Carl Bernstein: Obama Inherited Worst Situation of Any President Since '30s

MSNBC's "Morning Joe" hosted a pity party for President Obama on Wednesday. Discussing public opinion of President Obama amidst his trials as President, liberal Watergate journalistic "legend" Carl Bernstein won the pity prize, asserted that Obama inherited a bigger mess than any other president since the 1930s. "Very few presidents have come into office inheriting what President Obama has taken on," Bernstein opined on Wednesday's "Morning Joe."

"You'd have to go back, I think, to the thirties to really have a comparable situation," Bernstein continued.

Bernstein also blamed staunch GOP opposition and a broken political system for Obama's travails. "He's been trying to deal with it with a Republican opposition that has said 'no' to everything, and a political system – we keep going back to it – that simply is not functional or concerned with the national good."

The segment began with MSNBC anchor Chuck Todd and "Morning Joe" co-host Joe Scarborough agreeing that the current White House suffers more bad news than normal. "This White House always seems to have incoming," Scarborough noted. "Just constant, and it's been constant from the day they walked in the front door."

The headline during part of the segment was the results of a Washington Post/ABC News poll – 38 percent of those polled trust the GOP over Obama to handle the country's problems.

Chuck Todd remarked that the White House has been in "crisis management" from the beginning, and that the American public unrealistically expects them to handle it in a certain way. "They want him to deal with it, they expect him to deal with a lot of this incoming, but they're not giving him a lot of clues about which way they want him to deal with it," Todd said.

"They don't seem to like any way he deals with it, in many ways – if he tries to go left he gets hit in public opinion, if he tries to go little bit right he gets hit sometimes in public opinion."

A transcript of the segment, which aired on December 14 at 7:20 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Sitting here listening to this show for the past couple of hours – it's been very depressing. The White House strikes this deal, and yet on the front page of the paper of course bad news out of Afghanistan, bigger deficits, bigger debts. I'm just – just stepping back, this White House always seems to have incoming. I mean, it is constantly –

CHUCK TODD: Good way of putting it.

SCARBOROUGH: Even after striking what they consider to be a great, great bill – a great deal – they've got to deal with Afghanistan, with deficits, it's just – it's not getting easier, is it?

TODD: No, and not to give away the story, you know we have the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll coming out tonight, and we're going to deal, we'll delve into the numbers a lot tomorrow. But you know, I'll say this. I do get the sense in reading a lot of these polls – the public gets that there is a ton of incoming. And they get that, but they still don't have a handle on how the President is going to deal with this stuff. They want him to deal with it, they expect him to deal with a lot of this incoming, but they're not giving him a lot of clues about which way they want him to deal with it. They don't seem to like any way he deals with it, in many ways, if he tries to go left he gets hit in public opinion, if he tries to go little bit right he gets hit sometimes in public opinion. So you do get the sense the public gets that this is just we're at a moment in history where it's just a good way of putting it, it's just nothing but incoming –

SCARBOROUGH: Just constant, and it's been constant from the day they walked in the front door.

TODD: It's been crisis management, almost, since day one –

SCARBOROUGH: Since day one –

TODD: And it's tough to be a president. One of the things I've noticed is the public is questioning sometimes his leadership skills, but when you're in the middle of a crisis, the public doesn't get to see if you're being a leader, they just see that you're looking like you're just plugging holes.

(...)

TODD: What I've seen across the polling is you see the pessimism back again. Every time it looks like a jobs number will be in the six figures in gains, stock market will go up, something positive will happen, and then bang, something happens with the economy that just sort of shakes it back to its core, depresses the public. And I'll just say this Joe, that's what I'm sensing when you look at it through that prism, because it's negative not just about him, it's negative across the board.

SCARBOROUGH: Everybody.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Carl, has there ever been a presidency though, where it isn't crisis management every day?

CARL BERNSTEIN: Very few presidents have come into office inheriting what President Obama has taken on. You'd have to go back, I think, to the thirties to really have a comparable situation, plus he had two wars. And when the economy collapses, when you have two wars going on, you've got a unique situation. And that's what he's been trying to deal with, and he's been trying to deal with it with a Republican opposition that has said "No" to everything, and a political system – we keep going back to it – that simply is not functional or concerned with the national good.

(...)

BERNSTEIN: Chuck, one question. Isn't there a kind of trend in the polls – they're only a snapshot, though – that shows that for the President there's a kind of surprising amount of understanding of his problems, and that there's – the numbers will show that people like him a little bit more than what's been thrown at him?

 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014