CBS’s Couric Praises Barack Obama as the ‘Anti-Bush’

Katie Couric, CBS Appearing on Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, Evening News anchor Katie Couric discussed her White House interview with President Obama regarding the withdrawal of recent cabinet nominees: "He is surprisingly relaxed...extremely comfortable, very focused. It’s very different than sort of the buttoned-up Bush White House...he said to every person who interviewed him...that he ‘screwed up,’ he ‘messed up.’ And I think he really is trying to be the anti-Bush because President Bush was so criticized for never saying, you know, ‘I made a mistake.’" On Tuesday’s Evening News, Couric portrayed Obama as a victim.

Early Show co-host Harry Smith agreed with Couric and pointed out another criticism of the Bush administration: "There was also criticism of too much loyalty." Like Couric, Smith then praised Obama for being the "anti-Bush" and throwing Health and Human Services secretary nominee Tom Daschle under the bus: "...and here was Tom Daschle, who had been his mentor all these-" Couric interjected: "And he's been working on health care, by the way...for many, many months...And really focused on it. You know, President Obama reiterated that he thought Tom Daschle was the right man for the job, it was an honest mistake."

Later, Smith did suggest a certain disillusionment with Obama: "Two weeks in, is it -- you -- I'm not sure you can really say the honeymoon is over, but this is so much different, already now, than it was two weeks ago." Couric replied: "Well, I think the Republicans, Harry, are slightly emboldened by these missteps when it comes to these appointments with Tim Geithner, and Bill Richardson, and now Tom Daschle. And I think that, you know, they are loaded for bear, they are joining forces, and I think they do have some serious policy differences with this bill." Smith later concluded: "Republicans can also say, 'is this really building the safety net or is this really stimulus?' And maybe that conversation is actually going to take place now."

Prior to the discussion with Couric, correspondent Bill Plante reported on Daschle’s withdrawal: "The president is basically trying to turn the page by saying that it was his fault, that he and his top advisors just didn't get it when it came to how the public would perceive the Daschle tax problem." At the end of the report, Plante cited historian Charles Cushman of George Washington University: "If President Obama and his team move quickly, and the new nominees are clean, clearly vetted, and ready to go, then it's just a momentary hiccup." Plante added: "Well, they hope it's just a hiccup, but this could be a major setback in their plans to try to get health care reform."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

BARACK OBAMA: I think I messed up, I screwed up.

[ON SCREEN GRAPHIC: 'ON THE DEFENSIVE']

JULIE CHEN: Day 16 for President Obama and he's taking the blame for the tax mess that cost him two high-profile nominees. Katie Couric is back from the White House and joins us with her interview with the president.

7:02AM SEGMENT:

JULIE CHEN: But first, President Obama takes responsibility for high-profile nominees forced to step aside due to tax issues. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante joins us with more. Good morning, Bill.

BILL PLANTE: Morning, Julie. The president is basically trying to turn the page by saying that it was his fault, that he and his top advisors just didn't get it when it came to how the public would perceive the Daschle tax problem. At some point, as this became clearer on Tuesday morning, Daschle picked up the phone and called the president. President Obama said it was Daschle's decision, but he took part of the blame on his own shoulders in an interview with Katie Couric.

[ON SCREEN GRAPHIC: 'CONFIRMATION CHAOS, OBAMA TAKES RESPONSIBILITY']

BARACK OBAMA: I was very eager to make sure that we can deliver on a commitment that I have to deliver health care for the American people. I think I messed up, I screwed up.

PLANTE: Daschle was the second nominee to step down Tuesday, Nancy Killefer withdrew her nomination for a top budget position because of a tax lean satisfied three years ago. The two withdrawals are the latest in a number of high-profile problems with President Obama's nominees. Katie Couric asked the president, who campaigned saying that lobbyists wouldn't work in his White House, about his promise to change the culture of Washington.

OBAMA: I never thought it was easy. Change is hard.

PLANTE: Presidential historian Charles Cushman says the president needs to act fast.

CHARLES CUSHMAN: If President Obama and his team move quickly, and the new nominees are clean, clearly vetted, and ready to go, then it's just a momentary hiccup.

PLANTE: Well, they hope it's just a hiccup, but this could be a major setback in their plans to try to get health care reform. Mr. Obama will try to turn the page again this morning, by announcing limits on executive pay for companies who take public funding. It'll be a top limit of $500,000. Harry.

HARRY SMITH: Alright, Bill, thanks very much. Katie Couric is here with much more of her one-on-one interview with the president. Good morning, Katie.

KATIE COURIC: Good morning, nice to see you, Harry. You know, the president invited a handful of journalists, mostly the network anchors from the evening newscasts, to the Oval Office yesterday, I think, ostensibly to talk about his desire to get this stimulus package passed ASAP, but instead, of course, he was faced with a lot of questions about Tom Daschle withdrawing his name for head of the department of Health and Human Services. I asked him, really, about his track record of recent appointments, which, as you know, has not been so stellar.

