In Libya Interview, Sawyer Asks Obama About Praying Like Lincoln and ‘How Much Do You Think Kentucky Will Win By?’

The broadcast evening news anchors all got ten minutes with President Barack Obama on Tuesday afternoon in New York City to press him about contradictions in his Libya policy, ceding authority for foreign entities and how he’s a hypocrite after his criticism of President Bush for unilateral actions and not getting congressional approval, but instead they simply prodded him to provide arms to the rebels and pushed him to take action in Syria.

But ABC’s Diane Sawyer stood out for her obsequiousness as the Kentucky native ended by giddily bringing up the college basketball tournament: “How much do you think Kentucky will win by?” Before that, she cued him up to agree he’s as burdened as Abraham Lincoln:

What about the famous quote from another beleaguered President, Abraham Lincoln, who said he had been driven many times to his knees because his own wisdom and that around him “was insufficient for the day”?

Obama assured her: “I do a lot of praying.”

Following the interview except, Sawyer personalized her “beleaguered President” theme:

By the way, on that avalanche of crises the President faces every day – from Libya to Iraq to Afghanistan to nuclear crises in Japan – the President goes home every day to talk to his daughters about his day. I ask him what does he say to them about days like this? And you can see that at ABCNews.com/World News.

She had teased World News: “One on One: I ask the President about cutting a deal with Moammar Gadhafi and does he ever say ‘what's going on with this avalanche of world crises’?”

Brian Williams teased the NBC Nightly News: “‘Not ruling it out.’ Tonight, in our conversation with President Obama, he leaves the door open to arming those rebels in Libya.”

For CBS, Erica Hill landed the sit-down with Obama, which she teased: “Tonight, keeping up the pressure on Gadafi. The new air strikes and a diplomatic push. We talk to the President.”

Hill posed about the toughest question, which shows just how soft the sessions were: “The supreme allied commander for NATO said today that there are flickers of al Qaeda and Hezbollah amongst these rebels. How do we know what their end goal is? And how do we know they won't, in fact, turn on the U.S. and on our allies?”

Diane Sawyer’s questions to Obama as aired on the Tuesday, March 29 ABC World News:

- In my interview with the President I started by asking about Gadhafi and those reports he is trying to make a deal. [To Obama:] As of this moment, any sign Gadhafi wants out?

- If Gadhafi ends up in a villa someplace in Zimbabwe with no war crimes trial, is that okay with you?

- Have you made, or would you make any calls to say “take him”?

- We are hearing tonight, it’s fierce fighting, the U.S. must send munitions. How long would it take to get there?

- Can we say that we could have it [arms] in there in a day, in two days?

- I want to try to clarify what you’re saying today to the people of Syria. [Sawyer narration: We specifically asked the President, is he saying to the protesters in Syria that if they meet the five criteria he laid out last night] Are you saying to them we will be there for you as we were there in Libya?

- Even if these paper criteria are met?

- What about the famous quote from another beleaguered President, Abraham Lincoln, who said he had been driven many times to his knees because his own wisdom and that around him “was insufficient for the day”? [Obama: “I do a lot of praying.”]

- Just a final question: How much do you think Kentucky will win by?

Erica Hill’s questions to Obama as excerpted on the CBS Evening News:

- Earlier today I spoke with President Obama here in New York. He has made it clear, from the beginning, he wants Gaddafi out. But what if he doesn’t go?

- Are there also discussions and even perhaps meetings at all with people in Muammar Gaddafi's camp?

- The supreme allied commander for NATO said today that there are flickers of al Qaeda and Hezbollah amongst these rebels. How do we know what their end goal is? And how do we know they won't, in fact, turn on the U.S. and on our allies?

- Can you give us an idea of what some of those goals are [for the Libyan rebels]? Beyond just removing Qaddafi from power?

- You mentioned the region. There's obviously so much focus on the region at this point. From everything we've seen over the last couple of months, there is renewed focus, though, on Syria. What would it take, what circumstances in particular would lead to direct involvement from the U.S. in Syria?


The questions from Williams to Obama run on the NBC Nightly News:

- The moment your speech ended last night the Associated Press put out an item that read: “President Obama’s speech was about defending the first war launched on his watch.” How does it end?

- What if it doesn’t work? What if the rebels find themselves bogged down, this becomes protracted?

- How do you not offer the rebels direct assistance of some sort?

- Due respect, Mr. President, watching the reportings of our two correspondents in Libya, what it appears the rebels need is military equipment. Some of their equipment dates back to World War II. Are you ruling out U.S. military hardware assistance?

- Three weeks from now, if a member of your circle makes an impassioned case to do the same in Syria, to finally de-couple it from Iran, what do you do?

- So when people hear words like “values” and “interests” and your phrase “the flow of commerce” – which some people couldn’t help but substitute oil – they shouldn’t think that there is any blanket policy, this may be an ad-hoc business if this so-called Arab Spring turns into Arab Summer and we keep at this, watching countries change?

— Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

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