Interviewing Obama, 'Today,' 'Morning Joe' Cast Hillary as the Heavy

When David Gregory grilled Hillary Clinton on Today on December 17th, the challenges to her came from his own mouth. Not once was a statement by Barack Obama used to confront Clinton.

But when Barack Obama made back-to-back appearances this morning on Today and Morning Joe, again and again tough questions were posed not in the first person but as coming from Hillary Clinton or her surrogates.

View video here.

Gregory again did the honors at Today, and he began with consecutive questions giving Obama a chance to react to Hillary supporter Bob Kerrey having raised Barack's Muslim family background.

DAVID GREGORY: I'd like to start with something that former Senator Bob Kerrey said this week and later apologized for. He said the following: "I like the fact," speaking of you, "that his name is Barack Hussein Obama and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There's a billion people on the planet that are Muslims and I think that experience is a big deal." Senator, do you think that warranted an apology or do you take that background, that aspect of your background, as a point of pride.
And again . . .
GREGORY: That background, and pointing out a Muslim background, not an attempt to poison the well, in your judgment?
Both times, Obama took the high road, choosing to cast Kerrey's comment as a compliment to his qualifications.

A bit later . . .
GREGORY: Your critics say that your biggest shortcoming is that lack of experience. The former president, Bill Clinton, said a vote for you would essentially be a roll of the dice. Whether it's experience, or the issue of change, or the issue of leadership, you have been criticized, particularly by Senator Hillary Clinton. The issue of your voting record in the Illinois legislature, voting "present" in some cases, where you don't take a stand for or against, has added to criticism based on some votes that you've missed as a senator, particularly an important vote over Iran. And it led Senator Clinton to accuse you of ducking. Quote "a president can't pick and choose which challenges he or she will face." Response?
Obama claimed that we have entered "silly season" and that he had led on all of the issues cited.

A few minutes later, Obama appeared on Morning Joe, and while some questions came directly from the questioners, Hillary was again used as the main foil. Mika Brzezinski led with the issue of Obama's "present" votes.
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Here's Hillary Clinton taking a swipe [note pejorative] at you on this. Take a listen.

Roll clip of Hillary saying "a president can't vote 'present.'"

In responding, Obama recyled a winning line he's been using: "my character and my Illinois record was terrific when I was down 20 points in the polls." Off camera, Joe could be heard having a good chuckle.

When it was his turn, host Joe Scarborough adopted the same tactic.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Senator, what do you think when you see Senator Hillary Clinton comparing you to George W. Bush when it comes to foreign policy?
Obama replied that the apter comparison was to the way Bill Clinton had been criticized by Republicans for his inexperience when first running for president.

A bit later . . .
SCARBOROUGH: We were joking about the knee-capping from third persons [NB: all associated with Hillary's campaign] from cocaine, to kindergarten, to you-name-it, do you think voters in New Hampshire may be responding negatively to those attacks, and that's why your poll numbers are on the uptick?
Obama got off one of his best lines of the morning.
OBAMA: Well, I think our poll numbers were on the uptick, and that's why we were subject to attack.
So, Hillary cast as the heavy. Fodder for the Clinton campaign's complaint, discussed by Howard Kurtz, that she is receiving tougher press treatment than her rivals . . . or simply a case of reaping what you sow?
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.