John Roberts, during an interview of Susan Eisenhower, the granddaughter of Dwight Eisenhower and a Barack Obama supporter, on Wednesday’s American Morning, asked about the Democratic presidential candidate’s apparent similarities to the World War II hero, as well as how he might be like Ronald Reagan. Later in the interview, the CNN co-anchor also stated that "the McCain campaign has been trying to tear him [Obama] down at every opportunity and they keep on zeroing-in on this idea of celebrity. Let's take a quick look at the latest ad from the McCain campaign that hammers Obama on that point."
Barack Obama’s campaign had announced the formation of "Republicans for Obama" on Tuesday, and Roberts interviewed Eisenhower about why she was among those "crossing party lines" to support the Illinois senator. He asked in his first question to Eisenhower, "We all remember that the ‘I like Ike’ campaign back in 1952. But reading what you've said about Senator Obama, it seems like there are some similarities, that he may be just like Ike. What can you tell me about that?" After she replied, he followed-up with another presidential comparison: "You also see some similarities, you said, between Senator Obama and President Reagan. How so?"
Roberts devoted his next two questions to Obama’s experience, and in the first question, he referenced President Eisenhower’s three pillars of national security: "Your grandfather, of course, was very famous for his three pillars of national security: address your enemies, provide economic security, moral authority as well. Do you believe that Senator Obama has the same type of experience to be able to carry on those three pillars of national security?"
After playing a clip from a recent John McCain campaign ad, which he introduced by making the "tear him down" comment, Roberts outlined President Eisenhower’s "extraordinarily deep resume" and asked, "Are you confident that Senator Obama can measure up to that sort of experience that you've had historically in your family?" That last question brings up an obvious follow-up: does Obama "measure up" to the historical experience of McCain’s family, whose father and grandfather were four-star admirals?
The full transcript of the interview, which began 28 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour of Wednesday’s American Morning:
JOHN ROBERTS: You have heard politicians talk about bi-partisanship, but what about a voter being on both sides of the fence? Our next guest is a Republican. In fact, her grandfather was President Eisenhower. Now, she's just one GOP member announcing that they are crossing party lines to form Republicans for Obama, and joining me now is Susan Eisenhower. Ms. Eisenhower, it's great to see you. We all remember that the 'I like Ike' campaign back in 1952. But reading what you've said about Senator Obama, it seems like there are some similarities, that he may be just like Ike. What can you tell me about that?
SUSAN EISENHOWER: Well, the key thing is here, this is the first open election since 1952. That means an election where there are no incumbents in the race, and at that time, Dwight Eisenhower was the outside candidate. He had no long standing political relationships, and he came in as an agent for change in Washington. I think that's one of the really big similarities.
ROBERTS: Right. You also see some similarities, you said, between Senator Obama and President Reagan. How so?
EISENHOWER: Well, I think that both men have the capacity to make this country feel good about itself. This cannot be underestimated as an important part of mobilizing the country, really, to address some very serious problems.
ROBERTS: Your grandfather, of course, was very famous for his three pillars of national security: address your enemies, provide economic security, moral authority as well. Do you believe that Senator Obama has the same type of experience to be able to carry on those three pillars of national security?
EISENHOWER: I think, actually, Barack Obama thinks about national security in those terms, and I think that every American now understands that we're somewhere near a perfect storm, with a very big economic crisis in this country, due to the sub prime problem, as well as an increasingly complicated international situation. Barack Obama, I think, had a very, very successful trip overseas, and I think he can actually restore America's prestige abroad.
ROBERTS: Now, the McCain campaign has been trying to tear him down at every opportunity and they keep on zeroing-in on this idea of celebrity. Let's take a quick look at the latest ad from the McCain campaign that hammers Obama on that point.
UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER (from McCain advertisement): Now you, too, can join 'The One's' fan club right here in America. So act now and don't delay. We know he doesn't have much experience and isn't ready to lead. But that doesn't mean he isn't dreamy.
ROBERTS: So that's the latest negative ad from the Obama campaign [sic]. But let me ask you about this idea of leadership. Your grandfather had such an extraordinarily deep resume. He was the Supreme Allied Commander during World War II in Europe, served two terms as President, an enormous foreign policy experience. Are you confident that Senator Obama can measure up to that sort of experience that you've had historically in your family?
EISENHOWER: Well, one of the reasons I decided to cross the aisle is Senator Obama actually has been, since the beginning of his campaign, reaching out to Republicans, independents, and Democrats. I got called a year and a half ago, and [was] asked for my thoughts on Russia and non-proliferation, which are two areas of my expertise. And the Obama campaign didn't seem remotely worried about the fact that I wasn't a Democrat. I checked out -- this out in Washington, and this was happening in a uniform way. We have to have a listener now. The situation is very dynamic both at home and abroad, and we have to have a president who is capable of bringing Democrats and Republicans together to address these problems.
ROBERTS: So are you just one moderate Republican who is switching sides here, [or] are you the start of a larger movement? We did have Former Congressman Jim Leech from Iowa and former senator -- Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee from Rhode Island, who has been called by many people a RINO, a Republican-in-name-only -- yesterday announced that they were coming over to Obama's side.
EISENHOWER: Right. Well, I actually supported the senator as early as February 2nd. So, I've been there from the beginning, and this was even before John McCain was the apparent nominee of the Republican party. There are many Republicans -- I had an avalanche of e-mail after that endorsement, and many moderate Republicans said that they're terrified of having a third Bush term. John McCain has been a real supporter of virtually everything that the Bush White House has wanted, and I think the American people feel desperate for a change, especially an understanding that we have to restore our position abroad.
ROBERTS: Susan Eisenhower, it's great to talk to you. Thanks for coming on this morning. All right. We'll see you again.