The Democrats may still refuse to debate on Fox News Channel, but they’re getting increasingly competitive enough with each other to appear on the morning show Fox & Friends all of a sudden. Hillary Clinton made her second appearance of the year on Wednesday after her New Hampshire squeaker, and Barack Obama followed. But this may be the one media outlet where Obama gets tougher treatment than Mrs. Clinton. While co-host Brian Kilmeade turned at the end to some tougher questions on al-Qaeda, it was smooth sailing for Hillary.
Here were the toughies Hillary had to face on the supposedly harsh and right-wing Fox News Channel [transcripts by MRC's Justin McCarthy]:
1. Gretchen Carlson asked: "You know, I thought of course the line of your speech last night that everyone will be talking about this morning is the one where you said ‘I listened to you,’ meaning the people in New Hampshire, ‘and in the process I found my own voice.’ What did you mean by that?"
[Her answer began as a muddle: "Well, what I meant was, really, I believe politics is about a process so we can actually help people's lives. I'm not interested in it as a game or a horse race." She added that New Hampshire gave her a chance to "regain her footing" and tout her decades of experience. She has a voice when she’s in the lead, apparently.]
2. Steve Doocy chimed in: "Senator, you weren't supposed to be here today winning the gold, because as you mentioned a moment ago, all of the polls had- one poll had you down by 13 points going into the time people started voting. How did the pollsters get it so wrong?"
[Answer: "I honestly don’t pay a lot of attention to what goes on in these snapshot polls." Right. And I have a bridge in Alaska to sell you. Actually, the answer went on and on. Won’t anyone interrupt?]
3. Carlson again: "And Senator, a lot of those voters saw you have that emotional moment a few days ago in New Hampshire. The media made a lot out of that. And we discussed it here. I found it interesting that both Democrats and Republicans, for the most part, said that they believe that, that was a genuine moment for you. What was the real reason that you teared up?"
[Answer: "I’m really other-directed... And when that woman asked me how I did it and how I was, you know, it was so touching to me because that's what I'm usually asking somebody who tells me that they can't find healthcare for their kid or they just lost their job." Plus she just loves America.]
4. Back to Doocy: "Right, Mrs. Clinton, there was, I guess some internal polling done and discovered that New Hampshire women were overwhelmed with sympathy when they saw you choking up, and in fact they wound up voting for you. You got a lot of other women voting, and even a lot of Barack Obama's supporters voted for you as well because of that moment. Is the lesson there that it's okay to be human?"
[Answer: "That's a really good way of putting it, Steve." It’s at about this point in the interview where the average Fox watcher wondered, why are these anchors channeling the weighty-as-a-bubble spirit of Julie Chen? Hillary babbles on about "maybe I have liberated us to actually let women be human beings in public life. You know, we are. Let's be that. Let's demonstrate, you know, what I think I've proven over a lifetime. Nobody doubts I'm tough enough to lead."]
5. It’s Carlson’s third turn, and now it gets to slightly tougher ground, Bill chiding Obama: "Senator Clinton, one of your greatest weapons is your husband, of course the former president, Bill Clinton. He came out swinging against Barack Obama. I mean I've seen- I haven't seen this kind of passion in your husband in a while. He basically accused Barack Obama's campaign of being the biggest fairy tale he has ever seen. Is he going to continue to do your political dirty work for you?"
[ Answer: "Oh, I don't think that's what he was doing. I think what he was doing was to say ‘look, there are important facts that voters need to know.’ And, you know, regardless of the characterization, the facts remain the same..."]
6. Luckily for Hillary, Steve Doocy went back into News Lite: "Senator, as we were watching the results come in on Fox last night, you were just one point ahead for the longest time. I know it was really exciting at our house. How many gallons of Maalox did your campaign staff go through last night?
[Hilary laughed, and said "Well, you'll have to ask them because, you know, there was a lot of moaning, groaning, yelling, shouting, you know, cries of joy..."]
This is how that answer, and then the interview ended:
CLINTON: ...Today, I'm up and I'm at it. And I'm going to keep going as we take on all the rest of the contests between now and February 5th.
DOOCY: Oh come on! Take a nap!
CLINTON: [laughing] Well, this crazy schedule, I mean honest to goodness, it's the closest thing to insanity that I've seen in, you know, politics in recent years. There's not much time for that. We got back at four o'clock in the morning, and here I am, so thanks for talking to me.
