When CBS's Steve Kroft recently asked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) some penetrating questions about stock purchases she and her husband made, the internet was abuzz with rumors about an upcoming 60 Minutes installment about the wealthy couple that have been known to use her political interest for their mutual benefit.
Unfortunately, this Sunday's 60 Minutes piece about Congressional insider trading cherry picked from author Peter Schweizer's soon to be released book "Throw Them All Out" to make it look like this is largely a Republican scandal (video follows with commentary):
Conservatives thought CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft was typically soft and deferential toward Barack Obama on Sunday night, but his fellow liberal journalists are high-fiving him. On Twitter, NBC’s Luke Russert oozed: “Steve Kroft was a friend to the nation tonight. Clear concise questions that got us important answers.” That’s an interesting tweet from the son of Mr. Two-Minute Question. But it sounds to many that you're somehow patriotic and nonpartisan or a "friend to the nation" when you rally around Obama.
Over at the Poynter Institute’s website, Al Tompkins interviewed Kroft and praised his “laser-focused” questioning. He even praised him for avoiding political questions (like enhanced interrogation). Questions that sounded to Obama critics like pathetic whiffle-ball questions were hailed for their professionalism:
On Sunday's 60 Minutes, CBS's Steve Kroft failed to bring up key issues related to the killing of Osama bin Laden during an interview of President Obama, such as the enhanced interrogation of captured al Qaeda leaders which provided the first intelligence that ultimately lead to the Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan.
The journalist set the overall tone of his interview, which he conducted on Wednesday, by tossing a softball in his lead question to Obama: "Mr. President, was this the most satisfying week of your presidency?" After the chief executive gave his initial answer, Kroft followed up by asking, "Was the decision to launch this attack the most difficult decision that you've made as commander-in-chief?
On Friday, CBS's Early Show previewed President Obama's upcoming 60 Minutes interview by showing a clip of the softest moment of the exchange and skipping over a series of more challenging questions from correspondent Steve Kroft.
While the preview featured Kroft sympathetically asking the President if he hadn't "sold his successes well enough," the 60 Minutes correspondent began the interview by questioning Obama's policies: "At your news conference, you seemed unwilling to accept the idea that this was a rejection, in any way, of your agenda and your policies. Is this a defeat, a reflection on your leadership?" Obama responded by lamenting: "And people looked at that and they said, 'boy, this feels as if there's a huge expansion of government,' and-" Kroft interjected: "Well, it was a huge expansion of government."
In a preview of President Obama's upcoming 60 Minutes interview on Friday's CBS Early Show, correspondent Steve Kroft is shown commiserating with the commander-in-chief over midterm election losses: "People have made the argument you lost control of the narrative, you've let other people define you, that you haven't sold your successes well enough."
Kroft was understanding as he lamented Obama's political problems: "People who were among your most ardent supporters...feel a little disappointed, that they think that you've lost your mojo, that you lost your ability, that touch you had during the campaign to inspire and lead." He noted how "everybody in Washington writes about this sort of aloofness that you have. And I'm sure that drives you crazy."
While attending the Radio Television Digital News Association conference in Las Vegas on Monday, 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft spoke to a crowd of young journalists and claimed that his dream interview would be with Dick Cheney, but complained how the former vice president and Bush adviser Karl Rove simply "make hay" in criticizing 60 Minutes coverage, but would not go on the show.
If one looks at a recent history of 60 Minutes reporting, it's easy to see why Cheney and Rove would not be eager to appear on the CBS program. On the May 11, 2008 broadcast, correspondent Morley Safer conducted a fawning interview with left-wing actor Alec Baldwin and light-heartedly remarked: "Your eloquence, if that's the word, can get you into deep trouble....perhaps excessively eloquent, as in your description of Dick Cheney, who you said was a sociopath and a terrorist, and you later apologized by just calling him a 'lying, thieving, oil whore and a murderer of the US Constitution.'"
"He dug into the idiocy and negligence that produced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression," Steve Kroft opened a segment of the March 14 CBS "60 Minutes," featuring author Michael Lewis' latest work - "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine."
