A Tale of Two Interviews
On Sunday, January 27, 2013, Steve Kroft of CBS News’ flagship program 60 Minutes interviewed president Barack Obama and secretary of state Hillary Clinton. The gist of the interview is obvious, simply from reading the questions Kroft asked. Unquestionably, Steven Kroft is madly, passionately in love with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Considering that much of the middle-east is currently in a state of revolt, al Qaeda operatives murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens in Benghazi despite his (unanswered) pleas for additional security measures, Iran is edging ever-closer to nuclear armament, Egypt is threatening abrogation of its peace treaty obligations to Israel, Syria’s Assad regime is slaughtering its own citizens, North Korea is test-launching missiles reported to be trans-oceanic, Russia is unraveling its détente with the U.S. and receding into cold-war style communist totalitarianism, Argentina is demanding the return of the Falkland Islands from the U.K., which just decommissioned its last aircraft carrier, while China is about to launch the first of four of its own aircraft carrier battlegroups, one would think Kroft had much to ask Obama and Clinton about U.S. foreign policy. But as you will see, below, from the list of all the questions asked in the interview, it was nothing short of an embarrassing, slobbering, gushing ménage à trois:
< BEGIN INTERVIEW >
- “This is very improbable. This is not an interview I ever expected to be doing. But I understand, Mr. President, this was your idea. Why did you want to do this together, a joint interview?”
- “There’s no political tea leaves to be read here?”
- “It’s no secret that your aides cautioned you against — actually were against you offering Secretary Clinton this job. And you were just as determined not to take it. And you avoided taking her phone calls for awhile because you were afraid she was going to say no. Why were you so insistent about wanting her to be secretary of state?”
- “You’ve been quoted as thinking or telling people that there was no way you were going to take this job and you weren’t going to let anybody talk you into it. What did he say that night that made you [change your mind]?”
- “What did he promise you? And has he kept the promises?”
- “Has she had much influence in this administration?”
- “How would you characterize your relationship right now?”
- “It’s one thing to have disagreements between cabinet people. I spent time with both of you in the 2008 campaign. That was a very tough, bitter race. And I’m going to spare you reading some of the things that you said about each other during that campaign. But how long did it take you to get over that? And when did it happen?”
- “You said the staff took a little longer to ignore, to forget the campaign stuff. What about the spouses? Is that an impertinent question?”
- This administration, I mean, you’ve generally gotten high marks. You’ve generally gotten very high marks, particularly from the voters for your handling of foreign policy. But there’s no big, singular achievement that — in the first four years — that you can put your names on. What do you think the biggest success has been, foreign policy success, of the first term?
- What’s the, I have to ask you, what’s the date of expiration on this endorsement? No, no, I have to ask that question. I mean, come on. You’re — I mean, you’re sitting here together. Everybody in town is talking about it already and the inter — and this is — it’s taking place.
- I want to talk about the hearings this week. You had a very long day. Also, how is your health?
- You said during the hearings, I mean, you’ve accepted responsibility. You’ve accepted the very critical findings of Admiral Mullen and Ambassador Pickering. As the New York Times put it, you accepted responsibility, but not blame. Do you feel guilty in any way, in- at a personal level? Do you blame yourself that you didn’t know or that you should have known?
- The biggest criticism of this team in the U.S. foreign policy from your political opposition has been what they say is an abdication of the United States on the world stage, sort of a reluctance to become involved in another entanglement, an unwillingness or what seems/appears to be an unwillingness to gauge big issues. Syria, for example.
< END INTERVIEW >
At the other end of the spectrum, on Sunday, January 12, 2007, Scott Pelley, also of 60 Minutes, interviewed then-president George W. Bush. Unlike the softball questions Kroft asked Obama and Clinton, the questions Pelley directed to Bush were more in line with what one would expect from a journalist representing the oldest investigative news program with a reputation for asking hard-hitting questions of those in power. Those questions were as follows:
< BEGIN INTERVIEW >
- “The war on terror, in a sense, began in this room, began in this cabin where your Cabinet meeting was held. Back then the whole country was with you. And now you seem to have lost them. Why do you think so?”
- “Most Americans at this point in time don’t believe in this war in Iraq. They want you to get us out of there.”
- “But wasn’t it your administration that created the instability in Iraq?”
- “It’s much more unstable now, Mr. President.”
- “You mention mistakes having been made in your speech. What mistakes are you talking about?”
- “Fair to say there are not enough American troops on the ground to provide security for Iraq?”
- “Do you think you owe the Iraqi people an apology for not doing a better job?”
- “You are gambling a lot, Mr. President, on the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Why do you think that’s a gamble worth making?”
- “I was on the battlefield in Najaf when al-Sadr’s people killed your United States Marines.”
- “Do you believe that the House has the constitutional authority to prevent you from the troop build-up? Can they stop you?”
- “Do you believe as commander-in-chief you have the authority to put the troops in there no matter what the Congress wants to do?”
- “You know better than I do that many Americans feel that your administration has not been straight with the country, has not been honest. To those people you say what? Like the weapons of mass destruction? No credible connection between 9/11 and Iraq.”
- “The Office of Management and Budget said this war would cost somewhere between $50 billion and $60 billion and now we’re over 400.”
- “When was it that you first found out or it dawned on you that, indeed, there were no weapons of mass destruction? And I wonder, did you think, ‘What have I done?'”
- “What should the American people look for in this war plan? When will they know whether it’s working or not?”
- “What would you say right now in this interview to the Iranian president about the meddling in Iraq?”
- “I wonder if you feel like you’ve been ill-served by your Cabinet members, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, perhaps even Vice-President Dick Cheney. Wrong on WMD. Wrong on the connection between 9/11 and Iraq. And now you’re in a fix. And I wonder if you look back and wonder who let you down.”
- “The vice president suggested there was a connection, not necessarily 9/11, but certainly to al-Qaeda.”
- “Final question. How can you escalate the war when so many people in this country seem to be against it?”
< END INTERVIEW >
Oh, what a difference party-affiliation makes.