CNN's Cooper Asks Obama About Loss of 'Moral High Ground,' Ends With Dog Question

Anderson Cooper, CNN Anchor; & Barack Obama, President | NewsBusters.orgDuring an interview of President Obama on Tuesday’s Anderson Cooper 360, CNN’s Anderson Cooper included a number of tough questions, compared to his gentle treatment of the Democrat almost a year ago, but concluded  with three softball questions on the executive’s search for a family dog, his new limo, and his cigarette habit. The anchor asked the president if he had “lost some of that moral high ground” on his pledge to have an ethical administration, and why the commander-in-chief hadn’t use the phrase “war on terror” much since his inauguration.

The interview aired in three segments during the 10 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program. Cooper began the first segment by asking President Obama about the troubled nomination of Former Senator Tom Daschle to be the HHS Secretary: “Do you feel you messed up in letting it get this far?...What was your mistake -- letting it get this far? You should have pulled it earlier?” The anchor also asked as a follow-up, “Do you feel you have lost some of that moral high ground which you set for yourself on day one with the ethics reform?” The president’s answers on the issue included his admission that the nomination was a “mistake” and that he had “screwed up.”

Cooper brought up the issues of the economy and the proposed “stimulus” plan during the second segment, and asked him a question from the left: “On executive compensation, Paul Krugman suggested in The [New York] Times on Sunday that your tough talk may be just for show. What can you really do?” Obama chose not to answer, as he planned to “talk about it tomorrow” during an announcement on the matter.  After asking what parts of the “stimulus” were “non-negotiable,” the CNN anchor inquired if the “the House Democrats went too far” with some of their proposals in the plan. The president tried to defend the “stimulus” as a whole, but Cooper pressed him on the matter: “But this is what American people are hearing about, whether rightly or wrongly. And, I mean, did the -- did the Republicans beat you on selling this, on selling the message? Did you lose the message?” The public is hearing about the questionable content of the “stimulus” plan “rightly or wrongly,” Anderson?

The “war on terror” question led the final segment of Cooper’s interview: “I’ve noticed you don't use the term ‘war on terror.’ I think I read an article that you’ve only used it once since inauguration. Is that conscious? Is there something about that term you find objectionable or not useful?” President Obama replied by stating that “words matter in this situation because one of the ways we’re going to win this struggle is through the battle of hearts and minds.” The anchor then ended the interview with a “quick lightning round” of “fun questions,” including asking about the “latest on the dog search,” “the coolest thing about your new car,” and whether he had smoked a cigarette since moving into the White House.

The transcript of the third and final segment of Anderson Cooper’s interview of President Obama, which began 33 minutes into the 10 pm Eastern hour of Tuesday’s Anderson Cooper 360:

COOPER: I’ve noticed you don't use the term ‘war on terror.’ I think I read an article that you’ve only used it once since inauguration. Is that conscious? Is there something about that term you find objectionable or not useful?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think it is very important for us to recognize that we have a battle or a war against some terrorist organizations. But that those organizations aren’t representative of a broader Arab community, Muslim community. I think we have to -- you know, words matter in this situation because one of the ways we’re going to win this struggle is through the battle of hearts and minds.

COOPER: So that’s not a term you’re going to be using much in the future?

OBAMA: You know, what I want to do is make sure that I’m constantly talking about al Qaeda and other affiliated organizations because we, I believe, can win over moderate Muslims to recognize that that kind of destruction and nihilism ultimately leads to a dead end, and that we should be working together to make sure that everybody has got a better life.

COOPER: Final questions -- just a quick lightning round, just a couple of fun questions. What’s the latest on the dog search?

OBAMA: We are going to get it in the spring. I think the theory was that the girls might be less inclined to do the walking when it was cold outside.

COOPER: Portuguese Water Dog? You don't know yet?

OBAMA: You know, we’re still experimenting.

COOPER: Coolest thing about your new car?

OBAMA: You know, I thought it was the phones until I realized that I didn’t know which button to press. That was a little embarrassing.

COOPER: Have you had a cigarette since you’ve been to the White House?

OBAMA: Well, I haven’t had one on these grounds, and I -- you know, sometimes it’s hard, but, you know, I’m sticking to -- sticking to it.

COOPER: You said, on these grounds. I’ll let you pass on that. And final question -- you’ve read a lot about Abraham Lincoln. What is the greatest thing that you’ve learned from your studies of Lincoln that you’re bringing to the office right now?

OBAMA: You know, when I think about Abraham Lincoln, what I’m struck by is the fact that he constantly learned on the job. He got better. You know, he wasn’t defensive. He wasn’t arrogant about his tasks. He was very systematic in saying, ‘I'm going to master the job, and I understand it's going to take some time.’ But in his case, obviously, the Civil War was the central issue, and he spent a lot of time learning about military matters, even though that wasn’t his area of experience. Right now, I’m learning an awful lot about the economy. I’m not a trained economist, but I’m spending a lot of time thinking about that, so that I can make the very best decisions possible for the American people.

COOPER: Mr. President, thank you very much.

OBAMA: Thank you. Appreciate it.

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