ABC Paints Obama as Victim, Stephanopoulos Echoes Emanuel on Greatest Success

White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel made the rounds of the TV anchors Wednesday. Though President Obama has exploited the economic problems to push his big spending plans, ABC’s Charles Gibson empathized with how he inherited a bad economy as he ran Emanuel’s explanation about “how the President handles the severe problems he's inherited” and then cued up Emanuel to agree it’s “fair to say though that he ran for one job and got another given the condition of the economy as he takes office?”

Turning to George Stephanopoulos for an assessment of Obama’s first 100 days, Stephanopoulos trumpeted how “his number one accomplishment has been to inspire a sense of confidence in the country,” as evidenced by how the “right direction” polling number as now at “the highest level in six years,” and so that confidence “not only gives President Obama a political cushion, but it could have a real world economic impact.” That spin nearly exactly matched what Emanuel told CBS’s Katie Couric, as both forwarded the sense of confidence phrase, when she asked him to name the administration’s “greatest accomplishment?” Emanuel answered:
A renewed sense of hope in America and a sense that we can actually meet these challenges. They weren't so big that we couldn't do 'em. And we've helped give America that sense of confidence again, that we can meet these challenges and this country is headed, finally, in the right direction.
So, did Emanuel channel Stephanopoulos’ advice on how best to tout Obama’s achievements or did Stephanopoulos just repeat Emanuel’s talking point he heard in one of their regular phone conversations? Or is it just a coincidence the press corps and the Obama White House think alike?

In addition to setting up Emanuel to name the administration’s “greatest accomplishment,” Couric prompted him with a couple of more slow pitches: “How much more time do you need before this administration starts to get blamed for this crisis?” And: “Arlen Specter is now a Democrat. What do you think that says about the state of the GOP?”

From ABC’s World News, the two questions aired from Gibson, via satellite, to Emanuel:
CHARLES GIBSON: I spoke with White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel today who said how the President handles the severe problems he's inherited and how he communicates with the country will determine how he's viewed in four years, not just in a hundred days.

RAHM EMANUEL: If you look at successful Presidents and transformative Presidents, if you look at Kennedy, you look at Roosevelt, you look at Reagan. You can go back if you wanted to and look at Jefferson. They follow failed Presidents. The presidency didn't succeed. They were good communicators, and they came in at a point of crisis in the country. It's a moment of crisis and a successful communicator.

GIBSON: But fair to say though that he ran for one job and got another given the condition of the economy as he takes office?

EMANUEL: Fair...   
Stephanopoulos soon offered his (?) take:
I think politically, you would have to say his number one accomplishment has been to inspire a sense of confidence in the country. According to our polling right now, 50 percent of Americans now think the country is heading in the right direction. That's the highest level in six years. Just before the election, it was only at eight percent. And that confidence, that optimism, not only gives President Obama a political cushion, but it could have a real world economic impact.
Katie Couric traveled to Washington, DC to interview Emanuel. Her questions, as aired on the Wednesday, April 29 CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: How much more time do you need before this administration starts to get blamed for this crisis?

COURIC: Why do you think the president is more popular than many of his policies? Fifty-eight percent of Americans disapproved of the administration's financial aid to the banking industry, only 47 percent approved of his plan for the auto industry. And yet, his approval rating is 68. Why is that?

COURIC: Arlen Specter is now a Democrat. What do you think that says about the state of the GOP?

COURIC: What is the biggest mistake you all have made in the first one hundred 100 days?

COURIC: What's your greatest accomplishment?
EMANUEL: A renewed sense of hope in America and a sense that we can actually meet these challenges. They weren't so big that we couldn't do 'em. And we've helped give America that sense of confidence again, that we can meet these challenges and this country is headed, finally, in the right direction.
For Emanuel’s answers, check this CBSNews.com “Political Hot Sheet” posting.
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