ABC's Cokie Roberts Defends Michelle Obama's Spanish Vacation: 'What Real Difference Does It Make?'

Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos and Cokie Roberts on Monday downplayed the potential bad PR Michelle Obama might suffer for taking a Spanish vacation costing $250,000

Roberts justified, "But in the grand scheme of things, what real difference does it make? I would guess that Sasha is probably learning some Spanish."

Continuing to spin the First Lady's vacation, she argued, "And we need Spain to be stronger economically than it is in the Euro zone. I mean, you can make the case if you- if you really need to."

Roberts did allow that the decision to make the trip was "not smart." Co-host George Stephanopoulos searched for reassurance that the visit wouldn't have negative ramifications: But you don't think it's going to be that big a deal? They just fade the heat and move on."

Yet, when Laura Bush introduced new White House china just prior to leaving the White House in January 2009, co-host Robin Roberts called it a "brewing brouhaha." Reporter Ann Compton worried, "So, why is Laura Bush introducing new Bush china two weeks before they move out?"

In a segment airing just before the conversation between Roberts and Stephanopoulos, reporter Yunji de Nies did hit some tough facts: "The bad PR comes at a time when the White House could use good news. We learned Friday that the economy lost 131,000 jobs last month. The President's approval rating is at 41 percent, his lowest ever."

She also noted, "This girls' getaway wasn't cheap. These hotel rooms run from $400 to nearly $7,000 a night. The White House says the Obamas paid their own way, but their security is covered by American taxpayers." De Nies' report on Monday was in contrast to her piece on Friday. For that segment, she lauded the "luxurious" vacation and made no mention of possible controversy.

A transcript of the August 9 segment, which aired at 7:17am EDT, follows:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. And for more on this, we're joined by our friend Cokie Roberts in Washington. And, Cokie, thanks for coming in this morning. You heard Yunji saying the White House hopes is hoping this is going to blow over. But, they probably could have seen this criticism coming.

COKIE ROBERTS: Sure they could have. And they probably did and decided to go anyway. You know, politically, it was not a smart move. But in the grand scheme of things, what real difference does it make? I would guess that Sasha is probably learning some Spanish. Maybe she learned  a little more Spanish on her trip. You know, the fact is, Spain could use some help, too. And we need Spain to be stronger economically than it is in the Euro zone. I mean, you can make the case if you- if you really need to.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you don't think it's going to be that big a deal? They just fade the heat and move on. And it does seem that that sentiment did take hold.

ROBERTS: I think that's exactly right. Look, the President's in trouble with the voters because of the economy. And whatever the First Lady does is not going to make any difference one way or the other. And, you know, she did go with her child. It was not like a Jackie O trip, you know, where she was sort of wiling away her time on a yacht.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Aristotle Onassis' yacht. That's exactly right. And it does come- the irony, it comes at a time when the First Lady actually has very high approval ratings in great demand on the campaign trail. The Democratic Senate candidate in Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak, says "I'd rather have her than the President."

ROBERTS: Well, because she's not responsible for the economy so she doesn't take the same heat. And that's traditionally true for first ladies. She's very much in the path of other first ladies who have come before her. And people like these women because they do go out and do good. And have causes that everybody can get behind.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, Congress is out for the summer, but there's another big primary tomorrow in Colorado, which is kind of interesting because it's a classic case, and both Republican and Democratic side, establishment candidates facing a real challenge from the outsiders.

ROBERTS: Right. Michael Bennet, the sitting senator, one of the several appointed senators in trouble this year in an election bid is backed by the White House. The President calls him a breath of fresh air in Washington, a city full of hot air. But his opponent, Andrew Romanoff, is backed by Bill Clinton. And, so you've got a real battle of endorsements going on there. And on the Republican side, you have Ken Buck, who is a Tea Party candidate, against former Lieutenant Governor Jane Norton who has John McCain behind her. And the governor of Arizona, the controversial governor of Arizona, behind her. But, she's having a lot of trouble from Ken Buck who says, at least he doesn't wear high-heels. How that goes with voters, I don't know.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not a bad line. We'll see if it's another day for outsiders. Cokie Roberts, thanks very much.

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