CBS's Rodriguez to Michelle Obama: How Does President 'Unwind' Amid 'Partisan Attacks'?
Rodriguez asked about Mrs. Obama's reaction to criticism of her husband: "How often do you have to bite your tongue?" The First Lady explained: "You can't go into this if you're thin-skinned or you're worrying about your husband being criticized or you being criticized." Rodriguez remarked, "And criticize they do," and played clips of Dick Cheney and Sarah Palin as examples of the "frustrating partisan attacks" being launched against the President.
Later, Rodriguez asked about the Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, and how they deal with the "poisonous environment" of Washington: "Do they not hear the attacks?" Mrs. Obama replied: "Everyone in this country cares about those girls....we have been pleasantly surprised that our children have experienced that kind of good naturedness of this country."
Rodriguez also took time to note how well the First Lady is handling the President's falling poll numbers: "The climate in Washington can be extremely tough these days, with President Obama's approval ratings down to a mere 45%....As the President's approval ratings plummet, Mrs. Obama takes it in stride." Obama argued: "The important thing is for the President to stay focused. Which is what he's doing every single day." After the interview concluded, Rodriguez added: "She said relax, everybody, there's plenty of time...for the President's approval ratings to come back up as things improve. So she's honestly not worried about it."
Co-host Harry Smith was concerned that Rodriguez's interview was not thorough enough: "I'm worrying about the dog. How's that dog doing?" Rodriguez jokingly replied: "Yeah, you know, I forgot to ask how the dog handles the stress....Good question, Harry. And I missed it."
The interview was conducted on Friday and aired in two parts on the Monday and Tuesday broadcasts of the Early Show. On Monday, Rodriguez asked the First Lady about health care reform "being held hostage by partisanship."
Here is a portion of the interview aired on Tuesday:
RODRIGUEZ: A year after moving into the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama sounds like a Washington veteran. Your husband is the target of so many of these partisan attacks. I wonder, how often do you have to bite your tongue?
OBAMA: You know, it's the nature of the job. You know, you don't – you can't go into this if you're thin-skinned or you're worrying about your husband being criticized or you being criticized. It's sort of a part of it.
RODRIGUEZ: And criticize they do.
DICK CHENEY: Barack Obama is a one-term president.
SARAH PALIN: We need a commander in chief, not a professor of law standing at the lectern!
RODRIGUEZ: As the President's approval ratings plummet, Mrs. Obama takes it in stride.
OBAMA: I don't want to say that you become immune to it, but, you know, folks are – you know, folks want jobs. You know, they want to be able to build the life, the American dream, that they had hoped. And when stuff gets tough, people get angry, and they have every right to criticize the people in charge. But the important thing is for the President to stay focused. Which is what he's doing every single day. He's going into the office-
RODRIGUEZ: But he's human.
OBAMA: He's absolutely human.
RODRIGUEZ: He must get frustrated?
OBAMA: You know, everybody gets frustrated at some point in time. I mean, the American people get frustrated. But he – you know, when you're the President of the United States, you can't wallow in your frustration.
RODRIGUEZ: When he gets home after working all day amid all these frustrations, how does he unwind, how does he let that all go?
OBAMA: You know, part of it is making a home a political free zone, you know. And it's probably like home for anyone in this country. We walk in the door, the kids will ask about his day or mine. They're interested for maybe 30 seconds. And then they're focused on their worlds, which we are more than happy to immerse ourselves in.
RODRIGUEZ: Mrs. Obama says 11-year-old Malia and 8-year-old Sasha are their best distraction and their biggest motivation.
OBAMA: He and I both wake up every morning and go to bed every night with their faces on our minds. You know, this is not about us. This is about their future.
RODRIGUEZ: How do you shield them from the sometimes poisonous environment that Washington can be?
OBAMA: You know, I think their age helps. Because they're completely uninterested.
RODRIGUEZ: Do they not hear the attacks?
OBAMA: You know, the one thing that has been very good is that everyone in this country cares about those girls, even if, you know, they're opposed or angry at their father. Folks are kind and decent. I hope that continues. But we have been pleasantly surprised that our children have experienced that kind of good naturedness of this country.