CBS Hypes Obama's 'Telephone Diplomacy' With Foreign Leaders, But Downplayed Critics

CBS This Morning correspondent Bill Plante on Tuesday hyped a new report about Barack Obama's "telephone diplomacy" as an example of just how the President is focused on the multiple foreign policy crises exploding around the world. Charlie Rose trumpeted, "President Obama is spending more time talking with foreign leaders than he has in years." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] 

Promoting phone logs analyzed by USA Today, reporter Bill Plante touted, "President Obama made at least four calls in July to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, three to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu." The segment featured White House Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken who praised "the 50th call or video conference the President has had with European counterparts since the beginning of this crisis."

A new study by the Media Research Center discovered that while CBS (along with NBC and ABC) deluged viewers with coverage of the conflict in Gaza and the downing of an airliner in Ukraine, there was no attempt to evaluate the performance of Barack Obama in relation to foreign policy. But this same network found time to examine Obama's phone logs. 

Plante parroted, "Despite mounting tensions on the border with Ukraine, the White House pointed to elections and to an agreement with Europe as evidence that diplomacy is working."

In fairness, the journalist on Tuesday featured these Republican critics of the President: 

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Well, maybe he ought to just reorganize his priorities. 

SENATOR TED CRUZ; It is scandalous that the President has more time to be fund-raiser in chief than he does to do his basic job as commander in chief. 

Yet, even that small example of balance received a counter point from the White House. Plante told viewers that the administration claims, "...The President can do his job wherever he is. And they defend diplomacy by telephone as an important tool."  

A transcript of the July 29 segment is below: 


8:02

CHARLIE ROSE: So far, this summer is full of international crises and President Obama is spending more time talking with foreign leaders than he has in years. That's according to an analysis of the President's phone logs. Bill Plante is at the White House with the numbers and the reaction. Bill, good morning. 

BILL PLANTE: Well, good morning, Charlie. The President does spend a lot of time on the phone. And analysis of his calls by USA Today looks not only at who he's calling, but asks just how effective is telephone diplomacy. President Obama made at least four calls in July to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, three to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And the latest call in a busy month, a video conference, Monday, with four European leaders to discuss possible new sanctions on Russia. 

TONY BLINKEN (WH Deputy National Security Adviser): This was, I think, by our count, about the 50th call or video conference the President has had with European counterparts since the beginning of this crisis. 

PLANTE: Despite mounting tensions on the border with Ukraine, the White House pointed to elections and to an agreement with Europe as evidence that diplomacy is working. 

BLINKEN: None of these things just happened. They were the result of a major sustained effort by the President to lead the international community. 

PLANTE: According to analysis of public readouts by USA Today, Monday's call was the 500th of Obama's presidency. And more than two dozen have come just this month. White House reporter Gregory Korte dug through the releases. 

GREGORY KORTE: They tend to come in bunches. Obama, unlike some of his predecessor, doesn't really spend a whole lot of time maintaining relationships. He's more likely to call in a time crisis. 

PLANTE: Public officials highlight the President's engagement even when he's away from Washington, no matter what he's doing. 

KORTE:  And he's called a lot this month. He's been to 12 fund-raisers and political events. Actually, the calls tend to come on those days when he's traveling. 

PLANTE: But presidential management by phone doesn't satisfy critics. During a recent political trip to California, Republicans on Capitol Hill said the President should have stayed focused on crises at home and abroad. 

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Well, maybe he ought to just reorganize his priorities. 

SENATOR TED CRUZ; It is scandalous that the President has more time to be fund-raiser in chief than he does to do his basic job as commander in chief. 

PLANTE: Well, the White House response to that is two-fold. They say the President can do his job wherever he is. And they defend diplomacy by telephone as an important tool. They say that in the Ukraine crisis, for instance, the constant communication with foreign leaders has helped keep the spotlight on the absence of Russian president Vladimir Putin. Gayle? 

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