CNN Anchor Hits Obama With 'Tough' Questions: 'What's Your Biggest Fear?'

One day after getting the celebrity treatment on "Today," Senator Barack Obama stopped by CNN’s "American Morning" to receive fawning questions from Soledad O’Brien. The big difference in the coverage is that while NBC's Meredith Vieira referred to Obama as a "rock star," O’Brien only mentioned that "some people say he is the brightest star in the Democratic Party." Isn’t it great when one media outlet differentiates itself from another? The morning host, who only mentioned Iraq and North Korea in passing, found time for particularly tough questions, including this hardball: "What’s your biggest fear?" Most of the anchor’s queries were of the short variety:

O’Brien: "Politics seems particularly mean these days."

Obama: "Yes."

O’Brien: "I think, we see partisanship that you see. And sort of, as you mentioned, in D.C. that you don't necessarily see in the American people. So why don't politicians get that?"

Obama: "There are a lot of institutional pressures on politicians. The most powerful being that they don't want to lose elections."

O’Brien: "Yes, that would be it pretty much."

During the segment, which aired at 7:31a.m. EDT on October 20, the closest O’Brien came to a tough question was to timidly wonder about Obama’s experience. And that followed two softballs on the subject:

O’Brien: "I gather you read what David Brooks wrote about you in ‘The New York Times’. He said, under the title, ‘Run, Barack, Run’. And he's talking about the presidency. ‘Barack Obama should run for president,’ he writes. ‘He should run first for the good of his party.’ And then he goes on later to say, ‘The next Democratic nominee should either be Barack Obama or should have the stature that would come from defeating Barack Obama.’ In other words, in the very least, let the guy beat you so he can have some stature. Why do you demur when you're asked about your presidential ambitions?"

Obama: "Well, because we've got three weeks to go before probably the most important election that I've seen in a long time. I think that President Bush is going to be in the office for the next two years. And really what's going to determine what we do in Iraq , what happens in terms of healthcare, are we going to put together an energy plan; how are we going to rewrite the education law, No Child Left Behind -- all that's going to be determined in the next two years. And so I'm spending enormous amounts of time focused on making sure the Democrats get elected."

O’Brien: "You're too busy to think about running for president?"

Obama: "Well, look, it's not that -- I know that seems odd, but it's a pretty serious thing to think about. If you're going to do something like that, you've got to think it through. It's not -- it can't be driven by personal ambition alone. It's got to be based on a sense somehow that you can actually be useful to the country in that way. So that's not something that I'd be thinking about just off-the-cuff."

O’Brien: "And do the job, I would imagine. You've got four years in national politics. Do you think you're qualified to be president?"

Obama: "Yeah, I think the only people who are completely qualified to be president are Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, people who have been president. Because you land that first day, and I suspect that things come at you pretty fast."

If the Senator from Illinois does run for president, Americans can probably expect more of these Oprah style interviews.

The Following are all of O’Brien’s fawning questions:

Soledad O’Brien: "Some people say he is the brightest star in the Democratic Party right now. Two years ago at the Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama stepped out on the national stage, and here's what he said.

[Obama]

O’Brien: "Well, the senator has a new book called ‘The Audacity of Hope’. Senator Barack Obama joins us this morning. It's nice to see you. What does that mean, the audacity of hope?"

[Obama]

O’Brien: "Maybe not just historically. If you look at today, you see Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, school shootings. You know, people who struggle to send their kids to college, when they have jobs. We talked to somebody yesterday who doesn't have health insurance, has a good job."

[Obama]

O’Brien: "Where do you see hope in that?"

[Obama]

O’Brien: "Politics seems particularly mean these days."

[Obama]


O’Brien: "I think, we see partisanship that you see. And sort of as you mentioned, in D.C. that you don't necessarily see in the American people. So why don't politicians get that?"

[Obama]

O’Brien: "Yes, that would be it pretty much."

[Obama]

O’Brien: "I gather you read what David Brooks wrote about you in ‘The New York Times’. He said, under the title, ‘Run, Barack, Run’. And he's talking about the presidency. ‘Barack Obama should run for president,’ he writes. ‘He should run first for the good of his party.’ And then he goes on later to say, ‘The next Democratic nominee should either be Barack Obama or should have the stature that would come from defeating Barack Obama.’ In other words, in the very least, let the guy beat you so he can have some stature. Why do you demur when you're asked about your presidential ambitions?"

[Obama]

O’Brien: "You're too busy to think about running for president?"

[Obama]

O’Brien: "And do the job, I would imagine. You've got four years in national politics. Do you think you're qualified to be president?"

[Obama]

O’Brien: "Well, how come you don't name the current president? He's qualified, too. You left him off the list."

[Obama]


O’Brien: "You write about how tough it is, I think you say the toughest part is to be a father, you know, where you have doubt, as how you are as a husband and father."

[Obama]

O’Brien: "And that's a big area to have doubt in. What's your biggest fear?"

[Obama]

O’Brien: "High drama, yeah."

[Obama]

O’Brien: "Michelle must tell you, because that's what I tell my husband, too. Barack Obama, the book is called ‘The Audacity of Hope.’"

[Obama]

O’Brien: "It's so nice to see you, Senator. Thanks for talking with us this morning. Appreciate it."

[Obama]

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