CBS’s Smith Gushes Over Obama: ‘A Candidate for Change, Particularly on the War’

In an especially glowing interview with Barack Obama on Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith lobbed softball after softball at the Illinois Senator, including this question about the successful troop surge in Iraq: "Obama is positioning himself as a candidate for change, particularly on the war. Were you a fan of the surge?" Obama’s response was not surprising, but did defy all logic:

No. And it's fascinating to me how the surge is now being defined as a success. That central question remains -- how do we get a change in behavior amongst Sunni, Shia, and Kurds? The only way I believe to trigger that change is to send a clear signal that we are withdrawing, we're not going to have permanent bases there, we will be a partner with them to help stabilize the country, but they've got to make some decisions.

Video (0:52): Windows Media (1.62 MB) and MP3 audio (384 kB) 

Smith and Obama got along so well that they actually finished each other’s sentences as Smith moved on to Afghanistan:

SMITH: And it seems now that Afghanistan --

OBAMA: Is deteriorating rapidly, which is one of the reasons I objected to this war in Iraq in the first place.

Not only did Smith tee up such ideal questions for the Democratic candidate, but he also praised Obama’s ability to reach across the ideological divide: "Up in the northwest part of the state, the politics are conservative, but for a candidate locked in a tight race, every potential voter needs to be reached." At that moment in the segment there was footage of a woman in this "conservative" part of the state hugging Obama and saying, "We will caucus for Obama."

Smith, who in an October 15 interview with Obama called the Senator a "rock star," used almost poetic language as he described being on the campaign trail with the candidate:

Endless miles of snow-covered prairie roll by. Just like yesterday and not too different from tomorrow...It feels surreal talking global affairs on a custom charter bus rolling through Iowa farm country. But to get to Pennsylvania Avenue, this is the road Obama must take.

In addition, Smith described how Obama has preserved, despite attacks from the Clinton campaign:

In the final sprint to the Iowa caucuses, Obama harbors no illusions. Politics is a full-contact sport...Just days after one Clinton surrogate brought up Obama's past drug use, another, ex-Senator Bob Kerrey, was quoted playing up Obama's Muslim lineage, even though Obama is a Christian...Do you get a sense that there are some in your party who are trying to say it's not your turn?

Just yesterday, in an interview with Hillary Clinton in Iowa, Smith referred to Bill Clinton as her "attack dog" against Obama.

And Smith’s final question to Obama was truly hard-hitting: "Do you feel guilty now, doing what you're doing, being away from your family so much?"

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

HARRY SMITH: We were in Iowa, of course, all day yesterday. Chicago is where Hillary Clinton is going to be later today because she's got to raise some more money for her campaign. But it's all about how many times you get out to see the voters. There's an interesting little graphic in this morning's New York Times. It says -- it tells you how many times the different candidates have been in Iowa and made appearances there since June. Mitt Romney, 108 different campaign appearances. Mike Huckabee, 105. John McCain, 37. Now, for the Democrats, John Edwards, who's practically been living there the last four years, 179 different campaign appearances since June. Hillary Rodham Clinton, 99, and Barack Obama, 113. Appearances do matter.

BARACK OBAMA: Hey, guys.

UNIDENTIFIED VOTERS: Hi.

SMITH: 2 ½ weeks till the Iowa Caucuses, and Barack Obama begins another five-stop day.

OBAMA: Thank you so much for all the great work you guys have been doing.

SMITH: Up in the northwest part of the state, the politics are conservative, but for a candidate locked in a tight race, every potential voter needs to be reached.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We will caucus for Obama.

OBAMA: I know, that's what I like.

SMITH: We caught up with Obama in Spencer, Iowa, and jumped on the bus.

OBAMA: Hey, Harry.

SMITH: Don't they supply you with overcoats out here?

OBAMA: You know --

SMITH: Endless miles of snow-covered prairie roll by. Just like yesterday and not too different from tomorrow. Do you know what day it is?

OBAMA: No.

SMITH: Poll numbers have his spirits up, even after losing the coveted "Des Moines Register" endorsement, an endorsement some say damned Clinton with faint praise.

OBAMA: It was about as good of a non-endorsement as you could get, right?

SMITH: Did you see or read the transcripts from Charlie Rose on Friday night? When Bill Clinton --

OBAMA: No, I just heard about it.

BILL CLINTON: Even when I was a governor, and young, and thought I was the best politician in the Democratic Party, I didn't run.

OBAMA: I didn't see the transcript. I didn't hear it. Here's what I know, though, just based on what I'm hearing second hand -- the irony is, is that many of the arguments that he's making now are the same arguments that George H.W. Bush was making against him.

SMITH: In the final sprint to the Iowa caucuses, Obama harbors no illusions. Politics is a full-contact sport.

BILL SHAHEEN: This is Hillary Clinton!

SMITH: Just days after one Clinton surrogate brought up Obama's past drug use, another, ex-Senator Bob Kerrey, was quoted playing up Obama's Muslim lineage, even though Obama is a Christian.

OBAMA: Bob likes to -- likes to talk. And I think it was just, you know, thinking off the top of his head about, you know, how he viewed me in this race.

SMITH: Do you get a sense that there are some in your party who are trying to say it's not your turn?

OBAMA: Well, I don't just get a sense. I think there's an entire campaign.

SMITH: Obama is positioning himself as a candidate for change, particularly on the war. Were you a fan of the surge?

OBAMA: No. And it's fascinating to me how the surge is now being defined as a success. That central question remains -- how do we get a change in behavior amongst Sunni, Shia, and Kurds? The only way I believe to trigger that change is to send a clear signal that we are withdrawing, we're not going to have permanent bases there, we will be a partner with them to help stabilize the country, but they've got to make some decisions.

SMITH: And it seems now that Afghanistan --

OBAMA: Is deteriorating rapidly, which is one of the reasons I objected to this war in Iraq in the first place.

SMITH: It feels surreal talking global affairs on a custom charter bus rolling through Iowa farm country. But to get to Pennsylvania Avenue, this is the road Obama must take.

OBAMA: Not only do I want to win an election, but I want to govern.

SMITH: And for that, there is a price. Do you feel guilty now, doing what you're doing, being away from your family so much?

OBAMA: Sometimes. Yeah. I mean, my daughter had a dance recital on Saturday. That was the first dance recital I have missed -- my younger one, fist time I've missed it since -- since she was born. And -- and it was -- it was upsetting. You know, Michelle and I talked about this very carefully before we went in. This was the first question I asked, was could our family survive the rigors of this process. Because she's so remarkable and my kids are so above average, they have thrived and they seem to be doing really well.

SMITH: And over the next couple of days, we're going to show you some sides of the candidates you've never seen before. You're watching "The Early Show" on CBS.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC