Obama appears on FOX News Sunday
Reported by Chrish - April 27, 2008 -
Barack Obama appeared on FOX News Sunday this morning 4/27/08, silencing the gimmicky (but apparently effective) clock that counted the days Chris Wallace waited for him. The questions were framed with negative terms, immediately putting the candidate on the defensive about recent primary losses to Senator Clinton. To be fair and balanced, the host and his panel went after Clinton later in the show, detailing why she can't win the nomination. So two extraordinarily tough and popular Democratic candidates are portrayed as a couple of losers.
Update: Video added below.
Wallace's questions included "Your defeat in Pennsylvania raises new questions about your candidacy, and especially about some of the 'pillars' of the Democratic base;" he went on to detail percentages in specific demographics, according to exit polls. The actual question posed to Obama was "Why are you having such trouble convincing white working-class voters that you're their guy?"
Obama replied that Clinton was well ahead of him in PA and Ohio and he closed the gap, and pointed out that he won those demographics in Wyoming, Iowa, and Virginia. In a general election, he said, her voters will largely vote for him when the debate is about how we'll deal with issues important to working-class voters.
Wallace's negative response to that was "But some observers (some say) and some liberal observers (Clinton supporters say) that part of your problem is that you come off as a former law professor who talks about transforming politics, when the lunch-bucket crowd really wants to know what you're going to do for them. Bob Herbert, a columnist for the New York Times, who happens to be a black man, says Hillary Clinton seems tougher than you do." As Obama was answering that that type of analysis is jsut politics, and he has done well across the board with people who want an end to lines and divisiveness, Wallace interrupted to repeat the losing margins in those demographics he mentioned earlier and ask if that doesn't trouble Obama, doesn't he think he might need a different or new message?
Obama gave it right back, saying what he's been doing has been successful and he's been winning states like Idaho and Colorado, not just places with black voters or chablis-drinkin' limousine liberals (said with a short laugh).
Wallace brought up exit-polling based on race and asked "...isn't there still a racial divide in this country that's going to make it very hard for you to get elected president?" Obama cited general election polls that have him doing better against McCain than Clinton, and summed up that although race is absolutely still a factor in our society, he doesn't see it as the deciding factor in the general election.
Wallace said he "wasn't even sure if he was going to ask about (Obama's) former pastor Jeremiah Wright," (ROFL, suure he wasn't!) but now since he's "begun this public campaign to redeem his reputation" (that FOX News has so relentlessly trashed - as I write this Greg Kelly is on with some fringe right-winger trashing the Moyers' interview), and showed a clip from Friday night's Journal where Wright said, about the smear campaign, "I felt it was unfair. I felt it was unjust. I felt it was untrue. I felt for those who were doing that, were doing it for some very devious reasons." Wallace asked if Obama was just the victim here? Obama replied that No, people were legitimately offended by some of the comments, and the fact that he is (my) former pastor makes it a legitimate political issue. But taking thirty-second sound-bites out of a thirty-year career simplified and caricatured him and the church, and that was done in a fairly deliberate way. He repeated that he has denounced those snippets and wasn't present when they were made, but defended his going to that church as a place of worship and an institution that has performed outstanding work in its ministries.
Obama said he did not think the issue of Wright was illegitimate, but the way it was "reported" was not an accurate reflection of the church or who he (Obama) is. He extended the reporting complaint to the flag-pin issue and clarified that he has and will again wear a lapel pin, and repeated (for the FOX audience who never probably heard it in the first place) that he was merely saying that some politicians wear one while not behaving in particularly patriotic way.
Wallace next brought William Ayers, ("the former '60's radical") into the line-up, saying that Obama had said he was no more responsible for Ayers' actions than he was for statements made by his friend Senator Tom Colburn (R-OK), who has suggested the death penalty appropriate for abortion providers. He asked Obama "Do you really see a moral equivalency between what Ayers did and what Colburn said?" Talk about spin! Obama said of course not, and clarified that just because he knows someone, worked with them, and interacted with them, doesn't mean he's endorsing them. Wallace tried to press the comparison, "apples and oranges," but Obama reiterated that just because he has an association does not mean he agrees or endorses the other person. He made the point that he has Republican friends and associates, and has worked with people from the religious right, yet the focus is on this one person; nobody is accusing him of holding the same beliefs as them.
