Kroft Pushes Obama to Agree U.S. in 1930s-Like Depression

60 Minutes viewers got better economic rationality Sunday night from President-elect Barack Obama than from the journalist who interviewed him. CBS's Steve Kroft proposed: “People are comparing this to 1932. Is that a valid comparison, do you think?” Obama didn't accept the comparison: “Well, keep in mind that 1932, 1933 the unemployment rate was 25 percent, inching up to 30 percent. You had a third of the country that was ill housed, ill clothed...” But Kroft wouldn't let go of trying to paint the America of 2008 as dire as 1932. Eight minutes later in the interview, when Obama related how he was reading briefing papers and had read about Abraham Lincoln putting political rivals in his cabinet, Kroft returned to the Depression: “Have you been reading anything about the Depression? Anything about FDR?”

In between in the generally light and friendly interview centered on getting Obama to outline his plans, Kroft cued up Obama to reiterate his campaign promises, such as: “How high a priority are you placing on re-regulation of the financial markets?” Kroft also pressed Obama to say whether he will “take early action” to issue executive orders “to shutdown Guantanamo Bay” and “change interrogation methods that are used by U.S. troops?”

Some portions of the interview, taped Friday in Chicago, with Obama (which, along with segments with both Barack Obama and Michelle Obama, consumed the entire November 16 edition of 60 Minutes):
KROFT: People are comparing this to 1932.

OBAMA: Right.

KROFT: Is that a valid comparison, do you think?

OBAMA: Well, keep in mind that 1932, 1933 the unemployment rate was 25 percent, inching up to 30 percent. You had a third of the country that was ill housed, ill clothed, unemployed. We're not going through something comparable to that. But I would say that this is as bad as we've seen since then. And if we don't take some significant steps then it could get worse.

....

KROFT: How high a priority are you placing on re-regulation of the financial markets?

OBAMA: I think it's a top priority.

.....

KROFT: There are a number of different things that you could do early pertaining to executive orders. One of them is to shutdown Guantanamo Bay. Another is to change interrogation methods that are used by U.S. troops. Are those things that you plan to take early action on?

OBAMA: Yes. I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I've said repeatedly that America doesn't torture. And I'm gonna make sure that we don't torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America's moral stature in the world.

.....

KROFT: Have you been reading anything about the Depression? Anything about FDR?

OBAMA: You know, I have actually. There's a new book out about FDR's first hundred days and what you see in FDR that I hope my team can emulate, is not always getting it right, but projecting a sense of confidence, and a willingness to try things. And experiment in order to get people working again.
CBSNews.com online transcript with video to be posted at 11 PM EST Sunday night.
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