The national Sunday newspaper supplement Parade Magazine brought in former ABC News reporter Lynn Sherr to interview both the Obamas and the Romneys over the last two weeks before each party convention. Unsurprisingly, Romney was hammered with questions about his wealth and how he banks outside America.
Both couples were asked about the same controversy: why John Sununu would imply Obama wasn’t American, that he had "foreign ideas." These media people are always supremely sensitive to Obama slights. Obama and his camp can suggest Romney's a "vampire" who lets wives die of cancer, but the focus is on Obama insults. Sherr asked Romney:
On the topic of respect, former New Hampshire governor John Sununu has said that President Obama needs to learn to be American. You've referred to his policies as 'foreign.' Do you believe that President Obama is un-American in any way?
Romney pushed back: “Governor Sununu was not suggesting he was't American, nor do I. I believe he's making us far more like Europe, with a larger, more dominant, more intrusive government.”
Sherr asked the president: “We spoke with Governor Romney and he talked about the way in which you, Mr. President, are making our country ‘far more like Europe, with a larger, more dominant, more intrusive government.’ How do you react to being characterized as somebody with foreign ideas?"
Amazingly, Obama said he was a centrist: “When you look at the policies I’ve promoted, they used to be considered bipartisan, mainstream ideas. What’s changed is not me. What’s changed is where the Republican Party’s gone.”
Check out how Romney drew more hardballs as his interview began:
Governor, your campaign speeches talk about the middle class, but the vast majority of the questions we received from readers asked about your ability to relate to their struggles. In essence, how do you know what it's like to be someone without means, someone, as one reader puts it, trying to scrape by, living on food stamps?
...We got this question from Kelsey M. of Orange, Va. 'I'm a stay-at-home mom of two children. How will your presidency improve my life?'
...There were a number of questions about your financial wealth. New Jersey resident Harry H. asked if you would make this pledge: If elected, do you promise to bank in the United States?
...You've received a lot of criticism from your opponents in the primaries. They said a lot of nasty things. Did it hurt?
...Why do you think that in a recent poll, you lost out to the president in [voter] enthusiasm?
...Question from Texas resident Jean S.: 'Have you ever felt like a loser? What did you do to overcome that feeling?'
There was one more positive question: "Also from a reader, Nancy B., of Winter Springs, Fla.: 'I trust your acumen to assemble a great turnaround team for the economy. But who do you have in mind for advice on foreign affairs?'"
Sherr asked about Mormonism and how the Romneys tithe (donate 10 percent of their income). When Romney said conservatives are more likely to be charitable, Sherr shot back “Is that a form of socialism?”
At the end, Sherr asked: “Should the party change? There’s been a lot of talk that it’s gotten a little far to the right.” In the liberal media, there's always "a lot of talk" about the GOP being too conservative.
The Obamas were granted several subtle advantages when you compare the two articles. Parade gave Michelle Obama a caption to explain Barack over an "I Dig You" picture inside.
“He’s working so hard and doing it at great personal sacrifice [!], but he’s still managing to be the father and husband he was before.” (Mrs. Romney didn’t get a caption like that.) The Obamas also uniquely got a picture with their daughters with a caption underneath reading “FAMILY VALUES.” There was no picture of the Romneys with their five sons.
Parade asked the Obamas nothing about their finances, nothing about their religion or charitable contributions, and nothing about Democrats moving too far to the left. They spent more time wondering about those Republicans. It began with supporters:
Mr. President, let’s begin with a -question from PARADE reader Joanne D. of Riverside, N.J. She writes: “My husband and I are both laid off without insurance. We support you 100 percent. What can you say to keep us going? I’m getting a little desperate.”
...Some Democrats and crossover Republicans say they’re disappointed in your first term and won’t vote for you again. How do you get them back?
...You said recently that the mistake of your first few years was thinking the job was just about getting the policy right—that, in fact, you have to tell a story. At the end of the Democratic convention, if you can do it in one sentence, what’s the story people should understand?
Many political observers thought it was ridiculous that Obama would claim his major political problem was that he hadn't communicated well enough, but that his policies were unquestionably great. Parade finds no controversy in that, only in John Sununu discussing Obama's feelings about America.
Then it all became about the uncompromising Republicans. Obama insisted the country should be moving forward with all of our talent and our diversity. "What’s preventing us from taking advantage of it is our politics. What we need right now is an end to the uncompromising views that have so dominated Washington," he claimed. Naturally, the bad economy isn't his fault. Blame "politics." And Republicans? The rank and file agree with him, just not their leaders:
PARADE: So how are you going to talk to Republicans differently if you are reelected?
OBAMA: Republican voters, if you ask them about my particular policy positions, often agree with me. So there’s a difference between Republicans in Washington and Republican and Republican-leaning voters around the country. I think that after this election, we’ll be in a position to once again reach out to Republicans and say that the American people have rendered a judgment, and the positions we’re taking are well within what used to be considered bipartisan centrist approaches.
PARADE: Are you saying there’ll be a difference in how you approach Republicans, or their attitude will be different if you get reelected?
OBAMA: My approach has been pretty consistent from the start; I’ve often proposed ways to solve our problems that used to be embraced by Republicans. [That would be a no.]
He cited Obamacare, as if that was a bipartisan plan. You would presume this man hasn't watched any politics over the last four years, with the centrists being defeated in primaries by the conservative Republican electorate.
Both Parade and Obama expect Republicans to bow eventually to Obama and grant him his “centrist” proposals. Then there was the black president question: "If you were female, we would ask, "How has being female affected your ability to govern?" So, how has being black affected your ability to govern?" Naturally, Obama says it's made him more sensitive about giving a "fair shot" to the downtrodden and disadvantaged.
Parade also implied bias by repeatedly suggesting this was the Obama "first term.' On the cover the Obamas "reflect on their first term," and in the subhead inside, they "address the challenges of his first term in office." Before the questions, Parade says the Obamas will "make a case for their first four years in office." What if this is the only term? Apparently, Parade can't imagine that.