Fox News Sunday waited (by their own count) 772 days to interview Sen. Barack Obama -- and surprised no one by spending almost the entire first segment on questions about Rev. Jeremiah Wright, flag pins, and 60s-era radical Bill Ayers. Here's a sampling of the questioning:
That said, as TPM's Greg Sargent noted, Obama "didn't take on Fox at all in any meaningful sense" despite claims to the contrary:
On Friday, a senior Obama adviser responded to criticism of his decision to go on Fox with a bunch of tough talk, saying that Obama knew full well that Fox has been at the forefront of spreading "the most specious of rumors" (i.e., lies) about Obama and vowing that he would "take Fox on."
Well, it didn't happen. Obama definitely pushed back hard on some of Chris Wallace's questions, but at no point did he draw attention to Fox's spreading of lies about him or critique the network in a general sense.
Obama had a perfect opening to do this, too. Wallace pressed him repeatedly about Jeremiah Wright and the bogus "flag pin" nonsense -- a perfect set-up for Obama to point out that Fox had obsessed about both these issues to an obscene degree and that Fox had been at the forefront of spreading the Obama-is-a-Muslim lies.
Sargent has more here.
More complete video of the interview is below. First, Obama on losing in Pennsylvania and issues of race in the election:
On issues where he has "bucked the Democratic Party line":
On foreign policy and how the Democratic race will end:
HuffPost's Jason Linkins wrote up play-by-play of the full interview as part of his Sunday morning liveblog.
Well, the Obama Watch is over. Would have been a lot more effective, Fox, if 24 was actually on the air, and not scuttled for reasons pertaining to the writer's strike. Not that I mind: all the various rumors of this year's series - featuring the return of long-dead characters and a storyline where Kiefer Sutherland and Janeane Garofalo waterboarded global warming - made it sound like the show needed a deep rethink.
Wallace apparently trooped up to Indiana to meet with Obama. The two do, in fact, seem perfectly friendly over the whole Obama Watch thing. But they get right to it, with Wallace asking Obama why it is that white people in Pennsylvania hate him so damn much. Obama notes that Clinton was well-regarded in Pennsylvania, and staked out a twenty point lead. He closed the gap, and post-PA polls indicate he'd do just fine in the general, with "only a couple of points" whwre HRC outperforms him. Obama won the same voters in Wisconsin, Virginia, and Iowa. So chill, Chris.
Chris says, "Barry, yer too professorial!" What about Joe Lunchpail? What about Clinton's toughness. Obama says that's the chit-chat of the "anguished columns" that sprout up after a primary is over. Shrewdly, he includes his own post-Iowa success among the hyperbole, modestly downplaying his own post-Iowa hype while reminding viewers of it.
"It's not like I've only been winning in states that have black voters or Chablis drinkin' limousine liberals." People still drink Chablis? Cause you can bet Shiraz that I don't touch the stuff. Also: Colorado. Obama won those meat-packing snow bunnies. But, Obama says, he has to work harder, knock on more doors, meet more people.
What about the existence of racism? Won't that make it hard to get elected? Obama won't touch that directly - he says polls show that he can beat McCain. He believes the race isn't a factor. "If I lose it won't be because of race, it will be because of mistakes I made on the campaign trail..."
What about Bill Clinton? Is he making a deliberate effort to play the race card? Obama says he takes the President at his word. To which Wallace retorts, "Which one?" Reminder: the tone and tenor of this interview could all hinge completely on Wallace's antipathy for President Clinton. But Obama says that Clinton is just being a spouse, the Democratic party will come together in August yadda yadda blah dee blah.
Wallace brings up Reverend Wright, who went on Bill Moyers show over the weekend to make some public comments about the whole kerfuffle. "Do you think Wright is just a victim here," Walllace asks Obama. "No...people were legitimately offended. The fact that he is my former pastor makes it a legitimate political issue," Obama says. He adds that "I think it's also true" that he was "simplified and caricatured." Obama denounces the specific comments again, but adds, "I go to church not to worship a pastor but to worship God" and the church does nice things for poor people, and Wright isn't all bad.
Did Obama talk to Wright about his recent public appearances? He says that they've talked about how Obama regrets so many churchgoers getting caught in the middle of things. He doesn't mind Wright defending himself.
