Kroft Avoids Scandal with Obama, Presses Him to Respond to Liberal Disappointments

CBS’s Steve Kroft challenged President Barack Obama a few times during the two-part 60 Minutes interview aired Sunday night, but managed to ignore the scandals (Solyndra, Fast & Furious and collapse of MF Global run by ally Jon Corzine) while mostly cuing up Obama to knock down criticism of him or pressing him with complaints from the left that he hasn’t done or gone far enough: “They thought that you were gonna be bolder.”

“Since the midterm elections, you made an effort at bipartisanship. It hasn’t worked out that way,” Kroft fretted in crediting Obama with the noble effort before seemingly conveying the liberal complaint the stimulus didn’t spend enough: “There’s a general perception that the stimulus was not enough. That it really didn’t work.”

Kroft relayed how “many” Democrats “believe the President was too willing to compromise during the deficit negotiations,” pressing Obama on how he gave in to conservatives:

You gave up a lot. You said you wanted a balanced approach. You didn’t get it. You cut a trillion dollars and set up the framework to cut another trillion plus, and the Republicans gave up nothing. I mean, there are people in your own party who think that you were outmaneuvered, that you were stared down by John Boehner and Grover Norquist and capitulated....It seems to be all the compromising is being done by you.

Toward the end of the second segment, Kroft passed along liberal disappointment: “Even among some of your supporters, strongest supporters, there is a sense, a little sense
of disappointment. That they thought that you were gonna be bolder.”

Finally, he ended by expressing concern Obama had just been too bold, had set too high expectations:

Four years ago, Springfield, you declared your candidacy. And you said, “The reason we've not met our challenges is a failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics, the ease with which we're distracted by the petty and the trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our presence for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to take on big problems.” I mean those were eloquent words and true words. Unfortunately, they’re still largely true today. Did you over-promise? Did you underestimate how difficult this was gonna be?

Earlier, on Wall Street, Kroft hit Obama from the left:

One of the things that surprised me the most about this poll is that when asked who your policies favor the most, 42 percent said Wall Street. Only 35 percent said average Americans. My suspicion is, some of that may have to do with the fact that there’s not been any prosecutions, criminal prosecutions, of people on Wall Street. And that the civil charges that have been brought have often resulted in what many people think have been slaps on the wrists. Are you disappointed by that?

Kroft did at one point say in reaction to Obama’s “income inequality” polemics: “There are gonna be people who say, ‘This is the socialist Obama and he’s come out of the closet.’” When Obama insisted the public is coming tohis side, Kroft countered: “You say that you’ve rallied the country, but how -- these poll numbers show otherwise?” And on the deficit debate, the 60 Minutes correspondent acknowledged “Republicans made a couple of overtures during those negotiations to raise revenues by tax reform,” but noted: “There are people that think that you took a very hard line, that the Republicans weren’t the only ones that were being intransigent.”

Some of Kroft’s questions in what aired Sunday night, December 11, of the interview conducted on Friday:

KROFT: Since the midterm elections, you made an effort at bipartisanship. It hasn’t worked out that way. And it seems to me, it appears, watching you the last month or so, that you're stopped reaching out to Republicans. That you’re being, that you're going on the offensive and taking your message to the voters.

KROFT: There’s a general perception that the stimulus was not enough. That it really didn't work.

KROFT: One of the things that surprised me the most about this poll is that when asked who your policies favor the most, 42 percent said Wall Street. Only 35 percent said average Americans. My suspicion is, some of that may have to do with the fact that there's not been any prosecutions, criminal prosecutions, of people on Wall Street. And that the civil charges that have been brought have often resulted in what many people think have been slaps on the wrists. Are you disappointed by that?

KROFT VOICEOVER: Many [Democrats] believe the President was too willing to compromise during the deficit negotiations.]
KROFT TO OBAMA: You gave up a lot. You said you wanted a balanced approach. You didn't get it. You cut a trillion dollars and set up the framework to cut another trillion plus, and the Republicans gave up nothing. I mean, there are people in your own party who think that you were outmaneuvered, that you were stared down by John Boehner and Grover Norquist and capitulated.
OBAMA: Steve, you've gotta get your story straight, though. The first argument was that I don't compromise at all. Now you're saying I gave up too much.
KROFT: Well, it seems to be all the compromising is being done by you.

KROFT: Even among some of your supporters, strongest supporters, there is a sense, a little sense of disappointment. That they thought that you were gonna be bolder. That you were gonna take more steps. That you were gonna work outside the box, so to speak. Be a little unconventional. And they think you've been too cautious. That you've just kind of played it by the numbers.

KROFT: Four years ago, Springfield, you declared your candidacy. And you said, "The reason we've not met our challenges is a failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics, the ease with which we're distracted by the petty and the trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our presence for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to take on big problems." I mean those were eloquent words and true words. Unfortunately, they're still largely true today. Did you overpromise? Did you underestimate how difficult this was gonna be?

OBAMA: I didn't overpromise. And I didn't underestimate how tough this was gonna be. I always believed that this was a long term project. That reversing a culture here in Washington, dominated by special interests, it was gonna take more than a year. It was gonna take more than two years. It was gonna take more than one term. Probably takes more than one President.

The one thing I've prided myself on before I was President, and it turns out that continues to be true as President: I'm a persistent son of a gun. I just stay at it. And I'm just gonna keep on stayin' at it, as long as I'm in this office. And we're gonna get it right. And America will succeed. I am absolutely confident about that.

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