Williams Connects FDR's 'Fireside Chats' to Obama

Brian Williams certainly has an affinity for FDR. Four months after suggesting the nation could “use a little FDR right about now,” though Rooselvelt's policies failed to end the Depression, on Thursday night he connected the obscure 76th anniversary of Roosevelt's first “fireside chat” in 1933 to President Barack Obama's efforts to fix the economy:
76 years ago today, President Franklin Roosevelt summoned radio news microphones to a desk next to a fireplace in the Oval Room of the White House, and the fireside chat was born. He wanted to talk to the nation about the economy and the banks. And here we are 76 years later, in the midst of another deep and wide economic crisis. For President Obama, it remains job one in this different era.
Reporter Savannah Guthrie at the White House touted how before a Business Roundtable gathering Obama “really sought to engage them” as he assured the attendees: “I'm a serious free enterpriser and we'll return the markets to free enterprise once this is over.” Guthrie highlighted what she saw as a “a really interesting moment today where the Chairman of CitiGroup... asked the President, 'hey, you're confidence builder in chief, can you give us some confidence?' Well the President did that...”

My November 29 NewsBusters item, “Brian Williams: 'Could We Use a Little FDR Right About Now?'” recounted:
Working on the day after Thanksgiving, Brian Williams used Friday's NBC Nightly News to promote a new book from FDR's grandson, providing Williams with an opportunity to propose: "In your estimation, could we use a little FDR right about now?" Though Franklin Delano Roosevelt's policies failed to end the Depression, Williams hailed him as "the man who led this nation out of financial disaster." Conceding "we can no longer talk to him," as if we'd benefit from doing so, Williams trumpeted how "tonight we think we have about the next best thing" in FDR's grandson, Curtis, who "lives in the south of France after a career with the UN."

Williams cued up Roosevelt, "I know you've been asked for comment along these lines lately: In your estimation, could we use a little FDR right about now?" Roosevelt naturally agreed as he recalled "FDR is credited with a fantastic list of legislative achievements," but "to me, his achievement in conveying confidence and hope to the American people was far more important" and so "I hope Obama picks it up" and will "convey to the American public that they have to join him in coping with this recession."
From the Thursday, March 12 NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: 76 years ago today, President Franklin Roosevelt summoned radio news microphones to a desk next to a fireplace in the Oval Room of the White House, and the fireside chat was born. He wanted to talk to the nation about the economy and the banks. And here we are 76 years later, in the midst of another deep and wide economic crisis. For President Obama, it remains job one in this different era. Late today he had to sell it to a tough audience. Savannah Guthrie with us tonight from the White House. Savannah, good evening.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Hey, Brian. Well, the President spoke to CEOs at a business roundtable today. He's looking to engage the business community, who let's face it is a little bit skeptical of some of his proposals, particularly on tax increases, his plans to cap carbon emissions. And so he really sought to engage them, doing a q and a, and telling them, “Look, this is an extraordinary crisis that we're going through, it requires serious government intervention.” But he wanted to tell them, “I'm a serious free enterpriser and we'll return the markets to free enterprise once this is over.” And there was a really interesting moment today where the Chairman of CitiGroup, which has gotten three government bailouts by the way, asked the President, “hey, you're confidence builder in chief, can you give us some confidence?” Well the President did that and then tried to put all of this in perspective.

BARACK OBAMA: A smidgen of good news and suddenly everything's doing great. A little bit of bad news, oh we're down in the dumps. And I am obviously an object of this constantly varying assessment. I'm the object in chief of this varying assessment.

GUTHRIE: Well, the President has been making a concerted effort to set a more reassuring tone and get members of his economic team out there talking to Wall Street and the American community. We've seen a lot of Treasury Secretary Geithner this week. And tomorrow, the chief economic adviser here, Lawrence Summers, will give his first public speech since inauguration, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Savannah Guthrie at the White House for us tonight, Savannah, thanks.
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