Good Morning America's Elisabeth Leamy used an exclusive interview with Barack Obama on Friday to toss mostly softball questions, such as wondering, "I want to ask you, what are you and the First Lady teaching your daughters about money?" [MP3 audio here]
After the President suggested that his children could earn some money on the side, Leamy gushed, "I've got a job for them babysitting." The program's consumer correspondent offered almost no challenges from the right, instead she mostly pushed Obama from the left.
Of liberal Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren, who advocated for the new Consumer Finance Protection Agency, Leamy prodded, "On the one hand, big business is adamantly opposed. So everybody wants to know, will you nominate Elizabeth Warren to head this agency that she thought of?"
On the subject of the law itself, she vaguely asked, "Persuade me that this law matters to ordinary Americans."
Leamy's interview was also featured on last night's World News and in an earlier segment on GMA with Jake Tapper. Tapper played a clip of the President talking about the firing and (potential) rehiring of USDA employee Shirley Sherrod.
Neither program played the ABC journalist's question, but the transcript, available online, shows more softballs: "And I wonder, did you have that conversation? And is there something we can all learn here?" Leamy failed to press the President on what responsibility the White House might have for the whole incident.
She did gently challenge Obama towards the end of the piece, questioning, "Has your own retirement fund taken a hit? In other words, can you feel the pain directly that other Americans are feeling?"
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:07am EDT on July 23, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Elisabeth Leamy, who you just saw, had a chance to sit down with the President yesterday to talk about it all. And, Elisabeth, this was your first interview with the President. And he really wanted to talk to you about this legislation because of your expertise, consumers.
ABC GRAPHIC: One-on-One With the President: A Bill to Protect Consumers
ELISABETH LEAMY: That's right, George. President Obama is basically trying to get the word out on what the new Wall Street reform and consumer protection act means to ordinary Americans. It is the most sweeping overhaul of our financial system since the Great Depression. And yet, people don't seem to know what's in it. Not to mention, what's in it for them. What I have here is the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
OBAMA: Don't hurt yourself.
LEAMY: And it is a thick one.
LEAMY: And we've counted. And 10 sections deal with things like derivatives-
LEAMY: -- and systemic risk and five talk about credit scores and mortgages.
LEAMY: Persuade me that this law matters to ordinary Americans.
OBAMA: Oh, it- it matters in so many ways. On mortgages, on credit cards, on student loans, on payday loans, on a whole host of credit issues, the consumers are going to now not only have more security and protection, but they're also going to have somebody whose sole job is to look out for them at the federal level. And hopefully they're going to be saving money.
LEAMY: You called this the strongest consumer financial protection system in history. Sometimes that brings unintended consequences. And already the credit card companies are starting to bring back annual fees and the banks are doing away with free checking. What kind of recourse to consumers have when that happens?
OBAMA: Well, one of the things that we encourage in this reform is just better information. And so much of what needs to be done in the consumer area is to empower the consumer so that they can make good choices.
LEAMY: One of the elements of the new law is this Consumer Financial Protection Bureau-
LEAMY: -which, as I understand it, was the brainchild of Harvard Professor Elizabeth Warren. And people in your own party are hoping that you will nominate her to head that agency.
LEAMY: On the one hand, big business is adamantly opposed. So everybody wants to know, will you nominate Elizabeth Warren to head this agency that she thought of?
OBAMA: I have the highest regard for Elizabeth. We have not made a decision about who we're going to appoint yet, but here's my guarantee, is that Elizabeth is going to be working with me, working with Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary, to help in thinking about how do we make this consumer agency as effective as possible looking out for consumers. She is going to be actively involved in that process.
LEAMY: I want to ask you, what are you and the First Lady teaching your daughters about money?
OBAMA: You know, it's- it's a great question. What I'm doing now with Malia and Sasha is, they're getting an allowance. They're starting to get old enough where they may be able to earn some money babysitting. They've got their own savings accounts.
LEAMY: I've got a job for them babysitting.
OBAMA: There you go. And- and what I'm trying to explain to them are basic concepts about savings, about interest. If they keep $100 in their bank account at two or three percent interest for six months, this is how much money they're going to have at the end of it.
LEAMY: Has your own retirement fund taken a hit? In other words, can you feel the pain directly that other Americans are feeling?
OBAMA: Well, part of it has, that part that is devoted to Malia and Sasha's college fund, that goes up and down with the stock market and so it's lost value like everybody else. Michelle's mom has savings that have been effected. So, one of the reasons that I think that issues like consumer financial protection are so important to Michelle and myself is we're just not that far removed from what most Americans are going through. I mean, it was only a few years ago when, you know, we had high credit card balances. We had two little kids that we were trying to figure out how to save for- enough for college, that we were still thinking about our own retirement and looking at our retirement accounts and wondering, are we going to be able to get enough assets in there to make sure we're protected?
LEAMY: You passed health care reform.
LEAMY: You passed financial regulatory reform, this historic legislation. And yet the latest poll shows your job approval rating hitting a new low of 44 percent.
LEAMY: And many people say this apparent paradox is because of the economy. So what I'm wondering is, has the economy gone from being something that you inherited to becoming your own problem?
OBAMA: Oh, I think that happened the day I was sworn in. And I think that we are on the right path. We're moving in the right direction. But it's hard and people are going to be impatient, understandably, because if you don't have a job right now or if you are trying to figure out how to pay the bills- You know, even if you hear the President say we're on the right track and we've improved, you're- you're still going to be frustrated about how slow the progress is. But the fact that we have elevated reform, made college more affordable, all those things are going to help make America more competitive over the long-term. And- and that's how I judge myself and hopefully I -- that's how I'll ultimately be judged.
LEAMY: The administration says that even the hundreds of pages of the new law that are devoted to Wall Street reform are a benefit to average consumers, because by policing Wall Street they are protecting people's nest eggs, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's right, Elisabeth. Of course, Wall Street a little worried about how they're going to be policed. I spoke with some bankers over the last couple days. And they're especially worried about how the hundred pages of the bill will be interpreted and enforced by the administration. The President say anything about that?
LEAMY: He sure did. He basically said reckless behavior on Wall Street almost brought down the economy. Cost millions of jobs. And that stiffer regulation was deserved. But they talked with Wall Street to come up with rules that would help taxpayers but not stifle innovation.