CBS ‘Early Show’ Valentine for Barack Obama

On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith introduced a fawning segment on Barack Obama: "On the campaign trail, Barack Obama is often treated like a rock star. People wait hours just to hear him speak." The segment did not focus on campaign strategy or policy, but rather it focused entirely on Obama’s rhetoric as correspondent Tracy Smith touted MSNBC’s Chris Matthews being "thrilled" by a speech from the Senator from Illinois:

TRACY SMITH: They come in droves, by the tens of thousands at times, to hear Barack Obama speak...With soaring rhetoric, Obama is moving his audiences not just politically, but emotionally. Even some political commentators who've seen it all can't help but gush.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You hear Barack Obama's speech, my -- I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often.

Tracy Smith continued by drawing the cliched comparison of Obama to JFK, along with "Time" Magazine’s Joe Klein:

SMITH: The stoic eloquence channels John F. Kennedy...Perhaps it's no surprise that legendary JFK speech writer, Ted Sorensen, supports Obama. He speaks regularly with the campaign's speech writing team.

JOE KLEIN: Kennedy had this wonderful wry ironic sense, just as Obama does. Most of them are cool customers, which works really well on television.

Tracy Smith did include a brief response to Obama’s rhetoric from presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain: "To encourage a country with only rhetoric, rather than sound and proven ideas, the trust and the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope. It's a platitude."

Following Tracy Smith’s report, Harry Smith continued the segment by interviewing pollster Frank Luntz and made sure that everyone new Luntz was a Republican:

Joining us is long time Republican Strategist and Pollster Frank Luntz, author of the book ‘Words that Work’...You've worked so much with Republicans. I want to get the bona fides out here because you have been impressed by Barack Obama's use of words, have you not?

Luntz’s response added to the gushy segment: "More than impressed, I've been mesmerized."

Outdoing even Harry Smith’s awe of Obama, Luntz exclaimed:

FRANK LUNTZ: Obama says come on in. We will not divide by race, we will not divide by age, we will not divide by partisanship. And he talks about Republicans supporting him.

SMITH: Yeah. He calls them 'Obamacans.'

LUNTZ: Yeah, it's unprecedented.

Unprecedented, really? What about all those Reagan Democrats?

Smith and Luntz went on to discuss the youth vote for Obama:

SMITH: There's the thing, though. We look at these pictures, we see all of these young people. Do these young people, who love their lattes, as you said just a second ago, will they drop their lattes and actually go to the polls? Will they do -- will -- is he electable with those people?

LUNTZ: There's an organization called 'Declare Yourself,' Norman Lear created this a few years ago. Do you realize that young people make up 12, 14, in some states, as much as 18% of the primary electorate? Not only will they drop their lattes, they'll take their ipods out and listen to him. And how great is it that for the first time in my lifetime the youth of America are energized, emboldened, and they can't wait to vote.

At this point, as the segment concluded, Smith made sure to mention that Luntz was a Republican one last time: "This comes from a Republican pollster." Luntz responded: "Although, I would argue that I've kind of left that career behind me."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:01AM TEASER:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Also, ahead this half hour, a closer look at the words of Barack Obama. How they're inspiring millions, even being put to music. We'll here why McCain and Clinton are worried about this and what Michelle Obama says about it.

7:16AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: On the campaign trail, Barack Obama is often treated like a rock star. People wait hours just to hear him speak. Here's Early Show National Correspondent Tracy Smith.

TRACY SMITH: They come in droves, by the tens of thousands at times, to hear Barack Obama speak.

BARACK OBAMA: They are ready for something new.

SMITH: With soaring rhetoric, Obama is moving his audiences not just politically, but emotionally. Even some political commentators who've seen it all can't help but gush.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: You hear Barack Obama's speech, my -- I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean, I don't have that too often.

OBAMA: We are the ones we've been waiting for.

SMITH: The stoic eloquence channels John F. Kennedy.

JOHN KENNEDY: Ask not what your country can do for you.

