CBS Hails Obama's 'Remarkable' Speech; 'the Crowd Here Sees Him as Kind of a Hero'

Tuesday's CBS This Morning swooned over President Obama's appearance at Nelson Mandela's memorial, hailing his "remarkable" speech as "the rhetorical and even emotional high point of this day."

Correspondent Bill Whitaker was particularly star-struck with the President's performance. "The crowd here sees him as a kind of hero. He has said that Nelson Mandela is a hero of his, but people here see some similarities between the two," he insisted.

And in a conflict of interest, CBS hosted Obama State Department nominee Rick Stengel to talk about the President and Mandela, without disclosing Stengel's nomination. The former Time managing editor connected the two men and praised a "lovely line" from Obama's eulogy:

"I think he [Obama] was obviously inspired, his first political awakening came in the anti-Apartheid movement. Something he said just really struck me and had resonance with me. That lovely line that nothing was inevitable about Nelson Mandela's life. And I think in some sense he's thinking about himself, too. Nothing was inevitable in Barack Obama's life. And I think he sees this strange arc that they've both been on and kind of weaving together. And also there are very few people who ever, in a position of power, are able to speak about Nelson's legacy in real time."

Yet not only Stengel was taken by the speech. Co-host Norah O'Donnell declared, "This was a remarkable address." Whitaker called it "the rhetorical and even emotional high point of this day so far." He added that "Just when his [Obama's] image, when his face and Michelle Obama's face was shown on the jumbotron, the crowd went wild."

Below is a transcript of the segments, which aired on CBS This Morning on December 10:

[7:00 a.m. EST]

NORAH O'DONNELL: "Your democracy is his cherished legacy." The emotional words of President Obama after an unprecedented pilgrimage of world leaders to Soweto.

(...)

[7:10]

NORAH O'DONNELL: Rick, it was so interesting to hear President Obama eulogize Nelson Mandela. This crowd in that stadium went wild for Obama. And Obama in some ways tying his own inspiration for politics, his own journey to the, his own improbable journey as he calls it, to that of Nelson Mandela, and comparing Nelson Mandela to Gandhi and Dr. King, and Abraham Lincoln. This was a remarkable address.
 
RICK STENGEL: I think it was very personal for the President. And I think he was obviously inspired, his first political awakening came in the anti-Apartheid movement. Something he said just really struck me and had resonance with me. That lovely line that nothing was inevitable about Nelson Mandela's life. And I think in some sense he's thinking about himself, too. Nothing was inevitable in Barack Obama's life. And I think he sees this strange arc that they've both been on and kind of weaving together. And also there are very few people who ever, in a position of power, are able to speak about Nelson's legacy in real time.

O'DONNELL: And on that point of legacy, the President then used that in his speech to say, we must all then ask how well have I applied his lessons in my own life? That that matter of reflection about Mandela's life to our own differences and circumstances?

STENGEL: Yes, I mean, he's talking about the inner Mandela in all of us. If you can somehow imbue yourself with these values, it will make us a better person. But he also was very smart, I think, to notice that, look, there are still political prisoners in the world now. Mandela's long walk is not over yet.

CHARLIE ROSE: Exactly. The struggle continues.

STENGEL: The struggle continues, that's right, Charlie.

(...)

[7:30]

CHARLIE ROSE: And right now we want to go back to Soweto. Bill Whitaker joins us once again from inside FNB stadium. Bill, good morning.

BILL WHITAKER, CBS News correspondent: Good morning, Charlie, Norah and Gayle. The rhetorical and even emotional high point of this day so far was the speech by President Barack Obama. Just when his image, when his face and Michelle Obama's face was shown on the jumbotron, the crowd went wild. And when he stood up to speak, he had numerous applause lines. The crowd here sees him as a kind of hero. He has said that Nelson Mandela is a hero of his, but people here see some similarities between the two. And they were waiting to hear what he had to say.

He told the crowd that Nelson Mandela showed the world how to move forward. How to forgive. And he also said that Nelson Mandela moved this nation, and in so doing, moved the world. And you can tell how much he moved the world by how many people came here from around the world to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela. More than 90 heads of state. Dignitaries, kings, queens, prime ministers came here today to say farewell to Nelson Mandela. It was a very moving day.

NORAH O'DONNELL: Bill Whitaker, thanks.
 

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014