If Lewis "dug into the idiocy and negligence," he did so selectively - or that's what viewers could conclude from the long "60 Minutes" report, which concerned itself with how "some of Wall Street's smartest minds managed to destroy $1.75 trillion of wealth in the sub-prime mortgage markets." Somehow, in a 24-minute report about the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, nobody ever said where all the bad loans originated.
Lewis told Kroft that the financial crisis was "a story of mass delusion."
"How can they not look at the numbers?" Kroft asked. "How can Wall Street be selling all these, buying all of these mortgages and repackaging them and not realizing they are not very good mortgages?"
In an unusually tough interview with President Obama on Sunday’s 60 Minutes on CBS, correspondent Steve Kroft described the President’s West Point speech as being “greeted with a great deal of confusion” and that “some people thought it was contradictory.” He later said of the health care bill: “some people think is incomprehensible....I’ve not met anybody who’s read it.”
Kroft began the interview by asking about the new Afghanistan strategy and made some observations about Obama’s announcement of the plan: “In your West Point speech, you seemed very analytical, detached, not emotional....There were no exhortations or promises of victory. Why? Why that tone?” Obama argued: “...that was actually probably the most emotional speech that I’ve made.” And then hit the Bush administration: “...one of the mistakes that was made over the last eight years is for us to have a triumphant sense about war. There was a tendency to say, ‘We can go in. We can kick some tail. This is some glorious exercise.’”
Kroft went on to note that the speech: “was greeted with a great deal of confusion.” A testy Obama interjected: “I disagree with that statement.” Kroft rephrased: “...it raised a lot of questions. And some people thought it was contradictory. That’s a fair criticism.” Not according to the President: “I don’t think it’s a fair criticism....There shouldn’t be anything confusing about that.” Obama then touted a Bush administration success to make his point: “...that’s something that we executed over the last two years in Iraq. So, I think the American people are familiar with the idea of a surge.”
Considering how fond liberals are of "teachable moments," it was surprising that CBS's "60 Minutes" missed one on its Nov. 22 broadcast.
"60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft took an in-depth look at one of the most expensive aspects of modern health care - the cost of end of life care. However, he didn't highlight the federal government's culpability in driving up those costs, or what it might mean for health care reform.
"Every medical study ever conducted has concluded 100 percent of all Americans will eventually die," Kroft said. "This comes as no great surprise. But, the amount of money being spent at the end of people lives probably will. Last year, Medicare paid $50 billion just for doctors' and hospital bills during the last two months of patients lives. That's more than the budget of the Department of Homeland Security or the Department of Education. And it's been estimated that 20 to 30 percent of these medical expenditures may have had no meaningful impact."
"60 Minutes" did a fabulous exposé Sunday on Medicare fraud that should be required viewing for all people who support a government run healthcare program in this country.
The facts and figures presented by CBS's Steve Kroft were disturbing as were the details concerning how shysters bilk the system for an estimated $60 billion a year.
As Kroft warned viewers in the segment's teaser, "We caution you that this story may raise your blood pressure, along with some troubling questions about our government's ability to manage a medical bureaucracy" (video embedded below the fold with partial transcript, h/t Marc Sheppard):
60 Minutes on Sunday night gave President Barack Obama at least his fourth interview platform since his election (not counting re-runs), and while Steve Kroft framed the segment around how Obama “seemed confident that he had succeeded” in his Wednesday night speech and asked him, in the context of how the health care debate “has brought out the worst in us,” how “you were heckled. Not at a town meeting. Not on the campaign trail, but in a joint session of Congress,” whether “Congressman Wilson should be rebuked?,” he also gently challenged Obama from the right. Unfortunately, Kroft did not follow up when Obama delivered his usual liberal platitudes.
