By Alex Spillius in Washington
Last Updated: 3:16PM GMT 20 Mar 2009
Faced with rising anger over his banking rescue plans and bonuses paid to executives, he attempted to portray himself as a populist crusader by holding public meetings and appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Mr Obama has faced criticism focused on the performance of Tim Geithner, the treasury secretary, and the $165 million (£117 million) in bonuses paid to executives at the bailed-out insurance giant AIG.
Resorting to campaign-style politics, Mr Obama rolled up his shirt sleeves and took questions from the public in a packed town hall in Orange County, California, a community where 33,000 jobs were lost between December and January.
The President said that he accepted responsibility for mistakes but tried to mitigate them by citing a broader context.
“Listen, I’ll take responsibility. I’m the President,” Mr Obama said, sparking cheers and applause.
“We didn’t draft these contracts,” he said of the AIG bonuses, adding: “We’ve got a lot on our plate — but it is appropriate when you’re in charge to make sure that stuff doesn’t happen like this.”
He went on to claim that episodes such as the collapse of AIG were symptoms of the culture of greed and excess on Wall Street that caused the global economic meltdown. “These bonuses, outrageous as they are, are a symptom of a much larger problem,” he said.