Last night on NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams had a rather spicy interview with Barack Obama where he challenged the Illinois Senator on his health care plan, efforts to engage the Latino community and readiness for a general election.
Watch the abridged version (3:26) on last night's Nightly News below; full version (7:01) and full write-up below.
Williams started right out, citing a "senior Democrat" who had speculated that "if the Obama campaign had realized that health care was going to become as big a part of this election debate as it has, that perhaps you would have put out a more complete health care plan that had coverage for more people. Can you react to that?" Said Obama: "I reject that completely." Okay then. Obama maintained that he's always been for universal health care and that under his plan "everybody who wants health care will be able to get it," and then went on to criticize the Clinton plan (rather than address the main issue with his campaign, which is that allowing the young and healthy to opt out drives up costs, and that low-income Americans will take their chances and not sign up even if it is affordable. See Paul Krugman here.) Alas, Williams did not follow up on that point. Next Williams gave him an opportunity to respond to the tension between the campaigns, asking him if his opponents had done anything that had been "truly unfair" — Obama evaded, not answering either way but saying that he didn't want to "look backwards," and saying that anything had happened would "toughen him up" for when he eventually took on the Republicans. Other questions included asking if they had "mathematics" to back up the assertion that the Obama momentum would bring victory if only they'd had more time (Obama: Hard to tell but things are going great!) and wondering if this campaign was doing damage to the Democratic party and "dividing loyalties more than it need to" (odd question; it's a campaign, after all) — Obama predictably said nope, but did make the point that he thought he could get all of Clinton's supporters if he were the nominee, but it wouldn't be the same for Clinton because of his appeal to independents and Republicans.
Next, Williams raised the chatter that the Obama campaign had not paid due attention to Latinos, that he "perhaps didn't take the shot at it seriously enough?" It was here that Obama laughed: "Brian, you're getting too many memos from the Clinton camp." He said they're going after it, and the "gap is closing" between him and Clinton. Finally, Williams wondered if Obama was prepared to go up against the 'well-oiled Republican machine" and win in a general election; Obama said, hey, isn't that what they said about Clinton? "We keep on hearing all these reasons why we can't win," said Obama. "If we get through this nomination, we will certainly be battle-tested because I don't think my opponent in the Democratic party has been going out of their way to take it easy on me."
NB: The questions asked on air were the ones relating to mathematics and more time, the Latino vote, and readiness for the general election. Williams said that there had been plans (and "great efforts") to interview Clinton as well, but the schedules were incompatible.