After Obama touted how he had reached out to Republicans on tort reform, Kroft pressed: “Would you be willing to do more in the area of tort reform and malpractice insurance? Would you be willing to agree to caps, for example, on malpractice judgments?” Kroft raised how to pay for it all: “There is still a great deal of skepticism about how this plan is going to be paid for. What you promised is essentially you promised not to affect anybody who has coverage now at all. You have promised to add another 30 million people into the system and you're saying that you can do all of this or want to do all this without impacting or increasing the deficit by a dime. How do you do that?”
Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz performed one of his periodic "beat sweeteners," playing up the network TV stars and pleasing network publicity departments. The sugar cube on Monday was handed out to CBS reporter Steve Kroft, now acknowledged as the top on-air dog of 60 Minutes. But Kurtz left something out about Kroft’s series of interviews with Obama: CBS News sells them on a DVD for Obama-lovers called Road to the White House. It’s still advertised on the 60 Minutes home page.
When asked during a Monday chat session at washingtonpost.com, Kurtz said that was news to him: "I was unaware of that, but you know what? Several networks have done that, and all the major newspapers and newsmagazines (including The Post) have been peddling special commemorative issues about Obama's victory. I'm not defending that, but clearly these companies see a marketing opportunity and are trying to make a few bucks."
Appearing on Wednesday’s O’Reilly Factor on FNC, CBS 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft discussed his campaign interviews with Barack Obama that have been spliced together to create a CBS News DVD, ‘Obama: All Access,’: "Well, they were dying to have somebody come out, especially '60 Minutes,' very early on to kind of explain their campaign...we developed a nice rapport."
Host Bill O’Reilly asked Kroft about the documentary: "...what does it say to people other than ‘go, go Obama?’" Kroft replied: "It's an historical document. And I think we'll probably sell a lot of copies to libraries and things like that. Maybe to some -- maybe to some Republican political consultants." O’Reilly followed up: "Is there cheerleading in it?" Kroft responded: "No, I don't think so. It's -- we've taken the interviews and it is a straight narrative of the campaign."
However, during the CBS News documentary aired on Sunday, December 28, 2008 and re-aired this Sunday, Kroft pulled out the pom-poms: "...on the campus of George Mason University in the Virginia suburbs, where Obama held his first campaign rally, just two weeks after establishing an exploratory presidential committee...It was our first exposure to what came to be known as 'Obama-mania.' You sensed immediately that something unusual was going on, something rarely seen in American politics... 5,000 students had turned out to see him...he urged his young audience to cast aside its cynicism of politics and engage the system, evoking the words of Martin Luther King."
60 Minutes viewers got better economic rationality Sunday night from President-elect Barack Obama than from the journalist who interviewed him. CBS's Steve Kroft proposed: “People are comparing this to 1932. Is that a valid comparison, do you think?” Obama didn't accept the comparison: “Well, keep in mind that 1932, 1933 the unemployment rate was 25 percent, inching up to 30 percent. You had a third of the country that was ill housed, ill clothed...” But Kroft wouldn't let go of trying to paint the America of 2008 as dire as 1932. Eight minutes later in the interview, when Obama related how he was reading briefing papers and had read about Abraham Lincoln putting political rivals in his cabinet, Kroft returned to the Depression: “Have you been reading anything about the Depression? Anything about FDR?”
In between in the generally light and friendly interview centered on getting Obama to outline his plans, Kroft cued up Obama to reiterate his campaign promises, such as: “How high a priority are you placing on re-regulation of the financial markets?” Kroft also pressed Obama to say whether he will “take early action” to issue executive orders “to shutdown Guantanamo Bay” and “change interrogation methods that are used by U.S. troops?”
On Sunday’s CBS ‘60 Minutes,’ anchor Steve Kroft abandoned hard-hitting journalism and instead offered a glowing profile of the Obama campaign team: "Like Obama, they were talented, laid back, and idealistic, with limited exposure on the national stage. But with the candidate's help, the team orchestrated one of the most improbable and effective campaigns in American political history." Kroft interviewed Obama advisors David Axelrod, David Plouffe, Robert Gibbs, and Anita Dunn about the campaign and later observed: "The only person missing from the brain trust was the candidate himself."
