Couric & Williams Paint Obama as 'Culture of Washington' Victim

All of the broadcast and cable network anchors challenged President Barack Obama in some questions during their Tuesday afternoon Oval Office interview sessions, but CBS's Katie Couric and NBC's Brian Williams also painted Obama as a victim of Washington's culture which forced HHS Secretary nominee Tom Daschle's withdrawal. “You campaigned to change the culture in Washington, to change the politics as usual culture here,” Couric noted as she empathized: “Are you frustrated? Do you think it is much, much harder to do that than you ever anticipated?”

Williams noted “you lost two nominees, two appointments today,” so, as if Obama were an uninvolved casualty of unfairness: “Did that make you angry, I imagine?” Echoing Couric, Williams fretted: “How do you prevent the lesson from being that, no matter how lofty the goals of the new guy coming in, Washington wins, in the end?” Maybe it was just following the law and paying a penalty for avoiding taxes which won in the end.

Expressing disappointment with how Obama allowed the Daschle withdrawal to hurt one of Obama's left-wing policy goals, CNN's Anderson Cooper, in an excerpt run during the 6 PM EST hour of The Situation Room, rued: “Explain what happened today. Tom Daschle. You've let one of the most important domestic issues, which is health care, get caught up in what looks, to many Americans, like politics as usual.”

During a piece on Daschle's withdrawal which preceded the Cooper/Obama interview excerpt, CNN displayed on screen:

STUNNING SETBACK TO HEALTH REFORM
(In contrast, to Couric and Williams, ABC's Charles Gibson held Obama accountable for the nominees who failed to pay all the taxes they owed: “But there's more of a problem than just Daschle, and you're the one, in your inaugural speech, who talked about an era of responsibility. You've now got three major appointees who, it turns out, haven't paid all their taxes. What kind of a message does that send about responsibility?”)

On the stimulus, NBC's Williams sympathized with how the bill is being “hacked to death” by those who don't appreciate how the full package is made up of many valuable parts:
Is it tougher to make the case that this enormous package is more like a million little things? Is it getting hacked to death as you watch?
All the questions posed by Williams, in the portion shown on the Tuesday, February 3 NBC Nightly News, as collated by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth:
- Philadelphia Inquirer today: “Surely, President Obama can find qualified people to serve in his cabinet who aren’t hustling to write overdue checks to the IRS. You lost two nominees, two appointments today. Did that make you angry, I imagine?

- How do you prevent the lesson from being that, no matter how lofty the goals of the new guy coming in, Washington wins, in the end?

- Mr. President, how do you make the case to American families who are losing jobs today, right now, and hurting -- and those who aren’t are worried -- that you’ve got something for them, that a big, enormous stimulus package is either going to save their job, get them a job, or generally help their lot in life, and, meantime, they see the federal government buying up bad banks?

- For all the provisions that you just chose to outline, there are others like the one Senator McConnell was mocking today, subsidy for Hollywood film makers. Is it tougher to make the case that this enormous package is more like a million little things? Is it getting hacked to death as you watch?

- Among the levers your enemies on the Hill are using is, about this personnel matter. This is from Howard Fineman, Newsweek magazine, MSNBC last evening: “If they keep saying,” they, the Obama White House, “that all these people deserve special treatment because they’re indispensable -- ‘Geithner is indispensable’ -- it begins to sound not only hypocritical, but elitist. It’s like there are rules for everybody else, and then there are rules for indispensable people, and that’s exactly the opposite of the grassroots message that he,” meaning you, Mr. President, “came here with.”
All of the quotes/assessments above in this item are based on what aired on the evening newscasts, not the full interviews, which were not much longer than what aired. Links to what the networks have posted online:

ABC News: Article and video of Charles Gibson with Obama.

CBS News: Transcript and video of Katie Couric with Obama.

NBC News: Video of entire interview Brian Williams conducted with Obama.

CNN: Video clips posted of Anderson Cooper with Obama. (More will air on Tuesday's Anderson Cooper: 360.)

FNC: Video of Chris Wallace's session with Obama. A substantial excerpt ran at the top of Special Report with Bret Baier.
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