CBS’s Couric to Obama: Are You and Hillary ‘Chemically Compatible?’

On Thursday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Julie Chen teased an upcoming segment about CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric’s recent interview with Barack Obama: "And then Obama. The Katie interview. What he thinks of Hillary," a clip of Couric was played: "Do you think you're chemically compatible?" Co-host Maggie Rodriguez then teased an interview with Clinton supporter Congressman Charles Rangel to discuss Hillary getting out of the race: "Coming up in just a couple of minutes we'll talk to one of her key supporters." However, the cameraman mistakenly focused on Couric, who was sitting in the studio. Rodriguez quickly added: "We're also going to talk to Katie Couric about an interview that she did with Barack Obama." [download video here]

In the later segment with co-host Harry Smith, Couric played a longer clip of her interview with Obama, which began with her pushing Clinton for VP: " In our latest poll, 59% of Democratic primary voters, including 46% of your voters, think you should select Senator Clinton to be your running mate. So in the spirit of Kennedy picking Johnson and Reagan choosing Bush, why not pick Senator Clinton?" Couric then asked the chemistry question: "As you know, a lot of it is about chemistry. So just now sitting here talking about it, do you think you're chemically compatible?"

Obama dodged the question, but Couric was persistent: "But what about chemistry, Senator?" Later in the segment, Smith commented: "I love the chemistry question. I love the follow-up on the chemistry question."

In the rest of the interview Couric tossed softballs to Obama:

COURIC: Did you ever think you'd see this day? I mean, are you still just completely --

OBAMA: It's been a long haul. But -- but look it doesn't sink in right away. You know, you've got too much stuff to do. There will be a point some time, I'm sure, maybe this weekend, where maybe I'm sitting out on my porch and maybe Michelle will be next to me and I'll say, 'how about that?' And then I'll have to get back to work.

At the end of the segment, Smith and Couric discussed Obama’s "historic" victory:

SMITH: The other thing is, here you are. You're speaking to him the night after he wraps up this nomination. History has been made. In a kind of way that I don't even think we really quite appreciate yet.

COURIC: Yeah.

SMITH: But will be in -- in books and talked about for the rest of the history of this country.

COURIC: I think he does appreciate that, Harry. You know, he is going to be -- you know, we talked about Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech and the fact that I think he'll be accepting his party's nomination 45 years after that --

SMITH: To the day.

COURIC: To the day. And I think he -- he truly understands the significance.

However, they both worried that "racism might rear its ugly head":

COURIC: I asked him if he thought racism might rear its ugly head in the general election.

SMITH: Right.

COURIC: Because as you know, in some states there was a pretty significant racial divide --

SMITH: Yeah.

COURIC: In states like Pennsylvania and Kentucky. And he still chooses to believe that the best of the American people will come up. But yes, race will, at times, be a factor for some people. But as he said to me, Harry, 'what am I going to do about that?'

SMITH: Right, right, right.

On Wednesday, Smith wondered: "Is America really ready to elect a black man president?"  

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

JULIE CHEN: And then Obama. The Katie interview. What he thinks of Hillary.

KATIE COURIC: Do you think you're chemically compatible?

CHEN: Katie joins us this morning.

7:01AM TEASER

CHEN: There is a lot going on this morning. Word that Hillary Clinton will bow out of the race on Saturday.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Coming up in just a couple of minutes we'll talk to one of her key supporters. We're also going to talk to Katie Couric about an interview that she did with Barack Obama. But we'll talk to Charlie Rangel, whose conversation with Hillary Clinton may have prompted her decision.

7:06AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric sat down with Barack Obama a day after he clinched the Democratic Party nomination. And Katie is with us in the studio this morning. Good morning, great to see you.

KATIE COURIC: Hi, Harry, good morning. Nice to see you at this early hour for a change. Yes, I talked to Senator Obama about a lot of things, including the future of his campaign now that he is the presumptive nominee, as well as his past rival, Hillary Clinton. Senator Obama, first of all, congratulations.

BARACK OBAMA: Thank you very much.

COURIC: In our latest poll, 59% of Democratic primary voters, including 46% of your voters, think you should select Senator Clinton to be your running mate. So in the spirit of Kennedy picking Johnson and Reagan choosing Bush, why not pick Senator Clinton? And please don't tell me it's premature to ask that question.

OBAMA: Well it's not premature to ask, it's premature to answer. Because I literally got the nomination last night. So we're going to go through a process. We've got a committee that's going to go through all the names. You know, the truth is that I haven't had enough time to think through how -- how we want to approach this election process entirely, but it's going to be deliberate. This is an important decision.

