Friday’s edition of Dateline NBC featured the long-planned hour-long special Reality of Hope dedicated to outgoing President Barack Obama and, naturally, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt stayed clear of all Obama scandals in lieu of gush over his so-called accomplishments.
Holt promised “an evening of hard questions,” but they instead boiled down to how Obama will want himself remembered, if he felt “free” when he sang Amazing Grace in South Carolina, and how he “had a tough time getting what you wanted through” thanks to Republicans.
With the President’s Spotify account acting as the special’s soundtrack, Holt set the tone from his first question aboard Air Force One prior to his Farewell address: “Tonight, you're gonna talk to the American people. Is this a hard one? Do you know what you're going to say?”
Rounding out the first segment, Holt hyped that Obama’s “vision of hope was cemented by the years he spent pounding the pavement and talking with people here in the Windy City” and whether or not he “[drew] on that community organizer in your presidency?”
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Holt hit Obama from the left on race as he implored the President to explain why he didn’t more starkly discuss racial tensions and yet allowed Obama to ramble on about “the splintering of the media” and blame “folks like Rush Limbaugh and some commentators on Fox News” for the lack of bipartisanship in the last eight years.
Also on the subject of race, Holt spent a few moments chiding Congressman Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and his supposedly racist remark when Wilson shouted “you lie” during a 2009 Joint Session of Congress:
The election in 2008 brought lofty expectations. It didn't take long for a harsher reality to set in. In 2009, a congressman interrupted the President's speech to a joint session. [CLIP OF JOE WILSON SHOUTING “YOU LIE] “You lie.” A stunning breach of protocol that foreshadowed a contentious eight years.
“You had a tough time. You had a tough time getting what you wanted through and you got a lot of it through, but was there a point — can you remember a moment in which it just struck you that this isn't gonna be easy? They're going to fight me at every turn,” lamented Holt.
As mentioned at the top, Holt allowed Obama to skate free without any discussion of the numerous scandals that enveloped his administration (despite the media’s efforts to cover them up).
The top seven scandals chronicled by my colleague Geoffrey Dickens on Monday weren’t even touched by Holt, which were: IRS targeting the Tea Party, Fast and Furious, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) wait times, Jonathan Gruber, ObamaCare failures, Solyndra, and ransom for hostages.
In addition to those, subjects such as Benghazi, the Boston bombing, Edward Snowden, Fort Hood, Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal, terror attacks in Orlando and San Bernardino plus the rise of ISIS didn’t even see the light of day in this hour-long NBC special. So much for “hard questions,” Lester!
Here’s a good exit question to discuss: Do you think any Trump special when he leaves office will be this fawning? Or will it be an angry tirade the likes of which we haven’t seen from the liberal media?
Here are the relevant portions of the transcript from Dateline NBC — Barack Obama: The Reality of Hope on January 13:
Dateline NBC — Barack Obama: The Reality of Hope
January 13, 2017
10:01 p.m. Eastern
LESTER HOLT: Tonight, you're gonna talk to the American people. Is this a hard one? Do you know what you're going to say?
HOLT: Let's talk about the journey. It did begin in Chicago. I'm only gonna do this once in the interview, I promise, but I wanna — I wanna show you something. You have, of course, seen it. It was Grant Park, the victory night. I want you to watch this.
HOLT: His vision of hope was cemented by the years he spent pounding the pavement and talking with people here in the Windy City. [TO OBAMA] I'm curious now eight years later, did you draw on that community organizer in your presidency?
HOLT: An evening of hard questions.
HOLT: When the history books are written, in the first paragraph, if not the first sentence, it's gonna say “the first African-American President.” There are so many expectations, as it turned out to what that meant. Did you wrestle with that? Did you — how — how did you articulate the expectations that were thrust upon you?
HOLT: There was one moment that stood there was one moment that stood out to — to a lot of people. It was the Reverend Pinckney funeral after the Charleston massacre. You delivered the eulogy. And then you -- you went farther than talking about it. I'm gonna read the quote. "Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us, even when we don't realize it, so that we're guarding against not just racist slurs — [OBAMA CLIP PICKS UP THE REST]
HOLT: Why — why did you not talk about things in — in that explicit way before?
HOLT: You felt pretty free at that moment? I mean were you on — you know, you were a second-term President.
HOLT: The notion is that this is a more divided country today than it was than you took office. That may or may not be because of you. But — but many people accept that as a fact. Do you?
OBAMA: You know what I think has happened? There have been a couple of trends that occurred over the course of my presidency. First of all, I think the splintering of the media and the rise of social media means that a lot of people just have one source of information or a handful of places where they go to get the news and it just reinforces whatever biases they already have and that's true across the ideological spectrum.
HOLT: Everybody's got a louder platform.
OBAMA: Everybody's got a louder platform. But they also don't have to pay attention to what people who disagree with them think.
HOLT: America just elected a man who is the polar opposite of you. I mean, if that's not divisive, I don't know what is.
HOLT: The election in 2008 brought lofty expectations. It didn't take long for a harsher reality to set in. In 2009, a congressman interrupted the President's speech to a joint session. [CLIP OF JOE WILSON SHOUTING “YOU LIE] “You lie.” A stunning breach of protocol that foreshadowed a contentious eight years.
HOLT: You had a tough time. You had a tough time getting what you wanted through and you got a lot of it through, but was there a point — can you remember a moment in which it just struck you that this isn't gonna be easy? They're going to fight me at every turn?
OBAMA: Well, what is true is that the — the ability of Republican leaders to rile up their base, helped along with — by folks like Rush Limbaugh and some commentators on Fox News, I think created an environment in which Republican voters would punish Republicans for cooperating with me. That hot house of back and forth argument and really sharp partisanship, I think has been harmful to the country.
HOLT: You have a good game face. You — you play it cool, but you also learned politics in Illinois, in Chicago. Do you have — do you have a vindictive streak politically?
HOLT: I went back and looked at this and forgot how heavy it was. You're standing in the Rose Garden. It's 2013. The Senate had just failed to expand background checks for — for gun sales and you're standing there with the Sandy Hook families.
HOLT: Nine out of ten Americans were with you on that one.
OBAMA: They were.
HOLT: And you couldn't get it done. Did that — did that tell you about as powerful as this job is, the limits of your power?
HOLT: But hard work didn't stop intense condemnation — especially on foreign policy. With the spiral of war in Syria, the controversial Iran nuclear deal, and Russia's annexation of Crimea, critics accuse him of emboldening Russian President Vladimir Putin and making America weaker around the world. You and I grew up in a country that America was the superpower. We had the biggest military. And there was always the implied threat that if you mess with us, we'll put that military to work. You were elected President on a mandate of we're tired of war. We've got two wars going. We don't wanna do it anymore. Putin begins to flex his muscle in Ukraine and Crimea, cyber-hacking. Did you give him the space to do that? Did he take a signal from your reluctance based on what the American public was telling to engage. Did he take that as an opening and run with it?
HOLT: Will your legacy be measured, in some way, on the success or lack of success of the Trump administration? Will we have to look at you a couple of cycles beyond?