CBS: Liberal Historian Compares Obama to FDR, Bush to Hoover

Douglas Brinkley and Bob Schieffer, CBS During live coverage of Barack Obama’s inauguration at 9:30AM on Tuesday, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric spoke to historian Douglas Brinkley, who observed: "And it reminds me of Franklin Roosevelt in March of 1933 in this regard, I mean the economy was in tatters, Herbert Hoover was an unpopular president, President Bush is not very popular, and he was able to galvanize people with his speech, FDR, move the nation, you know to have nothing -- you know, to fight for all of the civil rights and to start pushing forward the hundred days of the New Deal. And so you see the echoes of that." On the January 11 Sunday Morning program, Brinkley declared Bush in the "...the very bottom-rung of American Presidents."

Brinkley’s comment was prompted by Couric remarking: "...a confluence of events that will make him perhaps one of the most powerful presidents in history. It's hard to predict an administration and how successful it will be, but he really is starting off things in an enviable position, isn't he?" Later, Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer shared his thoughts on that point: "But the interesting thing, Katie, is when we stop and think about it, our greatest presidents have always come to us during the worst of times. If history's any guide, the pieces are in place here for the making of a great president." On Monday’s Early Show, Schieffer compared Obama to Abraham Lincoln.

Schieffer also went on to contrast all the good will of the Obama inauguration with the bitterness of Bush’s 2001 inauguration: "There's just this feeling of goodwill that has settled over this capitol. Remember in 2000, when George Bush came here, there was this rancor that was left over from the dispute in Florida. People -- some -- many were convinced he wasn't even a legitimate president at that point...I have never, in a long, long time, Katie, seen the kind of spirit over this town and in this town, that we're seeing today. It's remarkable."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

9:31AM SEGMENT:

KATIE COURIC: And watching it all with me, right here from our studio, CBS News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer and presidential historian extra ordinaire Doug Brinkley. Gentlemen, good to see you on this very exciting day. And while Doug's a presidential historian Bob, you've lived through more history than either of us so far. Because you covered your first inauguration back in 1965.

BOB SCHIEFFER: This is number 12 for me-

COURIC: Wow.

SCHIEFFER: -and I've never seen anything like this. Katie, we were here before the sun came up. By 6:30 this morning, 6:30 this morning, there were already more than 100,000 people out on the Mall. We're going to have over a million people out there. Now the biggest inaugural crowd we ever had was Lyndon Johnson-

COURIC: Was yours, right, the-

SCHIEFFER: -in 1965-

COURIC: Not yours, but-

SCHIEFFER: No-

COURIC: Your first one.

SCHIEFFER: My first one. This is going to exceed that. I think the story here today is going to be we were talking about how big this was going to be, I think it's going to be bigger and a larger crowd than anyone anticipated.

COURIC: And not to mention, Doug was saying earlier, about the people in their hotel rooms who are going to file out at that moment when he takes the oath of office, or shortly before that, or even to come out and watch the parade, if they're along the parade route. It is pretty extraordinary, isn't it, Doug?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Well, it's going to be a bragging right to say that 'I was in Washington D.C.,' even if you didn't see Obama, but if you were in Washington for the inaugural it's going to mean something down the line, and I can't help but be moved, like everybody is, at what this means for the country. I mean, we talk about the word freedom, and the freedom struggle, but think about it, the African-American community going through the middle passage to slavery, you know, through the Civil War and emancipation, Jim Crowe and then all the history of Booker T. Washington, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and now you have Barack Obama being sworn in as President of the United States. It's an awesome moment in American history.

COURIC: You know, historians apparently, according to the Washington Post this morning, say he is 'taking command of an office at its historic zenith,' you know, a confluence of events that will make him perhaps one of the most powerful presidents in history. It's hard to predict an administration and how successful it will be, but he really is starting off things in an enviable position, isn't he?

BRINKLEY: He is. And it reminds of Franklin Roosevelt in March of 1933 in this regard, I mean the economy was in tatters, Herbert Hoover was an unpopular president, President Bush is not very popular, and he was able to galvanize people with his speech, FDR, move the nation, you know to have nothing -- you know, to fight for all of the civil rights and to start pushing forward the hundred days of the New Deal. And so you see the echoes of that.

SCHIEFFER: But the interesting thing, Katie, is when we stop and think about it, our greatest presidents have always come to us during the worst of times. If history's any guide, the pieces are in place here for the making of a great president.

COURIC: He also has -- incredible good will backing him up. Something like 89% are feeling hopeful and optimistic about his administration, even 58% of supporters of John McCain. So it seems like he's got the support of the country, and of course, he needs to make political hay while the sun is shining, right?

SCHIEFFER: There's just this feeling of goodwill that has settled over this capitol. Remember in 2000, when George Bush came here, there was this rancor that was left over from the dispute in Florida. People -- some -- many were convinced he wasn't even a legitimate president at that point. There was back and forth between the Bush people and the Clinton people. They accused each other of trashing each other and all of that. This time it has all gone very smoothly. The president said 'I want this to be good.' I have never, in a long, long time, Katie, seen the kind of spirit over this town and in this town, that we're seeing today. It's remarkable.

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