The president said that when he was in the Senate, he "didn't go around courting the media. And I certainly didn't go around trying to shut down the government."
"I recognize that in today's media age, being controversial, taking controversial positions, rallying the most extreme parts of your base, whether it's left or right, is a lot of times the fastest way to get attention and raise money," he said. "But it's not good for government."
The deadline for keeping the government open coincided with the Oct. 1 start of sign-ups for the insurance markets at the center of the health-care overhaul Obama signed into law during his first term. Government websites struggled in the first week to keep up with high demand for the new marketplaces. It's not clear that more than a few managed to enroll the first day.
Obama said he didn't know how many people had enrolled. Administration officials have said they do not plan to release real-time data on the number of people enrolling, though some states running their own exchange websites are doing so.
The president predicted that when the six-month signup window for the insurance exchanges ends, "we are going to probably exceed what anybody expected in terms of the amount of interest that people had."
In the flurry of domestic issues consuming his second term, Obama has launched a diplomatic outreach to Iran, aimed at resolving the dispute over Tehran's nuclear program. Last week, he spoke by phone with President Hassan Rouhani, marking the first direct exchange between U.S. and Iranian leaders in more than 30 years.
"Rouhani has staked his position on the idea that he can improve relations with the rest of the world," Obama said. "And so far he's been saying a lot of the right things. And the question now is, can he follow through?"
But Obama said Rouhani is not Iran's only "decision-maker. He's not even the ultimate decision-maker," a reference to the control wielded by Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Given the supreme leader's broad influence, some countries, most notably Israel, have questioned whether Rouhani actually represents real change in Iran or just new packaging of old policies.
Khamenei said Saturday that he supported Rouhani's outreach to the West, but at the same time called the U.S. government "untrustworthy, arrogant, illogical and a promise-breaker," according to comment summarized on his website.
Obama also put distance between U.S. and Israeli assessments of when Iran might have the capacity to build a nuclear weapon. Israeli officials have said Iran is just months away from being able to build a bomb, while Obama said Tehran was a year or more away.
The president used the same timetable in March, before traveling to Israel. The U.S. and Israel contend that Iran's nuclear program is aimed at building a bomb, while Tehran says it is enriching uranium for peaceful purposes.
On the 12-year war in Afghanistan, Obama said he would consider keeping some American forces on the ground after the conflict formally ends next year, but acknowledged that doing so would require an agreement from the Afghan government. He suggested that if no agreement can be reached, he would be comfortable with a full pullout of U.S. troops.
"If in fact we can get an agreement that makes sure that U.S. troops are protected, makes sure that we can operate in a way that is good for our national security, then I'll certainly consider that," he said. "If we can't, we will continue to make sure that all the gains we've made in going after al-Qaida we accomplish, even if we don't have any U.S. military on Afghan soil."
All U.S. forces left Iraq at the end of 2011 after no deal could be reached to keep some there longer.
Obama, an avid sports fan, also weighed in on the controversy surrounding the Redskins as the name of Washington's NFL football team. The name has faced a new barrage of criticism for being offensive to American Indians.
The president said he doesn't think Redskins' fans mean any offense by using the name. But he added: "If I were the owner of the team and I knew that the name of my team, even if they've had a storied history, that was offending a sizable group of people, I'd think about changing it."