Kroft went on to describe their incredible accomplishment: "They took a little known senator with a foreign sounding name and almost no national experience and got him elected the 44th President of the United States. They did it by recruiting and investing millions of volunteers in the outcome, by raising more money than any campaign in history, and by largely ignoring the fact that their candidate happened to be a black man."
On the issue of race, Kroft later asked: "There were just so many people -- reporters, pundits, everybody -- who said that you're not going to be able to elect a black man President of the United States. It's just not going to happen right now. Obviously that had to be part of your equation in planning this campaign." When Plouffe replied: "No. Honestly, you had to take a leap of faith in the beginning that the people would get by race, and I think the number of meetings we had about race was zero." An incredulous Kroft responded: "What?"
With nine days left before Election Day, "60 Minutes" aired a segment Sunday evening addressing a complex investment tool at the heart of the current financial crisis without fully explaining the presidential campaign ramifications behind the laws that made the market meltdown almost inevitable.
Despite accurately calling credit default swaps "The Bet That Blew Up Wall Street," CBS didn't properly inform viewers that George W. Bush had absolutely nothing to do with the Clinton-signed legislation that deregulated them, and that frequent campaign statements by Barack Obama and Joe Biden blaming the current financial crisis on Bush economic policies are therefore completely false.
The producers also chose not to expose the key Democrats -- most notably House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cali.) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) -- that voted in favor of this legislation back in 2000 but have in recent weeks dishonestly blamed President Bush for the current crisis.
Instead, CBS's Steve Kroft offered viewers a very general and nonpartisan political background to the passage of the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 (video embedded right):
Three Sundays ago, in a 60 Minutes interview CBS's Steve Kroft cued up Barack Obama with Sarah Palin's presumed lack of qualifications compared to him: “Does the fact that he chose as his Vice President someone who has less experience than you take that weapon out of his arsenal?” But on Sunday night, in a 60 Minutes devoted to new interviews with both Obama and John McCain, Scott Pelley also hit McCain from the same angle on Palin's qualifications, telling him “the criticism of Governor Palin is that she was a brilliant marketing choice for the campaign, but she's not well versed on the economy or foreign affairs,” before he demanded: “In your judgment, can you see her as President of the United States?” When McCain replied “Absolutely,” Pelley's voice betrayed astonishment as he fired back: “As President of the United States?”
Steve Kroft again got the sit-down with Obama and when Obama contended that if he loses, his race will not be the cause, Kroft countered that he knows “for a fact...there are a lot of people out there...who won't vote for you because you're black.” Kroft declared as the two sat in Elko, Nevada:
I know, for a fact, that there are a lot of people out there, there are a lot of people right here in Elko, who won't vote for you because you're black. I mean, there's not much you can do. But how do you deal with it? I mean, are there ways that, from a political point of view, that you can deal with it? And how do you fight that?
Yikes. The only thing missing from Steve Kroft's interview with Barack Obama and Joe Biden on CBS's 60 Minutes (Sun. 8/31/08) was an "Obama/Biden '08" button on Kroft's lapel. As NB's Brent Baker has already noted, Kroft teed one up for Obama by presuming Sarah Palin had "less experience" than he did. But take a look at some of the softball questions Kroft lobbed at Obama and Biden:
(To Obama backstage at the Convention last week:) "Did you ever doubt it (your nomination) was going to happen?"
(To Biden backstage at the Convention:) "Were you surprised to be up there (on stage with Obama)?"
(To Obama:) "What do you think of Sen. McCain's vice presidential choice?"
(To Obama:) "Does the fact that he (McCain) chose as his vice president someone who has less experience than you take away that weapon out of his arsenal?"
(To Biden:) "Have you two talked, have you spoken specifically, about what your role would be in an Obama administration?" (Obama jumped in to answer, and Kroft didn't stop him!)
(To Biden:) "What's your role in the campaign? Can you make a difference in this race? And how do you do that?"
