Back in 2007 and 2008, it was remarkable watching Barack Obama treated to one puffball interview after another, courtesy of Steve Kroft on "60 Minutes." Kroft compared him to Abe Lincoln and oozed about his "political poetry." But it's simply irresponsible, after three and a half years of President Obama wrecking the economy, that CBS — now with anchor Charlie Rose — is still in puffery mode.
There's a certain level of contempt on the part of CBS. It could and should focus its attention on the plight of every family struggling with unemployment or a house that's underwater financially or facing its loss of religious liberties with a federal government drunk with power. CBS chose instead to waste most of the interview asking the Obamas about summer vacations, where they'd like to travel in the world and whether there's still mystery in their marriage.
This was not what they call in the business a "newsmaker interview," even though there is no greater newsmaker in this country than the president. This must have reminded Obama of his teenage years at Baskin-Robbins, because Rose seemed to be making him a triple-scoop sundae, with chocolate and sprinkles on top.
Anyone who tuned in to "Sunday Morning" for the hard news would have "questions" like these:
— "It's not a bad place to live." (the White House) "Well, you got a basketball court; you got a tennis court. You have a fountain. You can see the Washington Monument."
— "How are you going to spend your summer? ... What is summer vacation?"
— "You didn't have all of these important things to do, and you could travel to anyplace in the world, where would you want to go? What would you want to see and experience?"
— "Does this place change you?"
It seemed obvious to the audience that Charlie Rose was channeling his inner Barbara Walters. The "what kind of tree would you like to be?" question was on the tip of his tongue.
Then there was the marriage question to the president. "I read you though, this, that I found fascinating. You said, 'I trust her (Michelle) completely, but at the same time, she's also a complete mystery to me in some ways. It is that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong.' Is that even more so now, and in this place?"
Rose said the original quote came from 1996, but its American debut was a New Yorker magazine puff piece that coincided with the Obama inauguration in 2009. CBS is sitting down with the Obamas in 2012 and asking a repeat of a stale question used to promote the first family at their highest political summit. You can tell where CBS is happiest and where it wants to keep the Obamas. It is forever January 2009.
Rose read another passage of Obama to himself, as reported by liberal Washington Post reporter David Maraniss, author of a very long new Obama biography. Obama told Maraniss that his life was defined by building bridges and finding common ground:
"The only way my life makes sense is if, regardless of culture and race and religion, there's the commonality of these essential human truths and passions and hopes and moral precepts that are universal, and that we can reach out beyond our differences. If that is not the case, then it is pretty hard for me to make sense of my life."
Here's the funny part: Obama said this to Maraniss last November . Just consider for two seconds the way Obama passed Obamacare in 2010: refusing any input from Republicans, strong-arming pro-life Democrats with completely insincere promises about respecting the pro-life conscience, and passing the bill with almost nobody reading the whole thing through. The entire quote is beyond ludicrous. But to Charlie Rose, it's somehow profound.
This how Rose eventually turned to the most controversial topic embroiling this administration, Obamacare: "You had an enormously successful health care legislation (sic), because the Supreme Court did not declare it unconstitutional. That's your proudest achievement in the first four years?"
Then consider the unthinkable. Obama couldn't possibly say the economy is his proudest achievement. But he did. "You know, my proudest achievement is actually stabilizing the economy to avert a great depression, because if I don't do that, nothing else matters."
This is like claiming the car was stable after Obama drove it off the pier and into the water. CBS didn't leap for a follow-up question. They ended the interview after letting Obama's ludicrous answer drone on for half a minute.
The CBS approach to interviews is obviously defined by the "wisdom" of Les Moonves, chairman of CBS Inc., who exclaimed at an Obama fundraiser he attended in June that "partisanship is very much a part of journalism now."