On Monday’s "Good Morning America," co-host Robin Roberts interviewed Barack Obama in New Orleans and asserted that politicians from "both parties" would be coming to the formerly hurricane ravaged region to "point out the Bush administration's shortcomings in fixing many problems that still exist, like those being forced to still live in trailers." While the ABC co-host didn’t explain who was forcing the residents to live in trailers, she did offer the 2008 Democratic candidate a softball interview where the only tough questions came from the left.
GMA guest co-host Bill Weir teased the segment by optimistically spinning Obama’s "plan to bring New Orleans back." Roberts proceeded to ask the senator about friendly topics, such as his desire to "reach out to Republicans." In fact, the only time she challenged the candidate was with a query from the left. Responding to Obama’s goal of forcing insurance companies to pay into a national disaster reserve, Roberts complained, "A lot of people are going to say, ‘Senator Obama, the insurance company, they have laid many roadblocks, many people think, in this recovery role.’ Is it realistic to think that they would be a part of something like this?" The GMA co-anchor pressed with a follow-up, claiming, "But that's how it's been. How can you change that?"
Roberts also failed to ask the senator about his wife’s now-very much disputed comment that "If you can't run your own house, you can't run the White House." (The Obama camp has vociferously denied this to be an attack on Hillary Clinton.) Wouldn't the subject at least warrant a mention though? Finally, it must also be noted that co-host Weir asserted that New Orleans has only received $6 billion in federal aide to rebuild. (However, the federal government has actually spent $96 billion for the entire area effected by Katrina.)
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:08am on August 27, follows:
Bill Weir: "And as the second anniversary of Katrina approaches, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is speaking out on his plan to bring New Orleans back. Robin Roberts talks to him in an exclusive interview."
Weir: "Turning now to the politics of Hurricane Katrina. This week’s two year anniversary has made New Orleans a political magnet for so many presidential candidates and many of them will make a campaign stop in the Crescent City there this week and here is what they'll find two years in: $6 billion in federal aid has gone to clean-up and rebuilding. 256 miles of that city’s flood wall system is now working, but they have another 100 miles to rebuild. And only about seven percent of the residents in the devastated lower ninth ward have come home, less than a 1000 people in that neighborhood. Robin Roberts is in the Crescent City this morning for an exclusive interview with one of those presidential hopefuls, Senator Barack Obama. Robin, good morning."
Robin Roberts: "I'm here in New Orleans, Bill, a prime stop for presidential candidates from both parties, bringing promises of a better future for those still struggling two years after Katrina. They're here in an attempt to connect with voters but also to point out the Bush administration's shortcomings in fixing many problems that still exist, like those being forced to still live in trailers. I sat down with Barack Obama in one of the few homes rebuilt in this neighborhood and he told me about his own plan to rebuild the Gulf Coast."
Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) "We've got to get the levees and the pumping stations working. But we also have to rebuild the wetlands and the marshes around the coast. We've got to rebuild our infrastructure and, so, I want the federal government to focus on building police forces here. President Bill Clinton had a cops program that put 100,000 new police on the streets. We think we should at least have a focused program right here in New Orleans. We want to make sure that we've got additional monies to attract doctors and nurses. And the same goes for our education system. We want to make sure we're providing more money to attract teachers to come into this region. And then, finally, just fixing the FEMA bureaucracy, making sure that applications take no more than two months to actually be processed and get an answer back to homeowners."
Roberts: "How do you go about doing that?"
Obama: "Some of it is just a function of who is in charge. And one of the things that we proposed is that the FEMA director should be independent, should have a six-year term like the FBI director, not subject to politics, reporting directly to the president on this reconstruction process."
Roberts: "Does that really change anything? Is it better, perhaps, just to start from scratch where FEMA is concerned?"
Obama: "What we know is FEMA has worked in the past. Because it was independent, because it was managed by somebody who actually understood emergency management. And part of what I think the next president is going to have to do is to re-inspire a new generation of civil servants who want to get into the federal government. And so we’re going to have to do some restoration and rebuilding that agency, in part because there is no reason to assume that this is the last controversy or catastrophe that we're going to be dealing with in the years to come."
Roberts: "Also part of your plan, calling on the insurance companies to play a part when there is a catastrophe of some sort."
Obama: "Homeowners can't get health, home insurance that is affordable. So what we've proposed is to have a catastrophic insurance component, a national catastrophic insurance reserve that is paid for in part by fees charged to the insurance companies that caps the kind of exposure that any single homeowner can have."
Roberts: "This fund, in essence, a goodwill fund. A lot of people are going to say, ‘Senator Obama, the insurance company, they have laid many roadblocks, many people think, in this recovery role.’ Is it realistic to think that they would be a part of something like this?"
Obama: "I think it's fair, given the extraordinary profits that the insurance companies have been mounting over the years, to say you've got to be a part of this, this process of solving this problem. Insurance can't just be a profit making machine where they don't have to pay and when you finally have to pay, they walk away."
Roberts: "But that's how it's been. How can you change that?"
Obama: "Well, I think you change it by having a president and a Congress that takes this problem seriously, that sits down with the insurance companies and says, ‘We believe in you making a profit and we believe in the market and we believe in insurance, but what we're not going to allow you to do is to simply cherry-pick those profitable lines of business and not get involved when people desperately need insurance.’"
Roberts: "Late last week, Senator Clinton made a remark that raised a lot of eyebrows."
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY): "If certain things happen between now an the election, particularly with respect to terrorism, that will automatically give the Republicans an advantage again, no matter how badly they have mishandled it, no matter how much more dangerous they have made the world. And so I think I'm the best of the Democrats to deal with that."
Roberts: "How do you feel about what she said?"
Obama: "Everybody in America is committed to preventing terrorism from happening. That's not a partisan issue. And I don't think that there's room in this campaign or any campaign to use terrorism as a club to beat opponents over the head with. You know, Karl Rove and this administration perfected that politics of fear and I think that part of what we want to see is a, is a change from that approach to one that says we're unified in making sure that America is secure. And that's how I'm going to approach this campaign."
Roberts: "And you recently said you're going to reach out to Republicans, that there are some key Republicans that you would bring in and want to work with."
Obama: "Absolutely. Well, there are people like Chuck Hagel from Nebraska, Dick Lugar from Indiana, John Warner from Virginia, who are very capable, smart people. I don't agree with them on every issue. But they do come out of a tradition that has been lost, and that is that foreign policy, you know, is one of those areas that shouldn't be subject to partisan politics, that our differences should end at the water's edge."
Roberts: "And this week, there will be no fewer than five presidential candidates traveling to this region. We will continue our reports throughout the week. And on Wednesday, we'll be on the Mississippi Gulf Coast to see where things stand two years later. Bill?"
Weir: "Robin, thanks very much. And indulge us while we brag on you a little bit. We all know that Pass Christian, Mississippi, is Robin's hometown. And he's been helping rebuild that place ever since Katrina hit the Gulf two years ago and on Sunday, she was honored for that work. Pass Christian threw a party to thank all the people who have chipped in to help get the town back on the its feet there. The mayor even declared August 25 Robin Roberts day. Every day is Robin Roberts day around here. But it's well-deserved down in her home there. And you can check our website at ABCNews.com for coverage of Katrina's anniversary and the rebuilding effort there."