Syrupy Minutes
How CBS's 60 Minutes Works Overtime for the Obama Left

A Contrast to Obama

Other presidential candidates didn't get Obama's kind of deference in their single appearances on 60 Minutes. When Katie Couric interviewed John and Elizabeth Edwards on March 21, 2007, she hit Edwards repeatedly with charges that he was exploiting his wife's cancer diagnosis, or that running for president was callous: "Your decision to stay in this race has been analyzed, and quite frankly judged by a lot of people. And some say, what you're doing is courageous, others say it's callous. Some say, ‘Isn't it wonderful they care for something greater than themselves?' And others say, ‘It's a case of insatiable ambition.' You say?" These questions dominated the interview: "Some people watching this would say, ‘I would put my family first always, and my job second.' And you're doing the exact opposite. You're putting your work first, and your family second."

Couric lectured about the younger Edwards children: "They're six and eight. They're still baby birds." This might seem odd to the CBS viewer, since Obama's daughters were five and eight at the time, and the Obamas were not asked about it.

Mike Wallace interviewed Republican candidate Mitt Romney on May 13, 2007, and not only pounded him on his changing stances on issues from taxes to abortion to his new membership in the NRA, he asked Romney if he engaged in premarital sex with his wife.

When Romney explained that they were married young in part because of the Mormon prohibition against premarital sex, Wallace dove in: "Did you have premarital sex with Ann?" Romney replied: "I'm sorry. We don't get into those things. The answer is no." Wallace crossed a line his longtime boss and friend Don Hewitt wrote about in his book: "But poking into the sex lives of public officials – or anybody else, for that matter? That's where a line should be drawn." That's apparently not a line if the candidate is religious.

Wallace did press Romney on his Mormon beliefs, while Kroft never asked a single question about Obama claiming to be a "devout Christian." Wallace even pounded Romney's five sons on why none of them ever joined the military – a question never put to Obama. "Not one agreed or thought about serving in the military," Wallace remarked. He also pressed Gov. Romney himself about not serving in the military.

While Kroft pressed Hillary Clinton to denounce Obama-is-a-Muslim rumors, she did receive her own softball interview from Katie Couric on February 10, 2008 – on the same show as Kroft's second Obama interview. This was the hardest ball: "Barack Obama's candidacy has undeniably gained momentum over the recent months. Have you grappled with the idea, Senator Clinton, that it could be him and not you?" She also suggested the Clintons could be secretly harming Obama. "You've said, ‘I've been through the Republican attacks. And I've been vetted.' And cynics suggest that you're insinuating there's some deep, dark secret that is in Barack Obama's past that will be somehow unveiled by a GOP attack machine," Couric said.

Couric also offered one zinger from the left. When Clinton complained about the $400 billion deficit projected in President Bush's new budget, Couric pounced: "A deficit that's been caused largely by a war that you authorized." But most of the interview was bubbly girl talk like this:

COURIC: How do you do it? I mean, the satellite interviews, the speeches, the travel, the debates, the schmoozing, the picture taking, 24/7?

CLINTON: I do it because I really believe in what I'm doing.

COURIC: I knew you were gonna say that.

CLINTON: Well, but it's true.

COURIC, giggling: But I'm talking about pure stamina.

CLINTON: Well, pure stamina. I have a lot of stamina and I have a lot of resilience.

COURIC: Having said that, do you pop vitamins, do you mainline coffee?

And then there was this:

COURIC: What were you like in high school? Were you the girl in the front row taking meticulous notes and always raising your hand?

CLINTON: Not always raising my hand, not only raising my hand.

COURIC: Someone told me your nickname in school was "Miss Frigidaire." Is that true?

CLINTON: Only with some boys. [laughs]

COURIC, giggling: I don't know if I want to hear the back story on that!

CLINTON: Well, you wouldn't want to know the boys either.

Past presidential candidates also drew softballs from 60 Minutes. On March 30, 2008, correspondent Lesley Stahl oozed about former vice president Al Gore: "Since he lost the election, Al Gore has become a certified celebrity, a popular prophet of global warming." In the introduction to the segment, Stahl proclaimed: "When Al Gore ran for president in 2000, he was often ridiculed as inauthentic and wooden. Today, he is passionate and animated, a man transformed." Stahl later observed about the chances of Gore brokering a deal between Obama and Hillary Clinton before the convention: "He's not ruling it out, but he says he already has a job -- as he puts it, P.R. agent for the planet." Stahl barely asked questions, beyond imploring Tipper Gore to explain how her husband had changed.

The most notable part came when she suggested Dick Cheney had conveyed skepticism about global warming: "We don't know what causes it and why spend all this money till we really, really know?" Gore responded: "I think that those people are in such a tiny, tiny minority now with their point of view. They're almost like the ones who still believe that the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the Earth is flat. That demeans them a little bit, but it's not that far off." Stahl offered no reaction and no follow-up. Her next sentence: "What Al Gore has set out to do is mobilize a big, popular movement, worldwide. And his winning the Nobel Peace Prize hasn't hurt, since it's given him more stature and prestige."

When President Bush granted an interview to Scott Pelley that aired on January 14, 2007, Pelley was throwing hardballs: “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? ....No 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 and $60 billion, and now we're over $400.  Bush said “I got you. I got you. I got you.” Pelley replied: “But the perception, sir, more than any one of those points is the administration has not been straight with us.” Bush strongly disagreed, and they talked about Iraq being unstable. Pelley shot back: “But wasn't it your administration that created the instability in Iraq? Bush said: “Well, our administration took care of a source of instability in Iraq. Envision a world in which Saddam Hussein was rushing for a nuclear weapon to compete against Iran. If--my decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the correct decision in my judgment. But he is a -- he was a significant source of instability.” Pelley insisted: “It's much more unstable now, Mr. President.”

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