Couric Showcases Obama Over McCain, Admits Media 'Obamathon'

CBS tried to bring some balance Tuesday night to Barack Obama's Magical Media Tour by having Katie Couric interview both Barack Obama and John McCain, and though she pressed Obama repeatedly on the success of the surge, Obama still came out ahead since CBS devoted more than seven minutes (over two excerpts) to Couric's questions and Obama's answers as the two sat together in a foreign setting compared to barely three minutes allocated to Couric and McCain by satellite. Couric touted at the top of the CBS Evening News: “We spoke exclusively and separately with both presidential candidates today and what emerged was a kind of a long distance debate. And their differences on the wars have never been sharper or clearer.”

At the end of the newscast, from Amman Couric wondered: “Will this summer of love last” for Obama? And she conceded the media are part of the infatuation:

It has been an Obamathon ever since the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee touched down in Afghanistan. At today's press conference in Amman, a throng of reporters recorded his every move. In total, 200 journalists requested seats on “Air Obama” -- 40 of them were accepted. The bill for the trip? About $20,000 each.

In contrast, she pointed out, as if CBS News couldn't have done anything about it, that “last night John McCain arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire” and was greeted by just “two journalists waiting on the tarmac.” She also noted that “his campaign has revealed a contest: Two videos featuring what they claim is a media love affair with Obama.” They “claim”? How about they “illustrate.”

Earlier in the newscast, she set up the second segment of the interview with Obama, which she traveled to Jordan to conduct: “Senator Obama hopes this trip will enhance his credibility as a world leader, something I asked him about in our exclusive interview earlier today.”

McCain's three-minute interview, done via satellite from New Hampshire, delivered 18 times more coverage time than he received from the CBS Evening News during his trip to Iraq. When McCain visited Iraq the week of March 16, the MRC's Kyle Drennen documented, the CBS Evening News allocated “only 31 words, a grand total of 10 seconds, to the Republican nominee’s Iraq visit during the entire week.”

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of Couric's remarks from Amman at the end of Tuesday's CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: Finally tonight, it has been an Obamathon ever since the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee touched down in Afghanistan. At today's press conference in Amman, a throng of reporters recorded his every move. In total, 200 journalists requested seats on "Air Obama" -- 40 of them were accepted. The bill for the trip? About $20,000 each. Ironically, no seats were provided to the foreign press.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Senator, how's your trip?

BARACK OBAMA: Great so far, thank you.

COURIC: The non-stop coverage this week has stolen most of the limelight from his opponent. Last night, John McCain arrived in Manchester, New Hampshire. Three fingers flashed an OK symbol to the two journalists waiting on the tarmac. No video available. But McCain is making the best of it.

JOHN MCCAIN: I'm a big boy and I'm enjoying every minute of the campaigning, and I'm certainly not complaining. In fact, I think it's fun to watch.

COURIC: And fun to mock. His campaign has revealed a contest. Two videos featuring what they claim is a media love affair with Obama. You can even vote for your favorite.

TUCKER CARLSON: It's more than love. I mean, it's the kind of love that, anybody who's been a ninth grade boy understands this species of love.

COURIC: But will this summer of love last? And will voters want to go steady with Barack Obama? We'll find out in November. And that is the CBS Evening News for tonight. I'm Katie Couric in Amman, Jordan. Thank you for watching. Good night.

The questions from Couric to Obama, in Amman, as aired on the Tuesday, July 22 CBS Evening News. (Online, CBS News has posted video and a transcript, which I corrected in parts below, of the entire 22-minute interview session.)

Questions posed in the first of two segments aired:

- Having said that, if General Petraeus or the Chairman of the joint chiefs, Admiral Mullen, say to you, "Hey, President Obama,” if that comes to pass, "you cannot take out the final complement of combat troops. We need them in theater," you would say?

- Before the surge, as you know, Senator, there were 80 to 100 U.S. casualties a month, the country was rife with sectarian violence, and you raised a lot of eyebrows on this trip saying even knowing what you know now, you still would not have supported the surge. People may be scratching their heads and saying, "Why?"

- But talking micro-cosmically, did the surge, the addition of 30,000 additional troops help the situation in Iraq?

- Do you think the level of security in Iraq would exist today without the surge?

Questions from Couric in the second interview excerpt, which Couric set up: “Senator Obama hopes this trip will enhance his credibility as a world leader, something I asked him about in our exclusive interview earlier today.”

- You reportedly chafe when your foreign policy expertise is questioned. If foreign policy is not your weakest area of expertise, what is?

- But what area do you feel least comfortable with?

- You're heading to Israel after Jordan. And according to a recent poll out of Jerusalem, Israeli Jews favor John McCain for President 43 to 20 percent, with one-third undecided. Why do you think that's the case?

- How likely do you think a preemptive military strike by Israel against Iran may be?

- This is not a speculative question then. Was it appropriate, in your view, for Israel to take out that suspected Syrian nuclear site last year?

- Finally, you'll be going to Germany and to France and Great Britain. And according to German press reports, as many as a million people may be gathering to hear your speech in Berlin. Do you worry at all, Senator Obama, that this kind of crowd in Berlin may be slightly off-putting to the guy in Columbus, Ohio, who's just lost his job?

Couric's inquiries to McCain, who appeared via satellite from New Hampshire, in the one interview excerpt aired on the CBS Evening News. (CBSNews.com transcript and video of the entire 14-minute interview):

- Senator McCain, Senator Obama says while the increased number of U.S. troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias and says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What's your response to that?

- A commentary on what? [McCain: That Senator Obama does not understand the challenges we face.]

- Senator Obama describes Afghanistan as the central front on the war on terror. That is where, after all, Senator, 9/11 was plotted. Why do you believe Iraq is the central front in the war on terror?

- Senator McCain, you sound very frustrated with Senator Obama's perspective.

Next up on the Obamathon interview parade: Obama with ABC's Charlie Gibson on Wednesday's World News.

Brian Williams gets him in Germany on Thursday before Tom Brokaw has him from London on Sunday's Meet the Press. TVNewser is maintaining a TV interview list, and updated it Tuesday: “FNC's Bill Hemmer gets the Saturday slot. He'll interview Obama in London on Saturday.”

That still leaves Friday open.

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center