After the break, Wallace said that although Obama presents himself as a "uniter" who will reach cross the aisle, some of his detractors call him a "paint by the numbers liberal." Wallace noted that over the years John McCain has risked his career by going against his party on issues like campaign finance, immigration reform, and banning torture.
Comment: Wallace did NOT note that McCain has flip-flopped on every one of those issues as concessions to the Republican base as he began his bid for the White House: he has said he would not support his own immigration reform if it came up for vote in the Senate, voted against a bill that requires the CIA to abide by rules set out in the Army Field Manual on Interrogation (it passed anyway), and the vaunted "McCain-Feingold-Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill lost its maverick namesake in 2006.
Disengenuously portraying McCain as someone not beholden to party politics, Wallace then asked Obama to name an issue on which he'd be willing to cross party lines and say "Republicans have a better idea." Obama said regulation from the top down is not always the most effective, and said setting rules and guidelines could be enough, allowing industries to figure out the details themselves. He used controlling pollution as an example, "cap and trade" specifically. On education, he said we should be experimenting with charter schools and teacher compensation, rewarding excellence.
Wallace interupted, and brought up three issues (the "gang of fourteen" , (so-called) "partial birth abortion", and (so-called) "Defense of Marriage act,") issues on which Obama stayed on the left. So, says Wallace, "people say" does Obama "really want a partnership with Republicans, or (does he) really want unconditional surrender from them?" Sigh. Obama countered with situations (defending colleagues who voted for John Roberts and voting for a tort reform measure) when he was severely criticized by the left.
Wallace spoke next about Obama's proposals, totaling $662 billion, and worried, from the Republican point of view, that although he's promised not to raise taxes on the middle class he will raise the cap on Social Security contributions and will increase the capital gains tax. McCain would certainly go after him as another liberal tax-and-spender in the general election. Obama laughed and redirected the concerns to McCain, who has promised to extend the Bush tax cuts for the very wealthy and corporations, without saying how he is going to pay for that. He was able to cite another McCain flip-flop, his 2001 excoriation of the Bush tax cuts "during a time of war" and his current stance - "his conscience took flight" as McCain decided to run for president.
The third and final segment focused on foreign policy. Wallace asked if Obama would vote for General Petraeus, who has been nominated to be head of US Central COmmand (reward for a job well done). Yes, he will. He admires Petraeus' handling of tactical events in Iraq but he also was an admireer of Admiral Fallon.
Comment: Wallace said Petraeus was the architect of the troop surge, giving credit where none was due. Although Petraeus implemented and oversaw the escalation (I think, a year later, we can stop pretending it was a temporary measure), the architects were the same old PNAC neo-cons, with AEI's Frederick Kagan the chief ass-whisperer.
Wallace posed the hypothetical, if Obama was Commander-in-Chief and Petraeus said leaving Iraq would be a mistake, would he listen to him? Of course he would - it would be stupid not to - but as president, it would be his job to set the mission. He would put the Iraqi government on notice and not allow them to continue to put our foreign policy on ice while they dither.
Going to a "lightening round," Wallace reverted to the current campaign:
Why are you ducking another debate with Hillary Clinton? Are you open to Hillary as running mate, with places on the ticket to be determined? If the superdelegates hand the nomination to Clinton, will the young and black voters Obama's brought in be angry? Is it true you're prepared to run the first privately financed campaign since Watergate? What have you learned from this campaign?
After this lengthy interview, safely back in the studio with the editors working on the tapes from Indiana, the FOX panel (Brit Hume, Juan Williams, Mara Liasson, and Bill Kristol) dissected the interview.
Programming note: It appeared from off-hand comments that the interview took place on the road, in Indiana where Obama is campaigning. Nice to know that although he agreed to be interviewed at least he made them come to him.
(These videos are posted by RealClearPolitics.com. Until I get a chance to watch them I am going to assume they are complete and unedited. The videos are imprinted with a website that is run by a conservative, albeit one who can apparently recognize that FOX supports a Republican administration rather than traditional conservative values.