CBS’s Couric: Cabinet Picks ‘Inoculate’ Obama From Criticism

Katie Couric and Jeff Greenfield, CBS Following coverage of a Monday morning news conference in which President-elect Barack Obama announced his national security team, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric observed: "...two initially surprising centrist choices for his so-called team of rivals. Senator Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, and of course Bush Defense Secretary Robert Gates." She then asked political analyst Jeff Greenfield: "...in a way, this inoculates President-Elect Obama from criticism that he is somehow soft in the area of foreign policy, doesn't it?" Greenfield replied: "Yeah, I think so."

Greenfield went on to explain: "If he's going to pursue a different course, emphasizing diplomacy and international aid, if you have people like General Jones and Secretary Gates, and Hillary Clinton, who's relatively hawkish for a Democrat, it doesn't sound like a Kumbaya, let's just trust everybody. These are hard-headed realists and I think it helps him pursue that foreign policy." Couric followed up: "What about the confirmation process? Do you think there will be tough questions for Senator Clinton?...any road blocks during that process?" Greenfield responded: "One interesting thing is there are no -- I'll use this term -- fire-breathing conservative Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Nobody who's looking to make points going after Bill Clinton."

Here is the full transcript of the exchange:

11:26AM SEGMENT:

KATIE COURIC: Saying that he likes strong personalities, strong opinions, and assuage group-think, President-Elect Obama has, after much speculation, named his national security team, including two initially surprising centrist choices for his so-called team of rivals. Senator Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, and of course Bush Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who will continue in his role at the Pentagon. Our senior political correspondent Jeff Greenfield is here. And Jeff, in a way, this inoculates President-Elect Obama from criticism that he is somehow soft in the area of foreign policy, doesn't it?

JEFF GREENFIELD: Yeah, I think so. A lot of people said picking Hillary Clinton protects him from, say, Bill Clinton free-lancing, but I think your point is broader. If he's going to pursue a different course, emphasizing diplomacy and international aid, if you have people like General Jones and Secretary Gates, and Hillary Clinton, who's relatively hawkish for a Democrat, it doesn't sound like a Kumbaya, let's just trust everybody. These are hard-headed realists and I think it helps him pursue that foreign policy.

COURIC: What about the confirmation process? Do you think there will be tough questions for Senator Clinton? Richard Lugar -- Senator Lugar over the weekend said there were legitimate questions to ask about Bill Clinton and, of course, in order for her to even be nominated as secretary of state he had to disclose the names of every contributor to his foundation since its inception in 1997 and all contributors going forward. So do you think that they're going to run into any road blocks during that process?

GREENFIELD: They're going to run into some tough questions because Senator Lugar, who said he's going to support Senator Clinton's nomination, said we do have legitimate questions. One interesting thing is there are no -- I'll use this term -- fire-breathing conservative Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Nobody who's looking to make points going after Bill Clinton. And Richard Lugar himself, the ranking Republican, is a relative moderate. So I think that there'll be tough questions, but I don't think it's going to be a kind of, you know, blood bath attack on the former president.

COURIC: And the confirmation hearings are expected to take place before the Inauguration.

GREENFIELD: Sometime after January 6th. And remember, Joe Biden was the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, so we don't know who the new chair is even going to be. But yeah, they want this team up and running, they've got enough Democrats to say 'alright, we're going to get these people in place so that they can be ready to go on January 20th.'

COURIC: Alright, Jeff Greenfield. As always Jeff, thanks so much. There will be more, of course, about the Obama cabinet on your local news on this CBS station and on tonight's CBS Evening News. Until then, I'm Katie Couric in New York. I'll see you later.

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