Couric Has Cushy Chat with Biden, Will She Be as Warm with Palin?

If Katie Couric is to be consistent and treat Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, whom Couric is scheduled to interview this week, as gently as she did Democratic VP nominee Joe Biden in her day with him Thursday in Ohio which became a story on the Monday night CBS Evening News, she will (Couric quotes from the Biden story in the parentheses):

♦ Not apply any ideological label: (“We decided to take a closer look at the 65-year-old Senator from Delaware.”)

♦ Hail her outspokenness: (“You say what's on your mind and I think people appreciate that.”)

♦ Ignore obvious factual/historical flubs: (Biden: “When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on television...”) FDR was not in office at the time of the 1929 crash and his "fireside chats" were on the radio.
♦ Relay as reality positive campaign spin about her attributes: (“Relating to the fears of the average American is one of Biden's strong suits.”)
♦ Cue up campaign rally attendees to praise her: (“What was it about what he said that really resonated with you in particular?” Answers: “I think he expressed what most working Americans feel at the moment. He seems to relate to our pain.” and “I want him in office because I believe he will do things for women.”)

♦ Empathize with the challenge she faces at the upcoming debate: (“Are you worried you're going to have to pull your punches a bit because of her gender and you don't want to seem like you're bullying her? It's a different dynamic when it's a male/female thing, isn't it?”)

♦ And if she repudiates a McCain-Palin TV ad, CBS and Couric will not jump to publicize the internal dispute and wait until the story airs to mention it late in the story, then give her the last word to say the other campaign's ads are worse:
(“Are you disappointed with the tone of the campaign? The 'lipstick on the pig' stuff, and some of the ads -- you guys haven't been completely guilt-free, making fun of John McCain's inability to use a computer.” Biden: “I thought that was terrible, by the way....I didn't know we did it and if I had anything to do with it, we would have never done it....I don't think there was anything intentional about that....That's very different than deliberately taking a vote Barack Obama had to teach children about how to deal with child-predators and saying he was teaching them sex education in kindergarten.”)

The “Katie Couric Reports” story, “Joe Biden: Behind the Scenes,” on the Monday, September 22 CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: The way it usually works, after the conventions the nominees for Vice President usually fade into the background, but not this year. The choice of Sarah Palin has focused a lot of attention on the number-two spot on both tickets. Joe Biden spoke today to the National Guard Association and said the Guard should have a greater voice at the Pentagon, noting more than half the Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are guardsmen and reservists.

We decided to take a closer look at the 65-year-old Senator from Delaware, the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and his new role as a vice presidential candidate as he stumped for votes in the swing state of Ohio.

ANNOUNCER AT CAMPAIGN EVENT: The next Vice President of the United States, Senator Joe Biden!

COURIC: He's the close-talking, free-wheeling, ice-cream eating Democratic nominee for Vice President. Senator Joe Biden isn't holding back.

COURIC TO BIDEN ON A BUS: You say what's on your mind and I think people appreciate that. Have you found that you have to be uber-careful and disciplined in terms of being out on the campaign trail?

BIDEN: No. I feel passionately about what I'm doing and saying. I know the Republicans are going to take anything I say, no matter what it would be or anybody, and take it out of context. They're going to take any piece and if I have to parse through every single thing that I'm going to say, then I'm not me.

COURIC: On the trail, Biden is unmistakably himself, from occasionally cursing to getting emotional, as he did in Canton, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We were with him last Thursday during one of the rockiest weeks in history for the U.S. economy, something that wasn't lost on the six-term Senator.

BIDEN: Part of what a leader does is to instill confidence, is demonstrate that he or she knows what they're talking about and to communicates to people. If you listen to me and follow what I'm suggesting, we can fix this. When the stock market crashed, Franklin Roosevelt got on television and didn't just talk about the, you know, princes of greed. He said, “look, here's what happened.”

COURIC: Relating to the fears of the average American is one of Biden's strong suits-

BIDEN AT CAMPAIGN EVENT: If I sound angry, it's because I'm angry.

COURIC: -as he did recently with these union members in Akron.

BIDEN: I started my career in the Iron Workers hall in Ellsburg, Delaware.

COURIC: It's something that comes easily for this son of a car salesman from Scranton, Pennsylvania.

COURIC TO PEOPLE IN AUDIENCE: What was it about what he said that really resonated with you in particular?

MAN: This is where the true middle class is Akron, Ohio.

SECOND MAN: I think he expressed what most working Americans feel at the moment. He seems to relate to our pain.

WOMAN: I want him in office because I believe he will do things for women.

COURIC: In fact, women, who usually lean Democratic, have suddenly become one of the most coveted voting blocs of this election.

COURIC TO BIDEN: Polls show that Senator McCain and Sarah Palin are making some inroads among white female voters who are less educated.

BIDEN: I don't believe that. Every election people are making up their minds later and later because there's more and more at stake. You know, everybody should just be a little patient here. Eventually Sarah Palin is gonna have to let people know what she thinks, what her record is.

COURIC: How's it going preparing for the debates?

BIDEN: It's kind of hard to prepare, because I don't know what she thinks. There's been no, I just don't know a lot about her, so therefore I'm assuming; I have to assume for purposes of the debate she agrees with John on everything.

COURIC: Are you worried you're going to have to pull your punches a bit because of her gender and you don't want to seem like you're bullying her? It's a different dynamic when it's a male/female thing, isn't it?

BIDEN: I don't know, is it? We're sitting here doing it right now, aren't we? Look, all kidding aside, maybe it's a generational thing but I don't start this thing thinking “Oh my God, this is a woman, I better treat her differently.”

COURIC: But the way the campaigns are treating each other is raising some eyebrows.

McCAIN AD: Learning about sex before learning to read?

COURIC: Especially from two candidates who pledged to take the high road.

OBAMA AD: He admits he still doesn't know how to use a computer.

COURIC TO BIDEN: Are you disappointed with the tone of the campaign? The “lipstick on the pig” stuff, and some of the ads -- you guys haven't been completely guilt-free, making fun of John McCain's inability to use a computer.

BIDEN: I thought that was terrible, by the way.
COURIC: Why'd you do it then?

BIDEN: I didn't know we did it and if I had anything to do with it, we would have never done it. And I don't think Barack, you know. I just think that was-

COURIC: Did Obama approve that ad? He said he did, right?
BIDEN: The answer is I don't think there was anything intentional about that. They were trying to make another point. That's very different than deliberately taking a vote Barack Obama had to teach children about how to deal with child-predators and saying he was teaching them sex education in kindergarten. Very different in degree.

The CBSNews.com version, with video. The online story text is markedly different from what aired.

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