At the top of the Saturday Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge took a critical look at President Obama's recent media tour: "The Obama blitz, the President’s appearing everywhere but is his media tour taking attention away from his message?" In a later report, correspondent Kimberly Dozier highlighted Obama’s Tonight Show Special Olympics gaffe as evidence: "It can and did go a little bit wrong with what was supposed to be a self-deprecating joke about the President's inability to bowl...The White House has been apologizing ever since...Mr. Obama's critics were not so kind and this gave them another reason to attack in what was arguably one of his toughest weeks in his presidency so far."
Following Dozier’s report, Wragge spoke with Republican strategist Kevin Madden and Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis about the President’s media strategy: "The President likes UNC to win it all, out west on 'The Tonight Show' with Jay Leno, at home, People magazine. Is there a risk of some overexposure here?...when you keep an omnipresent schedule like this, you are bound to make a gaffe here or there. How significant a gaffe was this Special Olympics comment? Because it really got him off message...You know, we've always heard that he's 'the kind of guy I want to have a beer with,' I guess, notion out there. But is that the type of president the nation needs right now, with all of the things that people have, I guess, going against them right now? Is this a wise strategy?"
Neither the NBC’s Saturday Today nor ABC’s Saturday Good Morning America discussed the issue. However, Friday’s GMA did provide extensive coverage of the gaffe, along with Friday’s Early Show. Friday’s Today mentioned it, but only at the very end of a segment on Obama’s late night appearance.
In one of his final questions to Madden and Kofinis, Wragge asked: "You've got the Tim Geithner problems right now, the AIG flap, the economy obviously still in the tank. So what do you think about a president criss-crossing the country and making all these high-profile appearances when a lot of people say he should just be in Washington concentrating on getting us out of this malaise that were in right now?"
At the top the second hour of the Saturday Early Show, Wragge again highlighted the Obama gaffe, teasing a later news brief on the issue: "Obama's slip, the President's media blitz continues, but has his simple slip of the tongue taken vital attention away from his message?" Correspondent Priya David later reported: "The President's Tonight Show blunder is still getting reaction from across the country. Mr. Obama equated his bowling skills to that of Special Olympics athletes. Maria Shriver, daughter of Unis Kennedy Shriver, who founded the Special Olympics, says it's clear more education is needed."
Here is the full transcript of the opening segment of the Saturday Early Show:
CHRIS WRAGGE: The Obama blitz, the President's appearing everywhere but is his media tour taking attention away from his message?
CHRIS WRAGGE: But first, let's get to our top story, President Obama has had a tough, tough week of his presidency this week as he promoted his $3.6 trillion budget plan he's expected to keep up the frantic pace this week as well. Now that has some critics asking whether the message is being lost in the medium, and that is our top story this morning. CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier at the White House. Kimberly, good morning to you.
KIMBERLY DOZIER: Good morning, Chris. Well, you name it, the President blitzed it this week from TV to the internet. It almost looked like he was running for something, and in a sense, he is. What he needs is the American public's approval of his budget so he can then put pressure on Congress. President Obama is using the power of his office and every modern medium available to sell his budget.
BARACK OBAMA: You can't just be talking more money, more money. It took us awhile to get into this mess.
JAY LENO: Right.
OBAMA: It's going to take awhile for us to get out of it. We will continue making these tough choices in the months and years ahead.
DOZIER: It's about marketing his message and drowning out his critics, some even in his own party. They argue that his $3.5 trillion budget costs too much and spends too much and there's more messaging to come with a '60 Minutes' interview on Sunday and his second White House press conference next Tuesday.
CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN [POLITICO]: And you create a personal connection so in the event, you know, when things turn south maybe with his popularity ratings, that kind of connection may soften the blow a little bit.
JAY LENO: Please welcome President Barack Obama.
DOZIER: It can and did go a little bit wrong with what was supposed to be a self-deprecating joke about the President's inability to bowl.
OBAMA: It was like Special Olympics or something.
DOZIER: The White House has been apologizing ever since.
ROBERT GIBBS: We've been called idiots before. We understand that.
DOZIER: And the President faces a possible showdown with Colin McConaughey, he's a Special Olympics athlete who regularly bowls 300, to Mr. Obama's measly 120. The gaffe prompted a lot of scorn and some sympathy.
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: And every one of us sometimes makes a mistake by -- something comes out of your mouth and you say 'oops, I wish I wouldn't have said that.'
DOZIER: Mr. Obama's critics were not so kind and this gave them another reason to attack in what was arguably one of his toughest weeks in his presidency so far. Chris.
WRAGGE: Kimberly Dozier for us this morning in Washington. Kimberly, thank you. And for more on our top story this morning, we turn to Republican strategist Kevin Madden and Democratic strategist Chris Krofinis there in our Washington bureau for us this morning. Gentlemen, good morning to the both of you.
