CNBC's John Harwood Pins Obama Down on Blackberry, Topless Photos

Just one day after Ann Coulter chided NBC News' Matt Lauer and Brian Williams, on the "Today" show, for  softball questions to Barack Obama, CNBC's John Harwood, on Thursday's "Today," outdid them both in Obama puffery. In a one-on-one interview with the President-elect, Harwood asked such hard-hitting questions as what kind of "family advice," he got from his lunch with the former presidents, if he is being allowed to use his Blackberry, and whether recent topless photos of him in Hawaii were, "an embarrassment."

"Today" co-host Meredith Vieira teased the interview, claiming Harwood "sat down with Obama to talk about the economic challenges," ahead but instead the segment focused on less weightier matters, as seen in the following exchange:

JOHN HARWOOD: As of this moment, you still have your Blackberry?

BARACK OBAMA: As of this moment, I still do. This is a concern, I should add, not just of Secret Service, but also lawyers. You know, this town's full of lawyers. I don't know if you've noticed.

HARWOOD: Yeah.

OBAMA: And they have a lot of opinions. So, so I'm still in a scuffle around that. How do you stay in touch with the flow of everyday life? When we were on vacation in Hawaii, I was greatly discouraged from going body surfing. Going to get shaved ice was a major ordeal. And, you know-

HARWOOD, OVER STILL PICTURE OF OBAMA IN BATHING SUIT: Were, were you told not to walk outside without your shirt on?

OBAMA: Well, I learned of that after the first day. But, but I think that-

HARWOOD: Was that, was that an embarrassment to you, or do you care? You got a lot of commentary about that.

OBAMA: You know, it was, it was silly, but you know, silliness goes with this job.

HARWOOD: You got some flattery for that.

OBAMA: Well, you know, the, my wife was, was tickled by, by me blushing.

The following is the full transcript of the segment as it occurred on the January 8, "Today" show:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: President-elect Barack Obama is set to deliver what aides are calling a major speech on the economy later today, and it comes just 24 hours after the Congressional Budget Office put the federal deficit for 2009 at $1.2 trillion. CNBC's chief Washington correspondent John Harwood sat down with Obama to talk about the economic challenges that he will face in office, among other things. John, good morning to you.

JOHN HARWOOD: Good morning, Meredith. As you said, Barack Obama is set to deliver a major speech outlining his plans for economic recovery today. I talked to him yesterday about his confidence in that plan, the advice he's received from his predecessors, and a whole lot more.

BARACK OBAMA: Well, I think that the approach that we've taken is not just to talk to the usual suspects, but talk to people that traditionally don't agree with me. It's not gonna happen overnight. This is a tough situation. And, you know, no matter what we do on reinvestment and recovery, we're still gonna have to do some other things to make sure the economy is, is, is in much better shape.

HARWOOD: How did it feel to be there with the former presidents?

OBAMA: They gave me good counsel, not just on specific issues, but more importantly, some of the typical problems that you may end up confronting in the office. How do you make sure that you get good information? How do you make sure that people aren't just telling you what you want to hear?

HARWOOD: Any family advice as well?

OBAMA: President Carter and Clinton both had some unique insights because they had younger children when they were in the White House. And obviously, Malia and Sasha are 10 and 7, and we just want to make sure that we are creating normalcy as much as possible in what obviously is an extraordinary situation.

HARWOOD: As of this moment, you still have your Blackberry?

OBAMA: As of this moment, I still do. This is a concern, I should add, not just of Secret Service, but also lawyers. You know, this town's full of lawyers. I don't know if you've noticed.

HARWOOD: Yeah.

OBAMA: And they have a lot of opinions. So, so I'm still in a scuffle around that. How do you stay in touch with the flow of everyday life? When we were on vacation in Hawaii, I was greatly discouraged from going body surfing. Going to get shaved ice was a major ordeal. And, you know-

HARWOOD, OVER STILL PICTURE OF OBAMA IN BATHING SUIT: Were, were you told not to walk outside without your shirt on?

OBAMA: Well, I learned of that after the first day. But, but I think that-

HARWOOD: Was that, was that an embarrassment to you, or do you care? You got a lot of commentary about that.

OBAMA: You know, it was, it was silly, but you know, silliness goes with this job.

HARWOOD: You got some flattery for that.

OBAMA: Well, you know, the, my wife was, was tickled by, by me blushing.

HARWOOD: Of course, the president-elect has got a lot more serious issues to worry about when he takes office 12 days from now. New government figures out tomorrow are expected to show a new escalation in job losses well beyond the 500,000 jobs lost in November, Meredith.

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Some serious issues to tackle. John Harwood, thank you so much.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.