MSNBC’s Witt Praises Obama's Historically 'Honest' MSNBC Interview, Embraces His 'Boulder' Metaphor

MSNBC’s Alex Witt just can’t get enough of President Obama. On Saturday’s Weekends with Alex Witt, the host latched onto the president’s comment, made during his interview with Chris Matthews last Thursday, that a president’s job is to “push the boulder up the hill a little bit before somebody else pushes it up a little further.”

After playing a clip of that statement, Witt couldn’t hide her glee. Addressing Patricia Murphy of Citizen Jane Politics, Witt exclaimed, “What a great part of that conversation. Have you, Patricia, ever heard such an honest, contemporaneous assessment of the presidency like this before while in the presidency?”


Unsurprisingly, Murphy replied that she had not heard such an assessment before. Moments later, Witt turned to another guest, Republican strategist Susan Del Percio, and asked if the GOP was the enemy of Obama’s heroic boulder-pushing effort: “Susan, is the Republicans' goal simply to just be a roadblock to the president trying to push up that boulder?”

Del Percio, being an MSNBC-style Republican, agreed with the premise of Witt’s question. She scolded her party: “Well, they really can't afford to be if they hope to get taken in 2016 because they have to show that they are for something.” And in case anyone was doubting that Del Percio really belongs on MSNBC, she also called Obama’s chat with Chris Matthews a “great interview.”

Earlier that day, during Witt’s 7 a.m. hour, the host had asked Lynn Sweet of The Chicago Sun-Times a similar question about GOP obstructionism. After playing the same Obama interview clip, Witt inquired, “Lynn, how far do you think President Obama has been able to push that boulder up the hill so to speak? I mean, how difficult has it been with the current Republican majority in the House?”

It seems clear that pushing the boulder up a hill symbolizes a liberal notion of social change in the minds of both Witt and the president. But neither of them consider that Republicans have their own boulder that they are trying to push up a hill as well. This boulder symbolizes different things – tax cuts, reduced spending, and economic liberty – than the president’s boulder. And just like the GOP seems to be standing in the president’s way, it can also be said that he is standing in conservative Republicans’ way.

Below is a transcript of the segments:


7:15 a.m.

BARACK OBAMA: The interesting thing about now having been president for five years is it makes you humbler as opposed to cockier about what you as an individual can do. You recognize that you're just part of a sweep of history. And your job really is to push the boulder up the hill a little bit before somebody else pushes it up a little further.

ALEX WITT: Interesting right there. It was the president of course during his Hardball interview with Chris Matthews. Joining me now, defense reporter for Politico Juana Summers and Washington bureau chief of the Chicago Sun-Times Lynn Sweet. Good morning, ladies. Nice to have you both.

JUANA SUMMERS: Good morning, Alex.

WITT: Lynn, how far do you think President Obama has been able to push that boulder up the hill so to speak? I mean, how difficult has it been with the current Republican majority in the House?

LYNN SWEET: Well, currently the boulder is a big challenge. But Obama mentioned that he's been president five years. Let's remember the first two years he had a Democratic House to assist him and he still couldn't get some of the signature initiatives that he’s trying to do now back then, such as immigration reform, when it would have been a lot easier in a Democratic House.

WITT: But he got health care.

SWEET: He did get health care, yes. With no Republican votes, which helped set the stage for the contentious history that this law has had since then. But, Alex, I think the point that Chris got out of him, that he said – that’s an interesting admission, isn’t it? That he's humbler. And I found that interesting because in order to be humble, the opposite had to be true, which he more or less said. So I thought that was an interesting observation he had about himself.

***
1:51 p.m.

WITT:  Patricia, I'll begin with you. Let's take a listen to the president on Hardball with Chris Matthews on Thursday. Here’s that.

OBAMA: The interesting thing about now having been president for five years is it makes you humbler, as opposed to cockier, about what you as an individual can do. You recognize that you're just part of a sweep of history and your job really is to push the boulder up the hill a little bit before somebody else pushes it up a little further.



WITT: What a great part of that conversation. Have you, Patricia, ever heard such an honest, contemporaneous assessment of the presidency like this before while in the presidency?

PATRICIA MURPHY: I really have not. And I was so struck by how different his tone has become really over the last month or two. I think ever since they ran into the problems with ObamaCare and the website, something about the president seems so much more sober and even somber. It's so far away from where he was during the campaign, so much hope and change. So I think he has had a real reality check and is now having to go to the constituents who helped get him there, to young people, to Latinos, to African Americans to say, just help me finish this out. I know he's looking at his legacy, and I think the tone of that really reflected that.

WITT: Morris, how far has this president been able to push the boulder up the hill?

MORRIS REID: Well, it all depends on where you look from the hill. If it’s a big hill, not very far. If it’s a small hill, up quite a bit. I think history will judge this president on where the voter is. That's where it really where comes down, just like Nixon, like Reagan, like the Bushes and like Clinton. It's all about history. But he needs to keep his head down and do the hard part and really focus on finishing this thing out on the strong race.

WITT: Yeah, you're absolutely right, though. History does allow for context ultimately. But Susan, is the Republicans' goal simply to just be a roadblock to the president trying to push up that boulder?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO: Well, they really can't afford to be if they hope to get taken in 2016 because they have to show that they are for something. So I think the president in this interview, actually it was a great interview. And to touch on something Patricia mentioned, this is legacy-building. So if he does want to get anything else done, he's going to need the help of the Republicans and if his poll numbers start going up, then Republicans are going to have to start working with him.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.