ABC's Robin Roberts to Obama: Ready for the Nasty GOP?

"Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts conducted a syrupy, softball interview with Michelle and Barack Obama on Monday's program, mostly free from any discussion of substantive policy issues. Instead, Roberts played a clip from a Tennessee State Republican Party ad that attacked Michelle Obama for saying the '08 campaign marked the first time she's been proud of America.

The GMA host empathetically wondered, "Should you get through this process and you have the general election ahead of you, that this is what you can expect more and more of. Are you prepared for that?" Now, readers will remember that liberals (many in the media) were outraged over ABC's April 16 Democratic debate for focusing on allegedly unimportant topics and not "the issues." But Roberts did the exact same thing during her interview, discussing political "horse-race" subjects such as Hillary Clinton for VP and an extensive debate on whether the Obama family will be getting a dog. As an example of the not-so tough queries the candidate's wife faced, the ABC host at one point cooed, "What have you learned about yourself since that night in Iowa?" [audio available here]

Much of the interview appeared to be designed so that the Obamas could put forth talking points. Regarding a May 10 Robert Novak column which alleged that Michelle Obama has vetoed Senator Clinton as a running mate, Roberts allowed the candidate's wife to go on at length over how much she respects and admires the former first lady. Following the Novak question, the co-anchor approvingly repeated a quote from Mrs. Obama: "I like how you said people make things up and things that you go, like, huh?"

Roberts, to her credit, did raise the American flag pin issue and why the Democratic contender has started wearing one again. However, she also essentially turned the last section over to the Obamas as they went on and on over the important subject of getting a dog:

BARACK OBAMA: And we also have a year to test whether [the children] are sufficiently responsible [enough to have a dog].

MICHELLE OBAMA: They are responsible. Malia is responsible.

BARACK OBAMA: To actually-- They're responsible for a nine and a six-year-old, they are responsible. But whether they're going to be responsible for--

ROBERTS: That's a daddy right there. That is a daddy right there.

BARACK OBAMA: Whether they'll be responsible in the middle of the winter to go walk that dog--

Roberts simply stopped speaking for much of the dog discussion. Now, cutesy, humanizing elements are part of most political profiles. But they should also be accompanied by tough discussions of actual issues.

A transcript of the May 19 segment, which aired at 7:02am, follows:

ROBERTS: But we begin with the race for '08 and our exclusive interview with Senator Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle. I caught up with the Obamas in Portland, Oregon. Just seems like a few hours ago there, Sunday, in Portland just before the senator drew this massive crowd. 75,000 people were there in Oregon to see him and his final push to tomorrow's primary there. He says he expects this week to be unlike any other thus far.

GRAPHIC: Obama Looks at General Election: "Lay Off My Wife"

BARACK OBAMA: We will have a majority of the pledged delegates. Obviously we won't have completed the nomination process, but I think it's an important milestone for our campaign.

ROBERTS: What have you learned about yourself since that night in Iowa?

MICHELLE OBAMA: I've just been proud of how we've handled this as a family.

BARACK OBAMA: She's-- She's done really good. She's put up with me much more than I expected.

ROBERTS: You know what's going on in Tennessee with the GOP there. And their web campaign about taking the remarks that you made earlier about being first time in your adult life being proud of the U.S.

MICHELLE OBAMA: For the first time in my adult lifetime I'm really proud of my country.

[Clip from Tennessee GOP ad]:

BOB S., REALTOR: Boy, I've been proud to be an American since I was a kid.

JUAN B., POLICE OFFICER: I'm proud of this country each and every day.

ROBERTS: Should you get through this process and you have the general election ahead of you, that this is what you can expect more and more of. Are you prepared for that?

BARACK OBAMA: You know, let me just interject on this. The GOP, should I be the nominee, I think can say whatever they want to say about me, my track record, if they think that they're going to try to make Michelle an issue in this campaign, they should be careful. Because that I find unacceptable. The notion that you start attacking my wife or my family-- Michelle is the most honest, the best person I know. She is one of the most caring people I know. She loves this country and for them to try to distort or to play snippets of her remarks in ways that are unflattering to her, I think is, is just low class and I think most of the American people would think that, as well. Whoever is in charge of the Tennessee GOP needs to think long and hard about the kind of campaign that they want to run and I think that's true for everybody, Democrat or Republican.

MICHELLE OBAMA: We're trusting that the American voters are ready to talk about the issues and not talking about the things that have nothing to do with making people's lives better.

BARACK OBAMA: But I also think these folks should lay off my wife. All right? Just in case they're watching.

