CBS’s Smith Skeptical of Book on Obamas; No Doubts With Anti-Bush Book
On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith spoke with Christopher Anderson, author of Barack and Michelle: Portrait of An American Marriage, and wondered: "I’m starting to read this book and there’s a lot of quotation marks....I wonder, sometimes – this one to me feels like it’s on a little thin ice. Why is that?"
The book focused on some difficult moments in the Obama marriage, as Anderson explained: "And I have to say that it’s very interesting because the strains in their marriage, they’ve been very open about. During the period when he was in the Senate, the state Senate, in Illinois, he said it was a dark time in their marriage. He was angry all the time." Smith responded: "But these – here’s what – it’s disconcerting to me because as I started to read this and all these quotation marks, I felt, well, this reads – this looks more like a novel than nonfiction."
In contrast, Smith was not at all skeptical when discussing a tell-all book about President George W. Bush by former press secretary Scott McClellan. On the May 29, 2008 Early Show Smith proclaimed that the memoir, which claimed the Bush administration lied about the Iraq War, "actually confirms what a lot of people have come to believe, though, about the Bush Administration, that truth was secondary to policy and politics."
Speaking to former Bush communications director Dan Bartlett, Smith later reaffirmed McClellan’s credibility: "Scott McClellan, though, doesn't have all that much to gain, especially in the long run, to betray the White House in the way folks feel like he has...So why would he write the book unless he believes he – he was deceived himself?"
Here is a full transcript of Smith’s interview with Anderson:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: And as President Obama makes a late night appearance on Letterman-
BARACK OBAMA: I was actually black before the election, so-
RODRIGUEZ: A new book out this morning reveals new details about the President’s marriage. We’ll talk exclusively with the author.
DAVID LETTERMAN: A couple of days ago, Jimmy Carter started talking about this behavior, and was speculating that perhaps this unease or poor decorum was because people – was rooted in racism. Is he on to something there or is that just something to talk about?
OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think it’s important to realize that I was actually black before the election, so-
LETTERMAN: I want to hear about the summer you and your family had. How is the family? I know good, but tell me about the summer.
OBAMA: The family is doing wonderfully. So we decided there wasn’t going to be any fancy camps during the summer or anything. They basically just goofed off all summer, which I couldn’t do, so-
LETTERMAN: Others have.
HARRY SMITH: Welcome back to the Early Show, that was President Obama on the Late Show with David Letterman last night. He was for the entire show. Coming up, we have surprising insight into the President’s relationship with his wife, Michelle. We’ll talk with the author of a new book on the first couple.
HARRY SMITH: But first, there’s a controversial new book out this morning that takes us inside the marriage of Barack and Michelle Obama. It claims, among other things, that they almost split up. Joining us now is Christopher Andersen, author of ‘Barack and Michelle: Portrait of An American Marriage.’ Good morning.
CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON: Good morning. Great to be here.
SMITH: First things first.
SMITH: I’m starting to read this book and there’s a lot of quotation marks. You quote characters in the book, Michelle and the President, as if you were standing in the room.
CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON: Right, right.
SMITH: Right in the beginning of the book: ‘You only think about yourself,’ Michelle would say, ‘I never thought I’d have to raise a family alone.’
ANDERSON: They’re very open with their friends back in Chicago and they tell them – they’ve told them – many family friends in Chicago, and in Hawaii, and other places that I went, the details of what happened between. And they’ve been very open, by the way, about this period in their marriage.
SMITH: So this is – these kinds of quotes, then, come from the mouths of-
ANDERSON: Their best friends, from Michelle and Barack themselves. They said what went on in the marriage – what went on in these particular scenes. And I have to say that it’s very interesting because the strains in their marriage, they’ve been very open about. During the period when he was in the Senate, the state Senate, in Illinois, he said it was a dark time in their marriage. He was angry all the time.
SMITH: But these – here’s what – it’s disconcerting to me because as I started to read this and all these quotation marks, I felt, well, this reads – this looks more like a novel than nonfiction.
ANDERSON: Everything there has been said to me by people that were friends of the Obamas and the Obamas told them this went on between them and this is the dialogue that went on between them.
SMITH: Okay, let’s talk about some of the – I’m not sure they’re bombshells, but headlines, from the book. And the one I think that people will perhaps pay most attention to is this notion that Michelle was on fertility treatments.
ANDERSON: No, didn’t say that at all. What I said was that for five years they tried to have children and they were very concerned about their ability to have them before Malia came along. And, in fact, one of their best friends has gone on record as saying when she became pregnant, she was afraid to tell Michelle because Michelle had been trying so hard she didn’t want to break her heart. They discussed adoption with some of their closest friends and then, fortunately for them, Malia came along in 1998.
ANDERSON: I never said they were on fertility treatments.
SMITH: Okay, alright. That’s a mis-
ANDERSON: That’s been misreported.
SMITH: That’s been misconstrued, misreported, alright. What about this notion that Michelle – did Michelle veto Hillary Clinton as a vice presidential possibility?
ANDERSON: Well, you know, Barack Obama has said repeatedly that ‘she is my chief counsel, my chief advisor, I would never make a decision without going to her and asking her opinion.’ She, in fact, gave her opinion, and that was that she did not want – she asked him if he really wanted to have Bill and Hillary down the hall in the White House.
SMITH: So you extrapolate from that, that?
ANDERSON: Well she had – no, what I said was that she had very strong input in terms of that decision.
SMITH: And what was the quotation, though? ‘You don’t them – we don’t want them down the hall-’
ANDERSON: ‘Do you really want them down the hall from you in the White House? Can you live with that?’
SMITH: Alright. And what about, among other things, he didn’t like the phrase, ‘yes, we can,’ and she liked it?
ANDERSON: Absolutely, and the campaign has, you know, verified that. The fact of the matter is when David Axelrod, his campaign manager, floated this by, he didn’t like it at all. He thought it was childish and corny and she said, ‘no, trust me, I know it will work.’ And so she was the deciding factor there.
SMITH: Okay. How many – how many – we’ve talked many times before.
ANDERSON: 28th book, yes.
SMITH: You talked – you do a lot of reporting.
SMITH: You do a lot of reporting. I wonder, sometimes – this one to me feels like it’s on a little thin ice. Why is that?
ANDERSON: I have no idea because the 200 people that I interviewed were – they’re the people closest to them over the years, and again, the Obamas have been very open about their marriage and that’s what distinguishes them between – makes them, I think, a very special couple. I mean, they have said, you know, Michelle has said many, many times ‘I don’t want people to think it’s easy. We’ve had rough times. We have a strong marriage, but it’s not perfect.’
SMITH: Alright. Christopher Andersen, thanks so much for being here.
ANDERSON: Great, great to be here. Thank you.
SMITH: Alright. To read an excerpt from ‘Barack and Michelle,’ go to our website, EarlyShow.CBSNews.com.