OBAMA: We'll invest in you. You invest in your country.

SMITH: Perhaps it's no surprise that legendary JFK speech writer, Ted Sorensen, supports Obama. He speaks regularly with the campaign's speech writing team.

JOE KLEIN: Kennedy had this wonderful rise ironic sense, just as Obama does. Most of them are cool customers, which works really well on television.

SMITH: Obama's mantra, 'yes, we can,' has even gone hip-hop with this music video, viewed more than 3 million times on YouTube.

UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: Yes we can. Oh, yes we can, yes with can, yes, we can, the opportunity and prosperity.

SMITH: And John McCain, should he face Obama in the general election, has an answer to the eloquence already.

JOHN MCCAIN: To encourage a country with only rhetoric, rather than sound and proven ideas, the trust and the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope. It's a platitude.

SMITH: Tracy Smith, CBS News, New York.

HARRY SMITH: Joining us is long time Republican Strategist and Pollster Frank Luntz, author of the book 'Words that Work.' Good morning.

FRANK LUNTZ: Good morning.

SMITH: You've worked so much with Republicans. I want to get the bona fides out here because you have been impressed by Barack Obama's use of words, have you not?

LUNTZ: More than impressed, I've been mesmerized. You saw at the end of that clip the word 'hope.' I've never seen a candidate whose slogan and language is bigger than his own name and the buttons and the bumper stickers. It's interesting that people compare him to John Kennedy. It's Bobby Kennedy that he's channeling.

SMITH: Really?

LUNTZ: The message. And when you go to an event and you see so many thousands of 18,19, 20-year-olds, the only time they ever cared until this point was if they couldn't get their latte at Starbucks. I want to read you a segment.

SMITH: Alright.

LUNTZ: I did this book 'Words that Work.' It was the last thing I added to the book because I thought this was the best language I'd ever heard: 'Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago, to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.' That was Bobby Kennedy the night Martin Luther King was killed.

SMITH: Right.

LUNTZ: That's what Barack Obama is saying today. Hillary Clinton is very overt in her attacks against the Republicans. 'We're not going to let ourselves get swift boated.' Obama says come on in. We will not divide by race, we will not divide by age, we will not divide by partisanship. And he talks about Republicans supporting him.

SMITH: Yeah. He calls them 'Obamacans.'

LUNTZ: Yeah, it's unprecedented. And --

SMITH: Let me ask you -- let me ask you this. Because you're hearing already, Hillary goes after Obama and says it's all about platitudes, it's all about promises, John McCain already going after Obama, it's all about the words, where are the deeds? Does -- they are very concerned about his words.

LUNTZ: They are, but what they don't understand is that for a whole lot of Americans, the candidates' attributes and character traits are even more important than where they stand. If they trust them, if they believe them. If this is someone who's a visionary. Now here's the key attribute that Americans want in 2008, someone who says what they mean and means what they say. If Obama were to ever be shown as a hypocrite, to say one thing and then say something completely different, then he's in trouble. But if he maintains that visionary, that -- in essence, that hope and uplifting rhetoric, he survives and thrives.

SMITH: There's the thing, though. We look at these pictures, we see all of these young people. Do these young people, who love their lattes, as you said just a second ago, will they drop their lattes and actually go to the polls? Will they do -- will -- is he electable with those people?

LUNTZ: There's an organization called 'Declare Yourself,' Norman Lear created this a few years ago. Do you realize that young people make up 12, 14, in some states, as much as 18% of the primary electorate? Not only will they drop their lattes, they'll take their ipods out and listen to him. And how great is it that for the first time in my lifetime the youth of America are energized, emboldened, and they can't wait to vote.

SMITH: This comes from a Republican pollster.

LUNTZ: Although, I would argue that I've kind of left that career behind me.

SMITH: Alright, for another time.

LUNTZ: For another time.

SMITH: Frank Luntz, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Very interesting stuff.

SMITH: In our next hour, what Michelle Obama says about her husband's words.

Audio excerpt also available here (448 kB | 57 seconds)

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