[CLIP OF WHITE HOUSE INTERVIEW]

COURIC: Questions have been raised about a number of your choices, Bill Richardson, Tim Geithner, now Tom Daschle. Then less than two hours before Tom Daschle bowed out, your pick for chief performance officer and deputy director of the OMB dropped out because of her personal tax issues. Is there something wrong with your vetting process?

OBAMA: Well I -- you know, I don't think there's something wrong with the vetting process, I think that what happened certainly -- let's just take Tom as an example -- I made a judgment that he was the best person possible for the job. And, you know, I was very eager to make sure that we can deliver on a commitment that I have to deliver health care for the American people. I think I messed up, I screwed up, in not recognizing the perception that even though this is a honest mistake, I believe, on Tom's part, that, you know, ordinary people are out there paying taxes everyday and, you know, whether it's a intentional mistake or not, it was sending the wrong signal.

[END OF CLIP]

SMITH: And of course, as you say, the original impetus for the invitation was to talk about the stimulus package. Front page of the Washington Post today: 'Senate Lacks Votes to Pass Stimulus.' And I know you talked to him about that, too. Let's listen.

[CLIP OF WHITE HOUSE INTERVIEW]

COURIC: Let's talk about this stimulus package, which I think is what you really wanted to focus on today-

OBAMA: Right. Well, this is the problem when you make these self-inflicted wounds, you end up being distracted from, really, the people's business.

COURIC: One of your biggest supporters, Senator Claire McCaskill, said quote 'all Democrats did was tee up ammunition for the other side to tear this thing down.' Do you blame some of your fellow Democrats for at least giving the impression that this has been loaded up with too many partisan pet projects?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think, first of all, many of the projects that people have pointed out as partisan pet projects are actually probably pretty good policy, they may just not belong in this bill. So I don't want to, you know, cast doubt on the intentions of a lot of my Democratic colleagues here. But, what I'd say to the Republicans is the same thing I'd say to the Democrats, and that is, we have an urgent situation right now. They -- this is an extraordinary time. I think the American people, because they're feeling it day to day, understand this. I'm not sure Washington does entirely.

[END OF CLIP]

SMITH: This comes, literally, on the two-week anniversary of the inauguration and all of that emotion and everything else-

COURIC: And political capital, right?

SMITH: Yes, yes indeed. What was the mood like in the Oval Office?

COURIC: He is surprisingly relaxed. You know, he's is this battle now with the Senate and Senate Republicans, but he seems extremely comfortable, very focused. It's very different than sort of the buttoned-up Bush White House, very kind of everybody seems much, much more relaxed. And I thought it was interesting that he said to every person who interviewed him yesterday, not just for me unfortunately, that he 'screwed up,' he 'messed up.' And I think he really is trying to be the anti-Bush because President Bush was so criticized for never saying, you know, 'I made a mistake.'

SMITH: Right.

COURIC: Until the very end of his presidency.

SMITH: There was also criticism of too much loyalty, and here was Tom Daschle, who had been his mentor all these-

COURIC: And he's been working on health care, by the way-

SMITH: Yes, forever-

COURIC: -for many, many months-

SMITH: Yes, yes.

COURIC: And really focused on it. You know, President Obama reiterated that he thought Tom Daschle was the right man for the job, it was an honest mistake. But I think the appearance that they did have a double standard and he campaigned on ethics reform-

SMITH: Stop the revolving door-

COURIC: -and anti-lobbyists, so-

SMITH: Yes, yes.

COURIC: I think this really became an untenable situation.

SMITH: Mm-hmm. Two weeks in, is it -- you -- I'm not sure you can really say the honeymoon is over, but this is so much different, already now, than it was two weeks ago.

COURIC: Well, I think the Republicans, Harry, are slightly emboldened by these missteps when it comes to these appointments with Tim Geithner, and Bill Richardson, and now Tom Daschle. And I think that, you know, they are loaded for bear, they are joining forces, and I think they do have some serious policy differences with this bill. There are a lot of spending things in here that people could question whether they really are going to create jobs right away. He defended the weatherization – I asked him about the $6.2 billion for home weatherization, he talked about lowering energy costs, putting people to work. But some things, like port infrastructure and water resources in Guam.

SMITH: Right.

COURIC: And you know, I think there's $100 million for children to learn green construction. A lot of lawmakers are saying 'hey, this may be good policy, but let's wait and put this is a later budget bill, it just isn't really going to stimulate the economy.'

SMITH: Republicans can also say, 'is this really building the safety net or is this really stimulus?' And maybe that conversation is actually going to take place now.

COURIC: Yes, I think it's going on as we speak, Harry.

SMITH: There we go. Katie, thank you so much for being here.

COURIC: Your welcome.

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