Walters Hits Bush & Obama from Left, Frets Obama Won't Tax the Rich Soon Enough

In the interview for Wednesday’s Barbara Walters Special on ABC with Barack and Michelle Obama, excerpts of which were also shown on Wednesday’s World News with Charles Gibson, there was an obvious contrast with Walters’s interview with then-President-elect Bush in January 2001. After having pressed Bush with complaints from liberals about his choice of John Ashcroft as Attorney General, as she claimed that Ashcroft was "not considered a friend to civil rights," Walters this time not only failed to challenge Obama from the right in any of her questions, but she actually pressed him from the left as well as she seemed to fret about how long America has to wait for him to raise taxes on the rich. Walters: "During the campaign, there was a central and consistent theme of yours to raise taxes on people earning over $250,000 a year. Now, it seems there’s a little waffling on that. When are you going to do it?"

While introducing Michelle Obama for the second half hour of the special, Walters invoked President Kennedy’s family as she effused: "The Obamas harken back to another First Family, with their youthful embodiment of style, substance, and hope." But earlier, at the top of the program, she had taken a shot President Bush as "one of the most unpopular Presidents in modern history" and suggested that it is not "an exaggeration to say that the fate of the nation is riding on [Obama’s] shoulders." Walters: "In only 55 days, Barack Obama will replace one of the most unpopular Presidents in modern history. He will inherit two wars and an economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression. Tonight, as families across our country gather for the Thanksgiving holiday, there is a sense of unease and a hope that someone can restore confidence and leadership. Although Barack Obama insists we have only one President at a time, some say that fear and financial uncertainty have forced him into the unprecedented role of a shadow President, even before he has taken the oath of office. Perhaps it would not be an exaggeration to say that the fate of the nation is riding on his shoulders."

During her 2001 discussion with Bush, after asking him if he expected Ashcroft to be such a "lightning rod" for criticism, to which Bush answered in the affirmative, Walters seemed to chide him: "And you did it anyway even though you talk about wanting to unite?"

She went on to declare that Ashcroft was "not considered a friend to civil rights." Walters:" He’s not considered a friend to civil rights, he’s been against court ordered desegregation. The big question is, can an Attorney General enforce federal laws and protect rights that he personally, vigorously, opposes?"

Below is a transcript of the excerpts that were shown on the Wednesday, November 26, World News with Charles Gibson, followed by additional noteworthy portions of the same night’s Barbara Walters Special:

#From the November 26 World News with Charles Gibson on ABC, substitute hosted by George Stephanopoulos:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: The economy, of course, is one of the top issues the President-elect discussed with Barbara Walters in her exclusive interview airing tonight on ABC. And Barbara is here with us now to share part of that conversation. From what I saw, Barbara, the President-elect seemed to be in pretty good spirits.

BARBARA WALTERS: He is confident, but, George, he is very aware of how much he has on his plate. I sat down with President-elect Obama for over an hour yesterday evening in Chicago. In a wide-ranging interview that covered the status of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the state of the economy, and the cabinet and staff he's assembling, the President-elect made it very clear that he's concerned about the two-month lapse between now and when he can take action as President. As you prepare to lead the country, what is your biggest fear?

BARACK OBAMA: There are a lot of things that keep me up at night.

WALTERS: Yeah.

OBAMA: And one of the concerns I have is that the economy is so weakened that the next 60 days are, are going to be difficult, because we've got a President who, even though he may mean well, is now sort of in lame duck status, Congress isn't in, and I don't have the reins of power. But what we can also do is to try to instill in the American people a sense of confidence that help is on the way, that somebody's going to be thinking about the fact that you're losing your home, that somebody’s going to be working on making sure that, if you are at risk of losing your job, that there are plans in place to secure that job.

WALTERS: So what you’re saying is, "Hang in there"?

OBAMA: Absolutely.

WALTERS: How did you feel when you read about the three heads of the auto companies taking private planes to Washington?

OBAMA: Well, I thought maybe they were a little tone deaf to what's happening in America right now. When people are pulling down hundred billion dollar, hundred million dollar bonuses on Wall Street, and taking enormous risks with other people's money, that indicates a sense that you don't have any perspective on what's happening to ordinary Americans.

WALTERS: Are there sacrifices that Americans as individuals can do?

