WASHINGTON (AP) -President Barack Obama to NBC: “Did I screw up in this situation? Absolutely. And I’m willing to take my lumps.”

Obama to CNN: “I think I screwed up, and I take responsibility for it.”

Obama to ABC: “This is a self-induced injury that I’m angry about, and we’re going to make sure we get it fixed.”

Normally the picture of calm and confidence, Obama performed mea culpas in a series of TV interviews following Tom Daschle’s withdrawal from consideration as health and human services secretary.

Daschle and Obama’s pick for federal spending watchdog both pulled out of contention Tuesday because of personal tax problems. .

The president invited network news anchors into the Oval Office one at a time and offered basically the same message, that he had been slow to recognize the double standard obvious to ordinary Americans who are cut no slack if they fall behind on taxes.

Obama to Fox: “I take responsibility for this mistake.”

Obama to CBS: “It’s frustrating for me, and it’s something that I take responsibility for.”

The audacity of acknowledging – even emphasizing – poor judgment came in marked contrast to his predecessor. George W. Bush pronounced himself stumped when asked, midway through his presidency, to name mistakes he’d made. Much later, he thought of some.

The mistake, he said repeatedly in interviews with Charles Gibson of ABC, Brian Williams of NBC, Anderson Cooper of CNN, Chris Wallace of Fox and Katie Couric of CBS, was in seeming to give credence to the notion that one set of rules exists for VIPs and another for average Americans.

Like many presidents before him, Obama lamented that the towering business of the day – in this case saving the economy – had been obscured by dust kicked up over something else.

Unlike many, he said he only had himself to blame for that.

“I’m frustrated with myself, with our team” he told NBC.

“And I’m here on television saying I screwed up and that’s part of the era of responsibility, is not never making mistakes; it’s owning up to them and trying to make sure you never repeat them and that’s what we intend to do.”

AP-ES-02-03-09 1845EST


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