KEVIN MADDEN: Good morning.
CHRIS KROFINIS: Good morning.
WRAGGE: Alright, Kevin, I'm going to start with you. The President likes UNC to win it all, out west on 'The Tonight Show' with Jay Leno, at home, People magazine. Is there a risk of some overexposure here?
MADDEN: Well, I think it's overexposure, but it's also the medium that he's choosing to bring his message to the American public. I think, when you go on things like The Tonight Show, and you do People magazine, and you're picking NCAA picks on ESPN, I think what it does is it doesn't give an adequate attention to the gravity of the situation that many Americans are facing. There's an incredible level of economic anxiety across the -- across the land. People want to know that the president is 100% focused on helping the economy, so when you go on The Tonight Show, People magazine, or NC -- or ESPN, and bring -- trying to bring a little bit of a levity to the American situation, I think that often times it complicates that message that he's out there working 100% on fixing the economy.
WRAGGE: Chris, ala the campaign, when you keep an omnipresent schedule like this, you are bound to make a gaffe here or there. How significant a gaffe was this Special Olympics comment? Because it really got him off message.
KROFINIS: Yeah, I don't think it was significant. Listen, the President is obviously a human being. We all are going to make mistakes, we're all going to say things that aren't necessarily the most appropriate, you know, at the given time. I mean, but the more important thing, I think, is to step back and look in terms of what the strategy here is. What President Obama is doing and I think this is what effective presidents do, he is effectively, you know, embracing the role of salesman-in-chief and that's what good, strong communicators, as presidents, have to accomplish. using all of these different mediums, whether it's '60 Minutes,' whether it's ESPN and talking about the NCAA brackets, the Jay Leno show, doing the prime time press conference next week, those are critical to building that political capital that's needed to push through a very bold political and policy agenda. And I think effective presidents do that.
WRAGGE: You've got that. You know, we've always heard that he's 'the kind of guy I want to have a beer with,' I guess, notion out there. But is that the type of president the nation needs right now, with all of the things that people have, I guess, going against them right now? Is this a wise strategy?
KROFINIS: I think it's a wise strategy because at the end of the day, what you don't want it s to replicate, I think, the mistakes of the Bush administration, where you had a president that neither could relate or understand the common problems of the American people and I think, what President Obama is doing is, in fact, walking this, you know, what some people may refer to as a fine line, but I think is an appropriate path, which is you want to be able to talk to the American people and that they see that you understand their problems but at the same time, you want to talk about the very key ideas and proposals you're pushing in order to take the country in a new direction. It is the balance that every president has to do.
WRAGGE: Well Kevin, let me ask you the same question. You've got the Tim Geithner problems right now, the AIG flap, the economy obviously still in the tank. So what do you think about a president criss-crossing the country and making all these high-profile appearances when a lot of people say he should just be in Washington concentrating on getting us out of this malaise that were in right now?
MADDEN: Well, Chris makes a good point in that, you know, one of the main portions of the job that the President has is being a salesman-in-chief. And what I can see that the strategy here is to try to try and leverage popular opinion for what I believe are rather unpopular policies, but the risk here, Chris, is that he becomes looking like celebrity-in-chief. When you're out there trying to manufacture a, you know, a persona that has more to do with popular culture than it does the, you know, the incredible challenges that we have on the economy and national security, that's where it comes to become a risk and it dilutes that message that he really is on top of the big problems facing the country.
WRAGGE: I'm going to give you each 15 seconds to answer this. Do you think the President is making this tour and is constantly in the media spotlight right now, sending this message out there because he feels he's the best man to do the job? He doesn't have a list of great surrogates to help get the message out there. We know what happens every time Geithner gets on the air. So is this one of those things 'it's this either me or nothing'?
MADDEN: Well, I'll take that one first-
KROFINIS: Well I -- listen in terms of-
WRAGGE: Go ahead, Kevin.
MADDEN: Well, I think that the President knows and the administration knows that the most incredible asset that this President has right now is personal -- his ability to personally connect with the American public. And he's trying to do that, again, to leverage some support behind his agenda.
KROFINIS: I think it's very simple. Every president is, in fact the best salesman for their administration and for President Obama, the Obama administration to focus and to utilize President Obama in every possible way is a smart strategy it's going to be very effective because he's building that political capital that's going to help push this agenda.
WRAGGE: Well, and the media tour continues, he'll be on '60 Minutes' tomorrow night, right here on CBS. Kevin Madden and Chris Krofinis, thank you both. We do appreciate it.
KROFINIS: Great to be with you.
MADDEN: Thank you.