In the series of network interviews recorded Friday at the White House for airing on the ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC Sunday morning interview shows, all highlighted Jimmy Carter's charge that racism is fueling the anti-Obamacare protests – with CNN's John King and NBC's David Gregory following up with Nancy Pelosi's claim the heated rhetoric may incite violence – and CBS's Bob Schieffer asserted the “meanness that has settled over our political dialogue” had “started this summer at these town hall meetings.”
Only NBC's Gregory chastised Obama for not taking on the left on malpractice reform and only ABC's George Stephanopoulos brought up ACORN, but painted Obama as a victim: “Have some of your allies made it easier for, handed your opponents some ammunition, like ACORN, for example?” Schieffer and King, but not Stephanopoulos or Gregory, pressed Obama on how seven former CIA directors urged him to drop the criminal probe of interrogations of terror suspects.
I watched them all so you didn't have to and here are some notes about what the four anchors chose to pursue in their allocated 15 minutes with President Barack Obama (should also note that all devoted time to Afghanistan and the likely request for more troops):
♦ After Obama demurred from agreeing with Carter's racism formulation, two of the hosts treated House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has denounced ObamaCare opponents as “un-American” and accused them of “carrying swastikas,” as an authority on civility:
John King on CNN's State of the Union:
The Speaker says it reminds her of the hateful anti-gay language in San Francisco that led to deadly violence. Jim Clyburn, who's the highest-ranking African-American in Congress says he thinks people are trying to de-legitimize you. Do you see it as that worrisome?
David Gregory on NBC's Meet the Press:
House Speaker Pelosi worried about the opposition, the tone of it, perhaps leading to violence as it did in the '70s. There's more recent examples of anti-government violence— occurring even in the mid-'90s. Do you worry about that?
♦ CBS's Bob Schieffer, on Face the Nation, twice attributed “meanness” uniquely to Obama's critics. To Obama, folding in Carter and Pelosi:
Let me ask you a little bit about the tenor of this debate. It seems to me that there is a sort of meanness that's settled over our political dialogue. It started this summer at these town hall meetings. We saw this outbreak when you spoke to the joint session. Some people clearly just don't agree with your policy. But there seem to be others that are just, just mad and angry. President Carter is now saying that he thinks it's racial. Nancy Pelosi says it could be dangerous. What do you think it's all about?
Later in the show, to RNC Chairman Michael Steele:
It seems that you and the President are on the same page on one thing and that is is racism fueling this meanness we're seeing in this debate? He says, no. He said it's people are frustrated about, they think he's trying to enlarge the government.
♦ Gregory uniquely pushed Obama about taking on the left:
But you're not really taking on, I mean, you're not saying to the left they've got to accept malpractice reform, or, or caps on jury awards. You don't even think that that contributes to the escalating cost of health care. What are you, what are you really doing to say to the left, “Look, you may not like this, but you gotta get on board and we gotta do this”?
Gregory, however, also ended on the lightest note:
On a lighter note, before I let you go, Mr. President, you were brazen this summer at the All Star game wearing your Chicago White Sox [Laughter] jacket out there to throw out the first pitch. Hate to break it to you, but doesn't look so good for your White Sox here. So I want to know, who is your pick to win the World Series?
♦ George Stephanopoulos, on ABC's This Week, quizzed Obama on how the individual insurance mandate would, in effect, mean higher taxes:
You were against the individual mandate during the campaign. Under this mandate, the government is forcing people to spend money, fining you if you don't....How is that not a tax?...I don't think I'm making it up. Merriam Webster's Dictionary: Tax -- “a charge, usually of money, imposed by authority on persons or property for public purposes.”
Stephanopoulos brought up ACORN:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have some of your allies made it easier for -- handed your opponents some ammunition, like ACORN, for example.
OBAMA: Well, look, the -- you know, I think that -- are there folks in the Democratic camp or on the left who haven't -- haven't always operated ways that I'd appreciate? Absolutely.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Congress has just cut off all funding for ACORN. Are you for that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about the funding for ACORN?
OBAMA: George, this is not the biggest issue facing the country. It's not something I'm paying a lot of attention to.
Stephanopoulos concluded by wondering if Obama has ever felt in was in over his head. Obama assured him “I don't mean to be immodest here,” so no:
STEPHANOPOULOS: I just have time for one final question. I'm sure you know the story about John Kennedy's first summit with Nikita Khrushchev back in his first year in office. He meets with Khrushchev. Khrushchev cleans his clock. Kennedy walks out and knows that's exactly what's happened. I know there are no perfect analogies, but what's the moment, in the last eight months, where you took a step back and said: “Wow, I'm going to have to step up my game”?
OBAMA: You know, it's an interesting question. I mean I don't mean to be immodest here, but I don't think I've had that moment with a with a world leader...