COURIC: As you know, a lot of it is about chemistry. So just now sitting here talking about it, do you think you're chemically compatible? I'm serious. I mean, can you see working with her or does it just make you think, ugh, no.

OBAMA: No, no. Look, Senator Clinton is somebody who I've worked with in the past. We agree on 95%, maybe 99% of issues. And --

COURIC: But what about chemistry, Senator?

OBAMA: Well, you know, chemistry is a combination of things. A lot of it just has to do with how much work you put into it. But look, the point is --

COURIC: It's also about liking someone, right?

OBAMA: Yeah. Well, I like Senator Clinton. She's a -- she's a -- she is a passionate person on behalf of the things she cares about. She loves this country. I -- when I listen to her talk about health care for example, I believe her. She wants to deliver health care for every American, as do I.

COURIC: Do you have any concerns about raising your daughters under the glare of the spotlight if you're elected?

OBAMA: Yes. Yeah, this is something Michelle and I spent a lot of time talking about even before we got into this race. So far, Michelle has been able to create this bubble of normalcy around them. It's been a long time since young children were in the White House and figuring out how to do that, especially in this 24/7 news cycle, is something that, you know, we'll have to figure out. And that may be the only place where I really expect the press to help. I would hope that everybody involved in the media would say these guys are parents, too, and so, you know, let's give those kids a little bit of space.

COURIC: Did you ever think you'd see this day? I mean, are you still just completely --

OBAMA: It's been a long haul. But -- but look it doesn't sink in right away. You know, you've got too much stuff to do. There will be a point some time, I'm sure, maybe this weekend, where maybe I'm sitting out on my porch and maybe Michelle will be next to me and I'll say, 'how about that?' And then I'll have to get back to work.

SMITH: How about that? Katie Couric is here. You and I have interviewed Senator Obama numerous times over the last year. In your interview with him this time, did you feel any difference?

COURIC: Well, I think he feels relieved that it's over. I mean, I think for both he and Senator Clinton, it has been a grueling, long, hard fought, at times bitter, campaign. So I think it hasn't sunk in yet, as he said. And he hasn't had time to breathe because the schedule is just constant, non-stop. But you know, I think he -- you know, I don't think they thought that it would be this hard or this long, that, you know, that he would make some gains and then she would be nipping at his heels --

SMITH: That she would stick around so long.

COURIC: Yes, exactly.

SMITH: Yeah. I love the chemistry question. I love the follow-up on the chemistry question. And I'm wondering, did you get any sense whatsoever from him, or any of the people around him, that he is inclined, even in the least, to offer her the vice presidency?

COURIC: Well, he said he would not rule it out, that it was going to be a methodical selection process.

SMITH: Right. That's what he said.

COURIC: But, you know, I think some of his campaign aides were privately sort of annoyed that during her speech on Tuesday night she wasn't a little more magnanimous and gracious and kind of congratulating him on this threshold of elected delegates that he had finally received. But, you know, I think if there's tremendous pressure from the party and from party leaders, but you get the sense that it will be his decision, that he's not going to be ruled by geographical concerns and kind of who --

SMITH: Where the map is and the purple and the -- right.

COURIC: Yes, exactly. But that they will go about it in a very sort of methodical way and he'll pick someone he really connects to. That's my sense.

SMITH: The other thing is, here you are. You're speaking to him the night after he wraps up this nomination. History has been made. In a kind of way that I don't even think we really quite appreciate yet.

COURIC: Yeah.

SMITH: But will be in -- in books and talked about for the rest of the history of this country.

COURIC: I think he does appreciate that, Harry. You know, he is going to be -- you know, we talked about Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech and the fact that I think he'll be accepting his party's nomination 45 years after that --

SMITH: To the day.

COURIC: To the day. And I think he -- he truly understands the significance. I asked him if he thought racism might rear its ugly head in the general election.

SMITH: Right.

COURIC: Because as you know, in some states there was a pretty significant racial divide --

SMITH: Yeah.

COURIC: In states like Pennsylvania and Kentucky. And he still chooses to believe that the best of the American people will come up. But yes, race will, at times, be a factor for some people. But as he said to me, Harry, 'what am I going to do about that?'

SMITH: Right, right, right. Katie Couric, great to have you in the studio this morning.

COURIC: Thanks Harry. Good to see you.

SMITH: Alright pal. Katie's going to have much more coverage of the latest developments for the campaign tonight on the Evening News.

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