DOOCY: You betcha, and by the way, Senator, I should put out that of all of the polls out there, the closest one to the final outcome was the Fox News poll, so just keep an eye on Fox Senator.
CLINTON: Well, you know, that's very interesting. I like- I'll have to, you know, really think hard about that.
CARLSON: Well, we hope that you do.
CLINTON: I don't know should we start saying- I will. And it's great to talk to you. I really enjoyed it.
When it was Obama’s turn, Carlson and co-host Brian Kilmeade were a little tougher. They began with two horse-race questions about his close loss, and then Kilmeade turned to the feuding with Bill Clinton:
KILMEADE: Senator, a lot of people are going to speculate on what happened. And you have to move on. I understand that. Your staff has to find out what happened. And after all it was a good showing in the big picture. But just looking back, it seems as though Senator Hillary Clinton changed tactics, went after you, said "this guy has no record. Remember Martin Luther King had a dream, but it was LBJ a president that actually put civil rights into place." And Bill Clinton really went off on you on Monday. He called your candidacy one of the biggest fairytales he's ever seen. That's personal.
OBAMA: Well, look, obviously Bill Clinton wants to see his wife win, and I understand that. And, and I'm not too worried about that. He did make a series of misleading statements. And, you know, it's important that we make sure that we answer them. But I remain convinced that what the American people are looking for is somebody who is able to rise above some of the petty politics that we've seen in the past and really focus on solving problems. And this is going to be a hard fought battle. We are going to make sure that we're making our case in Nevada, and South Carolina, and then the February 5th states. But what we want to remain focused on is the American people, their problems, their hopes, their dreams. If we do that I think ultimately we're going to be successful.
CARLSON: Senator, if Bill Clinton is Hillary Clinton's "celebrity spokesperson," Oprah Winfrey is yours. She campaigned for you in South Carolina.
OBAMA: Well, actually Michelle Obama is.
CARLSON: Well, first and foremost.
KILMEADE: A smart man.
CARLSON: Very smart of you to mention your wife first and foremost. You scored a lot of points with that comment. But let's move on to South Carolina where Oprah Winfrey had huge crowds for you there. Will she come out and stump for you again in South Carolina coming up?
Obama declined to answer that question directly. After asking about Nevada for a minute and the seeming alliance with John Edwards against Hillary, then Kilmeade turned to Iraq:
KILMEADE: Senator, I know you can't read every newspaper. The editorial on "The Washington Post" yesterday said that it's time for the Democrats to change their tune when it comes to Iraq. Violence is down, civil war is not going to happen. Who's going to be the first Democrat to say "the surge is working, let's acknowledge it"?
OBAMA: Well, what I've already said it is, and I said this a long time ago. I said if you send 30,000 of America's finest troops into Baghdad, that you would see a reduction in violence. And I'm happy about that. And I congratulate our soldiers and our commanders on the ground for that. What I've also said is that even as we see a reduction in the violence, if we do not see some sort of political accomodation among the warring factions in Iraq, we don't have long term stability. And I think the best way for us to do that is to send a signal to them that we're not going to be there forever. That's the difference that I've consistently had with the administration.
KILMEADE: Understood and I also saw you quoted saying "let's rid Afghanistan of Al Qaeda." And, if that is your policy, should we also rid Iraq of Al Qaeda?
OBAMA: Well, right now, we think that Al Qaeda in Iraq is a far lesser threat than Al Qaeda in Afghanistan where we know Bin Laden and his troops are still hiding. And- along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. That is the most immediate threat that we faced in this country. It's a threat that we've lost focus on. And it's one that I want to focus on when I'm president of the United States.
KILMEADE: Are you on Vivarin, Red Bull? How are you staying up? What's going on?
OBAMA: You know, it's adrenaline and excitement, and an interest in trying to deliver for the American people, so I wouldn't mind resting my voice. That may take another couple of days.
KILMEADE: Call Oprah!
Fox News is obviously attracting the Democrats with honey, by sounding almost exactly like any other national TV show. They may risk offending that supposed viewer who only wants the Right-Wing Talking Points. But liberals don't watch enough Fox News to realize that liberals are more common on Fox than conservatives on MSNBC, especially Olbermann's nightly flight.
But please, Mr. Ailes, can't we ask Hillary a tougher question about her views or her record or her scandals? It's the viewers waiting for someone on television to apply scrutiny to Hillary that are ordering the gallons of Maalox.