CBS’s Mitchell Tosses Softballs to Obama, Except on Troop Pullout

Russ Mitchell and Barack Obama, CBS While most of the questions co-host Russ Mitchell asked Barack Obama on Wednesday’s "Early Show" were rather bland, he did challenge Obama from the left on the Senator’s commitment to a complete troop withdrawal from Iraq: "Last week you said you would refine your policy regarding troop withdrawal after you go to Iraq and have the chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground...What do you say to those folks out there who are saying ‘I voted for this guy because he told me he was going to bring the troops home in 16 months now he says he wants to refine his position.’"

Obama reassured Mitchell: "I have been entirely consistent that we are going to end this war when I'm president and that the timetable's going to be a pace that is safe for our troops, one to two brigades per month, which adds up to 16 months. That position has not changed." Mitchell made sure: "So that's still the plan, 16 months after you take office?" Obama replied: "Absolutely."

The other questions during the interview were not as challenging:

Well Senator, there are people on the right and left, you addressed this yesterday, who are accusing you of moving to the center on a number of issues, be it the war, be it gun control, be it faith-based initiatives. Are those people way off base?...The convention, the Democratic National Convention of course is next month, beginning the 25th. How close are you to picking a running mate at this point?... Senator, on another note. We are seeing your kids out on the campaign trail more. We've seen them on television as well. Will we see them more as the campaign moves forward?...Senator Barack Obama. The campaign plane is working? No more emergency landings in your future?

Compare those questions with those co-host Maggie Rodriguez asked of John McCain during an interview in April about a North Carolina GOP ad that used Jeremiah Wright to criticize Obama:

The Republican Party of North Carolina is planning to run an ad bashing Senator Obama. I know that you oppose that ad, but they're running it anyway. So what does that say about you, that you haven't opposed it strongly enough or that your own party is blatantly disregarding your wishes?...But as the Republican nominee for president, couldn't you pick up the phone and call the head of the North Carolina GOP and say, don't run it?

Here is the full transcript of Wednesday’s interview:

7:00AM TEASER:

RUSS MITCHELL: Breaking news this morning. A deadly gun attack on the American consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. We'll talk with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama about violence overseas and the economy.

7:03AM SEGMENT:

RUSS MITCHELL: Meanwhile, Iran tested new missiles during war games in the Persian Gulf this morning. The tests were conducted at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway. Iranian TV says 9 medium and long-range missiles were fired in response to fears of an attack by Israel or the U.S.. And joining us from Washington is Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Senator, good morning.

BARACK OBAMA: Good morning, Russ. How are you?

MITCHELL: I am doing just fine sir. It is a busy morning around the world, but let me ask you specifically about Iran this morning, test firing those missiles. If you were president, what's the first thing you would do this morning?

OBAMA: Well, I would want to talk to the national security team to find out whether this indicates any new capabilities on Iran's part. At this point, the reports aren't clear. It's still early. But I think what this underscores is the need for us to create a kind of policy that is putting the burden on Iran to change behavior. And frankly, we just have not been able to do that over the last several years. Partly because we're not engaged in direct diplomacy. There's a story that exports from the United States to Iran have actually increased during the Bush years. So we've been combining bellicose rhetoric with not very effective action. And that's one of the things that I'd like to change when I'm president.

MITCHELL: Let me ask you about Iraq. Over the past few days, you've been called a flip-flopper by those on the right and the left. Last week you said you would refine your policy regarding troop withdrawal after you go to Iraq and have the chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground. But let's take a look at what you said last December.

OBAMA: I will bring this war to a close and I will bring our troops home within 16 months of the time that I take office.

MITCHELL: Senator, that speech was made before the primary season. What do you say to those folks out there who are saying 'I voted for this guy because he told me he was going to bring the troops home in 16 months now he says he wants to refine his position.'

OBAMA: I have been entirely consistent that we are going to end this war when I'm president and that the timetable's going to be a pace that is safe for our troops, one to two brigades per month, which adds up to 16 months. That position has not changed. And-

MITCHELL: So that's still the plan, 16 months after you take office?

OBAMA: Absolutely. What I have said also is that we've got to be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in that I wouldn't be doing my job as commander in chief if I wasn't taking into account the recommendations of those on the ground in terms of how we execute this.

MITCHELL: Well Senator, there are people on the right and left, you addressed this yesterday, who are accusing you of moving to the center on a number of issues, be it the war, be it gun control, be it faith-based initiatives. Are those people way off base?

OBAMA: They are. I mean, let's just look at the facts. On gun control, I've been a consistent supporter of the belief that the Second Amendment applies to individuals but that we can also have common sense gun control. That position has not changed one bit. My position on the death penalty, that there are heinous crimes, like the rape of a child, in which the death penalty might apply. That position hasn't changed one bit. But, look. Here's the larger point, Russ, is that the American people right now are struggling under enormous burdens. One of the things that we're going to be rolling out today and tomorrow is the fact that working women are still under enormous burden. They're getting paid 70 cents to every dollar that a man makes on average. Huge percentages of working women don't have a single day of paid leave. And so for us to really tackle these problems instead of playing political games, what is typical in Washington, what I am looking at is how do we provide tax cuts to working women so that they can support their families? How do we make sure that we have equal pay for equal work. Something that John McCain and I differ on.

MITCHELL: The convention, the Democratic National Convention of course is next month, beginning the 25th. How close are you to picking a running mate at this point?

OBAMA: Well, Russ, I, obviously, am looking at some extraordinarily qualified candidates. I'm not going to talk about the specific selection until I've actually made the selection because I think it's important that this process -- it moves forward in a thoughtful, deliberate way.

MITCHELL: Senator, on another note. We are seeing your kids out on the campaign trail more. We've seen them on television as well. Will we see them more as the campaign moves forward?

OBAMA: No, I don't think so. You know, we had a unique situation in Montana where it was Malia's birthday, and all of us, I think, got caught up in the festivities, and so they had a chance to be their adorable selves on TV, but generally, we've been very protective of them and, you know, in retrospect, I think, you know, if you'd ask me, we probably wouldn't have done it then. We wouldn't do it again.

MITCHELL: Senator Barack Obama. The campaign plane is working? No more emergency landings in your future?

OBAMA: I hope so, but we've got some terrific pilots, but, you know, when you fly as much as I do, some of this stuff's going to happen. I'm just glad that everybody's safe and sound.

MITCHELL: Alright, Senator Barack Obama, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

OBAMA: Thank you.

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