After Scolding Newt and Santorum, CBS Tosses Softballs at Obama Flack Gibbs

Instead of turning to one of the GOP candidates or a campaign spokesman, Thursday's CBS This Morning thought it fit to bring on Obama campaign senior adviser Robert Gibbs to discuss the last scheduled Republican presidential debate. Charlie Rose and Bob Schieffer didn't play hardball with Gibbs, like they did with Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, but went easy on the former presidential press secretary.

On Sunday, Schieffer interrogated Santorum over his attacks on the chief executive, particularly over the former senator's "theology" attack on Obama's environmental policies. The anchor did his best impression of a former MSNBC personality: "I've got to ask you, what in the world were you talking about sir?" Two days later, Rose pursued Gingrich for supposedly "saying that the President is not patriotic." By contrast, on Thursday, the CBS morning show host directed a vague question about the controversial abortifacient mandate to Gibbs:

ROSE: ...When you listen to the debate here, it seems clear that all of the Republicans want to center on this question about the President, one having to do with the role of government, the intrusion of government, whether it is about the church, or whether it's about some other aspect of health care. Is that the emerging question of the general election?

Rose followed this with an overly simplified question on foreign policy: "Is the President worried about gas prices, and also, what might happen with respect to Iran?" He then handed the baton to Schieffer, who tossed his own softball question:

SCHIEFFER: Do you, Robert, think that these- let me put it to you this way. They're saying we've had plenty of these debates. A lot of people saying this is the last one, at least, the last one scheduled. Do you want to see some more of them? Do you think this is helping the President or hurting the President when the Republicans come out here so often as they have?                                          

Gibbs referenced to the cult British TV series "Downton Abbey" he joked about the number of Republican debates, seemingly to the delight of the CBS personalities:

GIBBS: Well, look, I think if you're an independent or an undecided voter, and you tuned into last night's debate, I don't doubt at all that you have been turned off by the type of nasty, negative carpet bombing distortions on each other and on the president's record. I don't sense that they're talking about the issues that people care most about. That's what the President is spending his time talking about. I don't think there's any doubt that we got more out of Downton Abbey than we have out of these 20 debates.  (Rose, Hill, and Schieffer laugh)

Schieffer made an almost identical reference at the beginning of the segment:


SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, I don't think this was a debate that changed very much, quite frankly. It was obviously Santorum versus Romney. But, you know, I suppose the people that liked Rick Santorum going in thought he did well, and those that liked Mitt Romney going in, thought he did well. But I don't think there was any great moment. But I tell you, you know, I'm kind of like Gail Collins in the New York Times this morning. (Erica Hill laughs) She said she felt like she felt when the last episode of Downton Abbey was over. (Rose laughs)  I mean, what are we going to do now? You know, there have been 20 of these things. I think they've been great. I think we've learned a lot about each of the candidates. I think, last night, it was a two-person show. But I'm not sure I would pick anyone as a winner last night.

The transcript of the Bob Schieffer/Robert Gibbs segment on Thursday's CBS This Morning, which aired eight minutes into the 7 am Eastern hour, is available at MRC.org.

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