What about other controversial statements, like the ones Obama eluded to in the speech? Ahh! Now the games afoot! Obama first says that Wright can speak about the black community in very blunt terms. Wallace is all: "You think I care about the black community? What mean things did he say about America and the white people what founded it?" Obama says that Wright often catalogued the bad of America without "lifting up the good." Did Obama ever confront Wright? Smack him in the mouth? Say, "Well, I declare, Mr Preacherman, your sermon gave me the vapuhs!" Obama says he was not up on some pollitical soapbox, and anyway, it's a generational thing. Then Obama throws MLK under the bus, reminding everyone that his sermon at Riverside Church is filled with jarring comments.
Wallace says that all these flag pin questions are only trying to help America get to know you. So Obama rattles off a bunch of really nice things he's done. He says that the Reverend Wright issue is "legitimate" but that the reporting wasn't always so. He says he'll wear flag pins sometimes and other times not but he'll always love the country, and his speech at the Democratic Convention was totes patriotic.
But what about William Ayers and Tom Coburn? Was he drawing a moral equivalency? No, Obama says, he was just trying to suggest this crazy idea...so radical really...I'm not sure that I with my high-toned degree in English can do it justice, but here's an attempt:
IT IS POSSIBLE TO 'KNOW' SOMEONE - AND EVEN BE 'FRIENDLY' WITH SOMEONE - WITHOUT AGREEING WITH THAT PERSON ON EVERYTHING.
ZOMG, what a deep thought THAT WAS. My brain hurts so much! Better calm it down with some Chablis or something!
Wallace returns to ask Obama about how he plans to unite America by planting post-racial arugula. Are there areas where Republicans may have better ideas? Obama says that the Republican party's view on corporate regulation isn't bad and that teacher merit pay is vital. But Wallace aint having it. Why wasn't he part of the Gang of 14? What about partial birth abortion. Do you want GOP support or surrender? Obama says he's been attacked by the left and is seen as too accomodating to Republicans by many observers. And anway, he's friends with Tom Coburn!
"I do not think the Democrats have a monopoly on wisdom," Obama says, offending roughly two-thirds of the liberal blogosphere.
A question about how Obama will fund his own programs leads Obama to issue a paragraph or two attacking McCain. This is the first part of the interview where Obama's seemed actually sure of himself, unbound. I think he's recognizing that he's out of the Wright/Ayers/flag lapel pin zone.
On to foreign policy questions. Obama will vote to confirm Petraeus - a mistake, in my mind, if Petraeus will not agree to abide by the mission set by a future Commander-in-Chief. Obama says as much - going far enough to say that he'd listen to Petraeus, but either doesn't know that Petraeus has hedged on the issue or he doesn't care. I think it's the central question to Petraeus' confirmation.
Why is he ducking a debate in North Carolina? He's had a ton of debates! And he could say something dumb during one. Obama will not name a VP. What happens if the superdelegates overturn the pledged delegate count, will the young people freak out? Obama says the frustration will not be felt just by the young.
What has Obama learned? He says he has the right temperament to be President, that he errs when he talks too much, and that he misses his family.
And that's that. I think we can all agree that Wallace went really, really, easy on Obama. So much so that Obama will likely regret that the interview wasn't seen by anybody who might vote for him. Maybe Wallace is reserving his bite for a second interview.
Wallace says though, that the interview proved that Obama really "wanted to reach out to people who watch Fox." Hume says he was engaging and genial and nice, and possible to be loved by white people. Hume says he skated by on some things - so suck it, Wallace!
I guess that the panel is basically going to do a mixed bag of defending Obama because they hate Clinton and pretending that Obama's never won the votes of white working-class voters.
Did Wallace just call Karl Rove a "noted Obama supporter?" Rove is an ADVISOR TO THE MCCAIN CAMPAIGN!
Kristol criticizes Obama for not being substantive enough. Let's pause to note the irony.
What about Hillary, after Pennsylvania. Hume says she's behind and no one expects her to win. She gets points "on sheer doggedness," though.
Juan Williams goes out there, suggesting that Reverend Wright might be trying to sabotage Obama's chances to prove that America is as bad as he's said it was. He and Bill Clinton are the saboteurs of the paranoid media! Hume actually defends Wright.
Kristol is criticizing sexism now. Take a day or two, and note the irony.
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