ROBERTS: The Washington Post today was talking about how the two campaigns, your campaign and Senator Clinton's campaign, have already begun discussions about merging. Have there been any discussions between the two campaigns about an exit strategy for Senator Clinton?

BARACK OBAMA: No. Senator Clinton is running as she has run throughout this process. She's running a vigorous campaign and we don't anticipate that there will be discussions until the contests are over, but one thing I certainly believe and I get a sense that Senator Clinton believes as well, is that this party is going to be unified.

ROBERTS: Have you talked to Senator Clinton recently?

BARACK OBAMA: I spoke to her briefly on the floor right after West Virginia, or right before West Virginia, the day of the West Virginia primary, and congratulated her on running a good campaign.

ROBERTS: Nothing about vice president?

BARACK OBAMA: No.

ROBERTS: Will you have a voice in the vice president? You know something that Robert Novak wrote in saying that in discussing Hillary Clinton that you were like, no way. Did you say anything like that?

MICHELLE OBAMA: Absolutely not. You know, that's one of those sort of huh? I think that --

BARACK OBAMA: Folks make stuff up. That's one of the interesting lessons that you learn as you're running for president.

MICHELLE OBAMA: People really make stuff up.

BARACK OBAMA: People just make stuff up.

MICHELLE OBAMA: Well, first of all, what I think people should understand is that, you know, I think the world of Hillary Clinton. Particularly as a woman, having watched her go through a lot of what I might be going through and doing it with a level of grace and raising a phenomenal daughter, which I have two girls, and I know how hard just in the little bit of exposure I've had to this what she's had to deal with and what she's accomplished. So that being said, you know, there's no way that I would say absolutely not to one of the most successful and powerful and groundbreaking women on this planet. What I have said is that I think one of the things that the nominee has earned is the right to pick the vice president that they think will suit them. And to that end, I don't want to have any say in it.

ROBERTS: I like how you said people make things up and things that you go, like, huh? Let's try to do a little lightning round.

BARACK OBAMA: Lightening round of stuff folks have made up.

ROBERTS: Okay. Are you a Muslim?

BARACK OBAMA: No. Made it up. They made it up. This is -- and this started back in Iowa. I am a Christian and have never been a Muslim. It's an example of the power of the internet these days, people tend to just believe what they receive. So that one would be false. I believe Jesus Christ died for my sins and that has been the faith that we are raising our daughters to believe, as well.

ROBERTS: The flag pin?

BARACK OBAMA: Yes.

ROBERTS: You had said before that you didn't need to wear it to prove that you're patriotic. You have been wearing it recently. Why?

BARACK OBAMA: Right. You know, I've had so many supporters, a lot of them veterans, who have been handing me flag pins saying Barack, we know how patriotic you are and do us a favor, we would appreciate if you wore it. Partly just, not because, I think, they wanted proof of patriotism, but they wanted the issue taken off the table. I'm happy to wear a flag pin. It's something that I'm proud to do.

ROBERTS: On the campaign trail this weekend, a rare treat for the candidate, the entire Obama family together. What's it like having your family on the road with you?

BARACK OBAMA: It-- I'm always just in a great mood when they're around.

ROBERTS: And a final lightning round question. Have the girls Malia and Sasha, have they gotten their dog?

BARACK OBAMA: No dog yet.

MICHELLE OBAMA: The deal on dog is a year from now because what we know about raising a dog is that you have to be pretty stable.

ROBERTS: Right.

MICHELLE OBAMA: So you don't drive your dog crazy. So we had a conversation around the dinner table about a month ago because this came up, when is the dog coming? So we figured a year from now in the spring we would be settled, one way or another, and we shook on it.

BARACK OBAMA: And we also have a year to test whether they are sufficiently responsible.

MICHELLE OBAMA: They are responsible. Malia is responsible.

BARACK OBAMA: To actually-- They're responsible for a nine and a six-year-old, they are responsible. But whether they're going to be responsible for--

ROBERTS: That's a daddy right there. That is a daddy right there.

BARACK OBAMA: Whether they'll be responsible in the middle of the winter to go walk that dog--

MICHELLE OBAMA: I'm going to take-- We're getting a dog.

BARACK OBAMA: --when it's cold outside.

MICHELLE OBAMA: The dog is a done deal. You guys are getting a dog. Don't let dad --

BARACK OBAMA: Who is walking the dog, that's what we're concerned about.

SAWYER: Dog days.

ROBERTS: You think they've talked about this a time or two? And all the husbands here are going, yes, uh-huh. See? Walking the dog like that.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org