Lauer Empathizes with Obama Over 'Sobering' Intel Briefings

Matt Lauer started his live interview with President Barack Obama, from the White House during NBC's Super Bowl pre-game show, on a light note, “So let me ask you the question that's on everyone's mind right now: How's it going living with your mother-in-law?” And he wondered if Obama now gets to read a story to his daughters “at night, tuck them in bed?”

But the member of a press corps which usually showed more concern for the Bush administration's tactics than the terrorist threat they were meant to avert, empathized with the burden of the “pretty sobering stuff” the new President now learns about: “There are millions, tens of millions of people watching this broadcast right now Mr. President, and if they were to have access to the same information you have now on a daily basis, how much less sleep would we all be getting?” Lauer next pressed Obama as to whether “a substantial number” of service men and women in Iraq “will be home in time for next Super Bowl Sunday?”

Lauer asserted that the House passage of the stimulus bill without one Republican vote “disappointed a lot of people” and he painted a dire picture of the economy, treating the President as an expert economist and giving him an excuse for lack of a recovery. Lauer contended that after watching the Super Bowl, for many people “tomorrow morning...the worry's going to start again and they're going to worry about losing their jobs and their homes and putting their kids through school and making ends meet. How much worse is the economy going to get, Mr. President, before it gets better?”

All of Lauer's questions in the live 12-minute long interview, which started at 5:07 PM EST, from the Map Room of the White House, before he moved to the college football bowl system, Super Bowl predictions and who can e-mail him on his Blackberry:
- So you've been President twelve days. So let me ask you the question that's on everyone's mind right now: How's it going living with your mother-in-law?

- I was driving over here, Mr. President, I was thinking about this enormous transition that you've been through, taking on the reigns as Commander-in-Chief, Mrs. Obama becoming the First Lady. But you've got a daughter ten and a daughter seven and this is a huge game-changer for them as well. How they doing?

- Are you getting to take part in some of the routines? I was thinking you've been on the road basically for two years, although you got home a lot, now you're all under the same roof, basically for twelve days. Are you there for breakfast, do you get to read them a story at night, tuck them in bed? How's it going?

- President Bush said in his last press conference here at the White House, he said he wasn't sure when it would happen for you, but there would be a moment -- perhaps in the Oval Office -- when you would stop and realize “I am the President of the United States.” So I'm curious, have you had that moment?

- You talk about sobering moments. Even as a Senator and member of the Foreign Relations Committee you were getting intelligence briefings, on the campaign trail also and during the transition. But now, from what I understand, every day you go down there and there's that intelligence briefing on your desk and it's got to contain some pretty sobering stuff. There are millions, tens of millions of people watching this broadcast right now Mr. President, and if they were to have access to the same information you have now on a daily basis, how much less sleep would we all be getting?

- Let's talk about some of those men and women who are serving this country overseas in Afghanistan, other locations, in Iraq. And I'm sure they're watching today. It's a big event for the armed services. And a lot of those people have a vested interest in one of your campaign promises to end this war and get them home as soon, within 16 months or so, as humanly possible. So when you look at them can you say that a substantial number of them will be home in time for next Super Bowl Sunday?

- The economy. People are going to watch this game, they're going to blow off some steam, they're going to have a good time. But a lot of them are going to bed, they're going to wake up tomorrow morning and the worry's going to start again and they're going to worry about losing their jobs and their homes and putting their kids through school and making ends meet. How much worse is the economy going to get, Mr. President, before it gets better?  

- And when it comes to the stimulus plan, the House passed its version last week, but without one Republican vote -- that disappointed a lot of people. The Senate takes up their version of the measure starting tomorrow. How important is gaining some more Republican support for that, how big a test for your leadership at this early stage of your presidency?
The Today show will air the interview again Monday morning and its site has Flash video of the entire 12-minute session.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center