficient, and to double the production of clean energy, if I’m able to do all those things, when I’m done, we’re still going to have a heck of a problem,” he said. “But we will have made enough progress that the next president and the next generation can start building on it.”