NBC Laments Media-Generated 'Bubble' Around Obama

Lester Holt, NBC Anchor; & Savannah Guthrie, NBC Correspondent | NewsBusters.orgOn Tuesday morning’s Today show, NBC substitute anchor Lester Holt and correspondent Savannah Guthrie all but expressed regret over President-Elect Barack Obama having to make an “adjustment” -- not being able to “just pick up and go anytime he wants” due to “not just Secret Service, but a traveling corps of journalists now follows his every move, even in Hawaii.” Guthrie reported on the “signs Obama is growing a bit frustrated with all the attention.” The on-screen graphic accompanying her report inflated this apparent frustration on the part of future chief executive: “Man in a Bubble: Obama Chafes at Constant Scrutiny.”

Holt introduced Guthrie’s report with a lament over Obama’s seeming predicament: “He may not be president yet, but Barack Obama is getting an early taste of what life as leader of the free world is really like -- a lack of freedom, and an entourage documenting his every move.” Guthrie then began her report along a similar line: “Obama came here to Hawaii to get away from it all -- get one last vacation in before becoming president. But even here, he can’t just pick up and go anytime he wants, and that’s been quite an adjustment for the president-elect.”

After playing video of Mr. Obama accompanying his two daughters on an “afternoon outing,” Guthrie played a clip of the Washington Post’s Philip Rucker, who reenforced the sense that Obama was now in a “bubble.” She also played a clip from the Politico’s Carol Lee, who gave an account of what it was like to be part of the Obama press corps.

Guthrie then devoted the rest of her report to the “signs Obama is growing a bit frustrated with all the attention,” which mainly consisted of the president-elect ribbing the photographers following his golf game and the reporters who “dutifully recorded his lunch order the other day.” She concluded with a clip of NBC News presidential historian Michael Beschloss relating how all this “scrutiny” is “not going to make him [Obama] very happy.”

The full transcript of Savannah Guthrie’s report, which began 12 minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour of Tuesday’s “Today” show:

LESTER HOLT: He may not be president yet, but Barack Obama is getting an early taste of what life as leader of the free world is really like -- a lack of freedom, and an entourage documenting his every move. NBC’s White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie is among the pack of journalists who followed the president-elect to Hawaii. Savannah, good morning.

(NBC NEWS GRAPHIC: “Man in a Bubble: Obama Chafes at Constant Scrutiny”)

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Good morning to you, Lester. Well, of course, Obama came here to Hawaii to get away from it all -- get one last vacation in before becoming president. But even here, he can’t just pick up and go anytime he wants, and that’s been quite an adjustment for the president-elect.

GUTHRIE (voice-over): One of the few public sightings of the president-elect in Hawaii -- an afternoon outing with his two girls.

PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: She wants ice cream.

GUTHRIE: But the cameras almost missed it. Obama slipped out of the house after the contingency of press that follows him had been sent home for the day.

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It seems like what happened is they decided, at the last minute, [that] they wanted to go to the dolphin show. But when you’re president-elect and you have this whole entourage following you, it’s hard to make those decisions at the last minute.

GUTHRIE: Just one of the many adjustments Obama is having to make -- not just Secret Service, but a traveling corps of journalists now follows his every move, even in Hawaii.

CAROL LEE, POLITICO: I sort of compare it to surfing. It’s a lot of waiting for the occasional wave. You basically sit around and follow him wherever he goes.

GUTHRIE: There have been signs Obama is growing a bit frustrated with all the attention, like during a recent golf outing.

OBAMA: All right guys, come on now. How many shots of this do you need? Just one? Two?

GUTHRIE: And as reporters dutifully recorded his lunch order the other day.

OBAMA: You don’t really need to write all that down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: Yeah, we do. (laughs)

GUTHRIE: Obama has spent most of his vacation secluded in his oceanfront rental home, some days emerging only to get in that daily workout, where he always draws crowds. In an interview with ‘60 Minutes’ just after his election, Obama was already lamenting the loss of the simple things.

OBAMA: I can’t go to my own barbershop now. I’ve got to have my barber come to some undisclosed location to cut my hair.

GUTHRIE: From the Kennedys to the Clintons, presidents have always held a certain fascination. But the interest in Obama is especially high. He’s gracing not just news magazine covers, but ‘People’ and ‘Us Weekly.’

MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: The interest level in Obama is off the charts, not only in the United States, but around the world. That means he is going to be very intensively covered. It's not going to make him very happy.

GUTHRIE (on-camera): Well, Obama is still holding on to one piece of the old life -- his Blackberry. He’s probably going to have to give it up when he becomes president because of security reasons, but likes to use it to keep in touch with the outside world, and we have seen it clipped to his belt here in Hawaii, Lester.

HOLT: All right. Savannah Guthrie, thanks very much.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center