OBAMA; Yes. The first thing, I think, is for the American people to draw on that reservoir of confidence and stick-to-it-ness and perseverance that my grandparents had during much tougher times during the Great Depression. To feel confident that we're going to get through these times. But each of us have a role to play, in not being wasteful when it comes to energy. For us to turn off the lights when we leave the house, to make sure that we're unplugging the chargers that we use on our cell phones. Buying a fuel efficient car, making sure that the tire pressure is proper so that we're not using as much gasoline. All those things add up, can make an enormous difference.

WALTERS: You talk about light bulbs and so forth. When you're in the White House, are you going to green the White House? You’re going to turn off the light bulbs, tell the kids to turn them, you know?

OBAMA: Absolutely. One of the things I want to do is to, I've already met the chief usher, and one of the things I want to do is to sit down with him and, let's do an evaluation. How are we using energy in the White House? Now, you know, I don't want to, part of what I want to do is to show the American people that it's not that hard.

WALTERS: Are you going to tiptoe around at night and turn out the lights?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I'm not going to be obsessive about it, but I do that in my current house. There’s no reason why I wouldn’t do it in my next one.

WALTERS: Well, he has a few more lights to turn off in this next one. When I finished my conversation with the President-elect, we were then joined by his wife Michelle, and we talked about everything from the theme of his inaugural address to concerns about his safety, to the chores they expect their children to do in the white house. George, this couple clearly enjoys each other's company. As you will see tonight, they were very candid and very funny.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Barack Obama funny?

WALTERS: He says that he does have a sense of humor, but hers is better.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can’t wait to see. Barbara’s special airs at 10 tonight, 9 Central.

#From the November 26 Barbara Walters Special on ABC:

BARBARA WALTERS: Good evening. In only 55 days, Barack Obama will replace one of the most unpopular Presidents in modern history. He will inherit two wars and an economic crisis not seen since the Great Depression. Tonight, as families across our country gather for the Thanksgiving holiday, there is a sense of unease and a hope that someone can restore confidence and leadership. Although Barack Obama insists we have only one President at a time, some say that fear and financial uncertainty have forced him into the unprecedented role of a shadow President, even before he has taken the oath of office. Perhaps it would not be an exaggeration to say that the fate of the nation is riding on his shoulders.

...

10:04 p.m.

You have said that Americans don’t expect miracles from you, but many of them, indeed, do. You’re expected to cure the economy, and to save the planet, and to do it quickly. Are you concerned that expectations might be too high for you?

10:08 p.m.

During the campaign, there was a central and consistent theme of yours to raise taxes on people earning over $250,000 a year. Now, it seems there’s a little waffling on that. When are you going to do it?

...

After Obama brought up the importance of Americans trying not to waste energy, Walters asked:

You talk about light bulbs and so forth. When you’re in the White House, are you going to (?) the White House? Are you going to turn off the light bulbs, tell the kids to turn the, you know?

After Obama talked about re-evaluating how the White House uses energy, Walters responded:

Are you going to tip-toe around at night and turn off the lights?

...

10:15 p.m.

You know, the primary theme of your campaign, of course, was "change" and new ideas, but a lot of the people on your team are former Clinton people, former Clinton insiders, so some people say, "What happened to change?"

...

Walters introduced the second half hour which focused on the relationship between Barack and Michelle Obama, and their expectations on raising their children in the White House:

WALTERS: The Obamas harken back to another First Family, with their youthful embodiment of style, substance, and hope. And at the epicenter, the woman the President-elect calls:

BARACK OBAMA CLIP FROM SPEECH: The rock of our family, the love of my life, the nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama.

#From the Wednesday, January 17, 2001, World News Tonight on ABC:

BARBARA WALTERS: Did you expect him to be as much of a lightning rod?

GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes.

WALTERS: You really did. And you did it anyway even though you talk about wanting to unite.

BUSH: It doesn’t mean we can’t unite the nation once we put somebody in place who can do the job as Attorney General.

WALTERS: He’s not considered a friend to civil rights, he’s been against court ordered desegregation. The big question is, can an Attorney General enforce federal laws and protect rights that he personally, vigorously, opposes?

BUSH: Yes. His job is going to be to enforce the laws and there’s no question in my mind he will. I know there’s a lot of people out there hollering, mainly voices of special interests in Washington. That’s what they’re paid to do. And they’re paid to create noise and emotion, but John is a steady hand who will do a fine job.