While Hyping Obama's Trip, CBS Notes 'Blistering Critiques' of 'Liberal Media' from 'Conservative Blogosphere'

Toward the end of the lead story on Friday's CBS Evening News about Barack Obama embarking on a trip to the Middle East and Europe, Jeff Greenfield acknowledged: “This saturation coverage has already led the conservative blogosphere to offer blistering critiques of a liberal media slavishly treating Obama as a pop star.” But, Greenfield assured anchor Katie Couric, who, along with Brian Williams and Charles Gibson, will accompany Obama, “the sheer presence of media in no way guarantees favorable coverage. In some ways, it makes the possibility of a misstep that much more dangerous.” That prompted a worried Couric to wonder: “What do you think is the biggest potential landmine for him?”

When Greenfield advised that Obama “doesn't have to equal McCain” in foreign policy expertise, “he just has to make voters seem like he's okay, he knows what he's talking about,” Couric chirped in: “Especially if he draws big crowds, right? That might help him as well.” Greenfield insisted: “I think the sight of an American politician being cheered in Europe at this stage would probably be welcomed by most Americans.” Couric had cheerily led her newscast:
Good evening, everyone. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, is about to begin a major overseas tour designed to bolster his foreign policy and national security resume, and help him be seen as a credible Commander-in-Chief and potential leader of the free world...

Following her discussion with Greenfield, Couric boasted: “We'll have the fist one-on-one interview with Senator Obama after he leaves Iraq.”

In a July 17 Washington Post story, "3 Anchors to Follow Obama's Trek Abroad," Howard Kurtz pointed out: “John McCain has taken three foreign trips in the past four months, all unaccompanied by a single network anchor.”

ABC's World News and the NBC Nightly News on Friday evening ran stories on Obama's trip, but didn't lead with it. ABC began with “soaring air fares” and NBC with talk about time targets for when troops might leave Iraq.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript from the top of the Friday, July 18 CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC, IN OPENING TEASER: Tonight, Barack Obama stepping onto the international stage for the first time since he clinched the Democratic nomination. A high-stakes tour that will take him to two war zones, as John McCain challenges his war judgment.

JOHN MCCAIN: He said the surge wouldn’t work.
....

COURIC: Good evening, everyone. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for President, is about to begin a major overseas tour designed to bolster his foreign policy and national security resume, and help him be seen as a credible Commander-in-Chief and potential leader of the free world. Senator Obama will be visiting two countries where America is at war: Iraq and Afghanistan. He'll also make stops in Israel and Jordan and in Europe. He'll talk with the leaders of Britain, France, and Germany. Our senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield tells us there is a lot riding on this trip.

JEFF GREENFIELD: A traveling candidate is a familiar sight, of course, but Senator Obama's next trip is different from any trip any candidate has ever taken, with profound political possibilities and pitfalls. On the first leg of the trip, to two war zones, Obama is expected to meet with U.S. and Iraqi military leaders, including the commander on the ground, General Petraeus. Which poses a challenge: How to navigate between Obama's pledge to end the war and a successful surge he once opposed. McCain raised that question today.

JOHN MCCAIN: He opposed the surge, he said the surge wouldn't work, and fails to acknowledge that it's working today.

GREENFIELD: The second part of Obama's trip will be a campaign-funded visit to Europe and the Middle East. He'll meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, walking a fragile diplomatic tightrope.

JOE TRIPPI, CBS NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: This is a high-stakes game for Obama. He doesn't want to make any mistakes. Certainly, if he does make one, make a statement that causes a problem, it will be a huge one.

GREENFIELD: But with voters concerned about the freshman Senator's foreign policy and national security experience, Obama has little choice but to take the overseas gamble to shore up his credentials. For its part, the McCain camp was on the attack with a new ad.

CLIP OF AD: He hasn't been to Iraq in years. Now, Obama is changing to help himself become President.

GREENFIELD: There's little question that throughout this trip Senator Obama will be walking a fine line.

TRIPPI: You want to look presidential, but you don't want to look like you're President. That could be presumptuous, and it could backfire here with the electorate.

GREENFIELD: This saturation coverage has already led the conservative blogosphere to offer blistering critiques of a liberal media slavishly treating Obama as a pop star. But, of course, Katie, the sheer presence of media in no way guarantees favorable coverage. In some ways, it makes the possibility of a misstep that much more dangerous.

COURIC: Of course, he does, as you mention, have to walk some tightropes. What do you think is the biggest potential landmine for him?

GREENFIELD: You know, I think it's everything from an untoward photo opportunity -- Dukakis in a tank -- to a misstatement that makes it seem to critics that he really does not know the nature of the terrain that he's talking about.

COURIC: And while the political benefits are many, i.e., you know, visuals of him appearing statesmanlike with a variety of world leaders, can a single trip wipe out the perception in the minds of some that he lacks the credentials in foreign policy?

GREENFIELD: Assuming he doesn't come back with a Mideast peace plan that everybody signs on to, which is unlikely, no, but it can neutralize the fears. He doesn't have to equal McCain in that stature, he just has to make voters seem like he’s okay, he knows what he's talking about.

COURIC: Especially if he draws big crowds, right? That might help him as well.

GREENFIELD: I think the sight of an American politician being cheered in Europe at this stage would probably be welcomed by most Americans.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center