CNN's Yellin to Obama: Could You Force Congress to Stay Until Sequester Deal Is Struck?

CNN's White House correspondent asked President Obama on Friday why he couldn't just force Congress to stick around until a deal is reached to prevent the sequester cuts. Obama responded that he wasn't a "dictator."

"To your question 'what could you do?' First of all, couldn't you just have them down here and refuse to let them leave the room until you have a deal?" CNN's Jessica Yellin teed up the President. Apparently for Yellin, "leadership" means taking dictatorial measures to have an elected Congress pass a bill.

Even the President answered as much: "I am not a dictator. I'm the President. So ultimately if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say we need to go to catch a plane, I can't have Secret Service block the doorway."

Yellin followed up, "isn't it a part of leadership?" And later that afternoon she confirmed that's what she meant: "he was arguing there is nothing more he could do. The point I was getting to is, is leadership part of just forcing everybody to sit down and get past the uncomfortable parts?"

This is CNN. Of course, this is the same network that let Oliver Stone come on and defend dictator Hugo Chavez as a "warm" and "magnanimous" man.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on CNN Newsroom on March 1 at 11:57 a.m. EST, is as follows:

[11:57]

JESSICA YELLIN: To your question "what could you do?" First of all couldn't you just have them down here and refuse to let them leave the room until you have a deal?

(Laughter)

BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States: I mean Jessica, I – I am not a dictator. I'm the President. So ultimately if Mitch McConnell or John Boehner say we need to go to catch a plane, I can't have Secret Service block the doorway.

YELLIN: But isn't it a part of leadership? I'm sorry to interrupt you, but isn't –

OBAMA: I understand. And I know that this has been some of the conventional wisdom that's been floating around Washington that somehow, even though most people agree that I'm being reasonable, that most people agree I'm presenting a fair deal, the fact that they don't take it means that I should somehow do a Jedi mind meld with these folks and convince them to do what's right. Well, they're elected, we have a constitutional system of government. The Speaker of the House and the Leader of the Senate and all those folks have responsibilities. What I can do is I can the make the best possible case for why we need to do the right thing.

(...)

[2:09]

YELLIN: So part of the reason I asked the question, Brooke, is because the President has argued that it's just all but impossible to reach a deal with Republicans, that it's not a failure of his leadership, that it's just the reality of politics in Washington. And the point I was getting at is isn't there -- he was arguing there is nothing more he could do. The point I was getting to is, is leadership part of just forcing everybody to sit down and get past the uncomfortable parts?

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