CBS's 60 Minutes led Sunday night with a taped interview with the Democratic ticket and in the piece Steve Kroft, who couldn't resist labeling Sarah Palin as a “conservative” while never tagging Joe Biden, presumed as fact that Palin “has less experience” than Obama and cued up Obama to agree with his own campaign's rhetoric about how Palin undermines McCain's experience argument:
Does the fact that he chose as his Vice President someone who has less experience than you take that weapon out of his arsenal?
On Sunday's NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams pursued the same media narrative as he pressed McCain about how as “a 72-year-old cancer survivor” he chose “a not yet one full term Governor of Alaska. Is she the best person to be literally a heartbeat away from the presidency, Senator?” McCain rejected the premise and, without even knowing it, countered Kroft:
She's been in elected office longer than Senator Obama. She's been the chief executive of the state that supplies 20 percent of America's energy, she has balanced budgets. She's had executive experience as Governor, as Mayor, as a city council member and PTA. So she was in elected office when Senator Obama was still a quote “community organizer.”
Williams, however, remained unconvinced: “But you know the question, Senator, given the field, given all that we know, is she the best person to be a heartbeat away from the presidency?”
On Sunday’s CBS "60 Minutes," Steve Kroft suggested that the American-based Chiquita Banana company was in league with Colombian terrorist groups after paying extortion money to such groups to protect its employees: "It made millions growing bananas there, only to emerge with its reputation splattered in blood, after acknowledging that it had paid nearly $2 million in protection money to a murderous paramilitary group that's killed or massacred thousands of people."
Kroft went on to portray the situation with Chiquita as only one example of a larger pattern of U.S. companies funding terrorism: "Now the Colombian government is talking about extraditing Chiquita executives to Colombia, and investigators in Bogota and on Capitol Hill are looking at other US companies that may have done the same thing."
Kroft later highlighted the murder of a 12-year-old boy by the paramilitary group that Chiquita made payments to: "...the paramilitaries arrived and murdered a 12-year-old boy whose only crime had been to announce their presence." Kroft also explained: "As the atrocities piled up all across the country, Chiquita continued to make the payments to the paramilitaries, viewing itself as a victim of the violence, not a facilitator."
On Sunday’s CBS "60 Minutes," anchor Scott Pelley interviewed Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, and the tone of the questions was this: "The United States is going to be in Iraq for years to come. Afghanistan is not going well. Osama bin Laden is at large. And the economy is slipping into recession...How do you make a case for a third Republican term?"
Compare that to how Steve Kroft described Barack Obama’s candidacy during a February 10 interview: "He's been helped by the media's lust for a good story and the electorate's hunger for change. What he lacks in executive experience, he has made up for with a grasp of the issues, an ability to read the public mood, and the gift of turning Democratic boilerplate into political poetry." Or to Katie Couric’s interview with Hillary Clinton during the same broadcast that featured girl talk such as: "What were you like in high school? Were you the girl in the front row taking meticulous notes and always raising your hand?...Someone told me your nickname in school was Miss Frigidaire. Is that true?"
On Sunday’s CBS "60 Minutes," anchor Steve Kroft interviewed Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, along with a small group of Ohio Democratic voters who, as Kroft explained: "told us that both race and gender would be hidden factors in southern Ohio, that many blue collar workers here won't vote for a woman, and others would never vote for a black." Kroft went on to focus on Obama: "And Senator Obama has another problem: a malicious campaign against him that surfaced in a number of our interviews."
This "malicious campaign" as Kroft sees it is the suggestion by some that Obama is a Muslim. Kroft was shocked to find this belief from one of the voters he talked to, Kenny Schoenholtz, who said:
I'm leaning towards Obama. There's a couple issues with him I'm not too clear on...Well, I'm hearing he doesn't even know the national anthem. He wouldn't use the Holy Bible. He's got his own beliefs, with the Muslim beliefs. And couple of issues that bothers me at heart.
Kroft was concerned that this one misinformed voter, who said he would probably vote for Obama anyway, was reflective of broader smear against the Illinois Senator: