CBS’s MacVicar: Obama ‘In Statesman Clothes’ On Trip

Sheila MacVicar, CBS On Wednesday’s CBS "Early Show," correspondent Sheila MacVicar described Barack Obama’s visit to Israel’s Holocaust memorial during his continuing Middle East tour as: "...yet another chance to see how the Senator looks in statesman clothes." MacVicar imbued Obama with the mantel of "statesman" just last Friday when she described the upcoming trip: "...Senator Obama is taking to the skies to stride on the world stage. It's a chance for Americans to take a look at how he measures up as a statesman...it's an attempt to demonstrate he has the necessary gravitas to maneuver through diplomatic minefields, especially in the Middle East."

Earlier in Wednesday’s report, MacVicar described Obama’s meeting with top Israeli officials and made sure label the conservative: "The day began with a double helping of breakfast and conversations with Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former prime minister and leading right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu." MacVicar concluded her report with a preview of Obama’s next stop:

This afternoon he'll travel by helicopter with not one, but two ministerial tour guides, the foreign minister and the defense minister, to the Israeli town of Sderot, which is frequently a target of Palestinian rockets. For Obama it's a chance to show that he understands and feels the plight of Israelis. For the Israelis, it's a chance to make their point about their strategic weakness.

Following MacVicar’s report, co-host Harry Smith played a clip of Katie Couric’s interview with Obama in Amman, Jordan. Couric provided some challenging questions:

Before the surge, as you know, Senator, there were 80 to 100 U.S. casualties a month. The country was rife with sectarian violence and you raised a lot of eyebrows on this trip saying, even knowing what you know now, you still would not have supported the surge. People may be scratching their heads and saying why?...If you believe, Senator, Afghanistan is, in fact, the central front in the war on terror, why was this your first trip there?

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: Obama in Ramallah. The Senator's Mideast tour continues.

KATIE COURIC: Do you really believe, Senator Obama, that peace in the Middle East is possible?

SMITH: We'll have Katie Couric's exclusive interview with him.

7:06AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is making stops in Israel and the West Bank this morning. CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar is in Ramallah with more on that. Sheila, good morning.

SHEILA MACVICAR: Good morning -- good morning Harry. Well it's another busy day for Senator Obama. He's already met with two key Israeli leaders, and he's just wrapping up a meeting inside that building now with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Of all the stops on this trip, Harry, this day in Israel and Palestinian territory is the one with the greatest risk of misstep. And he's already had some explaining to do with the Palestinians. The day began with a double helping of breakfast and conversations with Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak and former prime minister and leading right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu. Like many Israelis, they both worry about the Senator's willingness to talk to Tehran and worry, too, that if elected president, his lack of foreign policy experience would lead him to push Israel too hard in negotiations with the Palestinians. But it was this remark to a pro-Israeli lobby group last month that raised Palestinian concerns:

BARACK OBAMA: And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.

MACVICAR: Both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. The Senator had to clarify his remarks. Hours before Obama arrived in Jerusalem, a Palestinian bulldozer driver was shot dead after he attacked passing motorists, the second such attack in weeks. Last night, Obama reminded Israelis and their supporters back home that he would be tough on terror.

OBAMA: And it's just one more reminder of why we have to work diligently, urgently, and in a unified way to defeat terrorism.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Senator Barack Obama.

MACVICAR: In a trip rich with photo ops, this stop at the Holocaust memorial this morning, a mandatory stop for every V.I.P. visitor to Israel, was yet another chance to see how the Senator looks in statesman clothes. This afternoon he'll travel by helicopter with not one, but two ministerial tour guides, the foreign minister and the defense minister, to the Israeli town of Sderot, which is frequently a target of Palestinian rockets. For Obama it's a chance to show that he understands and feels the plight of Israelis. For the Israelis, it's a chance to make their point about their strategic weakness. Harry.

SMITH: Sheila MacVicar live in Ramallah this morning, thank you so much. CBS 'Evening News' anchor Katie Couric is on the road. She's in Amman, Jordan. She sat down with Senator Barack Obama for an exclusive interview. Let's take a look.

KATIE COURIC: By now you know we've moved on and Barack Obama is already in Israel, but before he left Amman, Jordan, I had the chance to sit down with him for his first one-on-one interview following his visits to two war zones, Afghanistan and Iraq. You're visiting some of the most ancient places in the entire world. For example, the palace where we'll be speaking. There have been so many wars, so much violence, so much hatred in this region. Do you really believe, Senator Obama, that peace in the Middle East is possible?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that a perfect peace eludes all of us here on Earth.

COURIC: You have not been to Iraq since 2006. What did you learn on your recent visit that surprised you, or what was new?

OBAMA: Well, there's no doubt the security situation's improved. What hadn't changed was there's still enormous suspicion between the Sunni and the Shia. And until, I think, that gets resolved, I think you're still going to have a fragile situation.

COURIC: Before the surge, as you know, Senator, there were 80 to 100 U.S. casualties a month. The country was rife with sectarian violence and you raised a lot of eyebrows on this trip saying, even knowing what you know now, you still would not have supported the surge. People may be scratching their heads and saying why?

OBAMA: If we continue to put $10 to $12 billion a month into Iraq, if we are willing to send as many troops as we can muster continually into Iraq, there's no doubt that that's going to have an impact. But it doesn't meet our long-term strategic goal, which is to make the American people safer over the long term. We have to recognize that Iraq is just one of our security problems. It's not the only one, we've got big problems in Afghanistan. We've got a significant threat in Iran. By us putting $10 to $12 billion a month, $200 billion, that's money that could have gone into Afghanistan. Those additional troops could have gone into Afghanistan. That money also could have been used to shore up a declining economic situation in the United States.

COURIC: If you believe, Senator, Afghanistan is, in fact, the central front in the war on terror, why was this your first trip there?

OBAMA: The fact that I didn't visit Afghanistan doesn't detract from my accurate assessment that this has been the central front on terror. I've been saying for over a year that we need to have more troops there. My visit confirmed, every commander on the ground saying we, in fact, do need the two or three brigades that I've been recommending there. You know, my hope is that whoever the next president is that we're going to get that policy right because it is absolutely critical for us being successful long term.

SMITH: That was Katie Couric in Amman, Jordan.

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