CNN’s Wolf Blitzer tossed mostly softball questions at Senator Barack Obama on Thursday’s "The Situation Room." Besides his attempt to minimize his record as a liberal and as being the Hamas-endorsed candidate, Blitzer, for 22 minutes, skipped the Rev. Wright issue and both began and ended his interview with feel-good topics -- Obama’s appearance on the cover of Time magazine, and asking the Illinois Senator about what his mother would think of him if she was alive today.
As the interview began 10 minutes into the 4 pm Eastern hour of the program, Blitzer first asked Obama about Time’s "And the Winner Is" cover story emblazened with a picture of the Senator. The CNN host followed-up by referring to the so-called "Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx:" "It's almost like being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Is that what you're -- you're nervous about that?"
After his foreign policy set of questions (which included the omission of Hamas’s actual endorsement of the Democratic candidate), Blitzer presented two more softball questions -- this time from viewers -- concerning the so-called "dream ticket" that would include Hillary Clinton as the vice presidential candidate and what Obama’s legacy would be. Blitzer closed the interview by asking, "Your mother raised you. She was on food stamps at one point -- a single mother. If she were alive today and she saw where you have reached, the point that you have reached right now, what would she say to you?"
Now that the media have declared Obama the presumptive Democratic nominee, Blitzer devoted the subsequent questions to the upcoming general election campaign, framing the Republicans as character smear artists that Obama will have to overcome. "It's been intense in the primaries. But you realize it's going to be much more intense in the next chapter, in the next phase, given the differences between you and John McCain. Are you ready for this next phase?" He also played a recent clip of Mitt Romney slamming Obama’s level of experience, and quipped afterwards, "Wow. That's a strong statement."
The text of Wolf Blitzer’s questions to Barack Obama, along with selected answers from the Senator:
BLITZER: Here is the cover, ‘And the Winner Is...’ That's a picture of you. What do you think?
BLITZER: It's almost like being on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Is that what you're -- you're nervous about that?
BLITZER: It's been intense in the primaries. But you realize it's going to be much more intense in the next chapter, in the next phase, given the differences between you and John McCain. Are you ready for this next phase?
BLITZER: There are major differences between you and John McCain... on a whole host of domestic issues... and foreign policy issues. And I want to go through those right now.... Already, some of his surrogates, some of his supporters, are suggesting you're not ready to be Commander-in-Chief, President of the United States. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, said this. Listen to this.
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: He has not accomplished anything during his life, in terms of legislation, or leading an enterprise, or making a business work or a city work or a state work. He really has very little experience. And, you know, the presidency of the United States is not an internship.
BLITZER: Wow. That's a strong statement.
BLITZER: I want -- I want to get to all of those national security, foreign policy issues in a moment. But let's talk about some domestic issues. You know they're going to paint you, the McCain camp, Republicans, as a classic tax-and-spend liberal Democrat, that you're going to raise the taxes for the American people and just spend money like there is no tomorrow when it comes to federal government programs. You ready to handle that kind of assault?
BLITZER: He's going to say you're going to raise their taxes. What are you going to say?
OBAMA: I will raise CEO taxes. There is no doubt about it. If you are...
BLITZER: What about the average American?
OBAMA: If you are a CEO in this country, you will probably pay more taxes. They won't be prohibitively high. They're -- you're going to be paying roughly what you paid in the '90s, when CEOs were doing just fine.
BLITZER: So, you want to just eliminate the Bush tax cuts?
OBAMA: I want to eliminate the Bush tax cuts. And what I have said is, I will institute a middle-class tax cut. So, if you're making $75,000, if you're making $50,000 a year, you will see an extra $1,000 a year offsetting on your payroll tax.
BLITZER: Define middle class.
OBAMA: Well, look, I think that the definitions are always a little bit rough, but let's -- let's just take it this way. If you're making $100,000 a year or less, then you're pretty solidly middle class, and you deserve relief right now, as opposed to paying higher taxes. On the other hand, if you're making more than $100,000, and certainly, if you're making more than $200,000 to $250,000, then you're doing pretty well. And it's the people who are making over $200,000, $250,000, who have benefited the most and have actually seen -- have actually seen more and more of economic growth in this country go in your direction.
BLITZER: Because they're arguing already that you want to increase capital gains taxes, for example, on investments, and stocks, and things like that. A lot of middle-class people have those kinds of accounts. If they're...
OBAMA: If they have, -- Wolf, if they have a 401(k), then they are going to see those taxes deferred, and they're going to pay ordinary income when they finally cash out. So, that's a phony argument. And this is something that you have seen the Republicans consistently do, is they try to make this broad- based argument about, he's going to raise your taxes as a cover for them eliminating taxes for people like myself and you, who can afford to pay a little bit more in order to assure that we have got roads and bridges that are rebuilt, in order to assure that Social Security is solvent, in order to make sure that kids who are struggling for their American dream can actually go to college, in order to make sure that people aren't going bankrupt just because somebody in their family gets sick.
BLITZER: You used to teach constitutional law.... You know a lot about the Supreme Court. And the next President of the United States will have an opportunity to nominate justices for the Supreme Court. He gave a speech, McCain, this week saying he wants justices like Samuel Alito and John Roberts, and he defined the kind of criteria he wants. So, what would be your criteria?
BLITZER: Are there members, justices right now upon who you would model, you would look at? Who do you like?
BLITZER: Let's go through a couple foreign policy issues. McCain says, if you had your way, the U.S. would surrender in Iraq. He wants victory.
OBAMA: If I had my way, we would not have gone into Iraq in the first place.
BLITZER: But what about now?
BLITZER: This is going to be a huge difference, the war in Iraq, the fallout, between you and McCain. He also is going after you now, today, the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence. He says you're not necessarily endorsing policies that would be good for Israel. He says this, for example: ‘I think it's very clear who Hamas wants to be the next President of the United States. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas’ worst nightmare. [If] Senator Obama is favored by Hamas. I think people can make judgments accordingly.’
BLITZER: I want to move on, but, on this 60th anniversary of Israel, what -- what does Israel mean to you?
BLITZER: We asked our viewers to send us in some questions, and we got thousands of responses, as you can only imagine. I've got a couple. I just want you to watch one of those and get your reaction. A lot of people asked this basic question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1: It appears that you do not have enough support among blue collar workers as Senator Clinton did. Would you consider just on that basis alone considering her on a joint ticket as Vice President?
BLITZER: All right. Here is a question. Listen to this one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE #2: I strongly believe that us human beings are defined by what we've done in our lifetimes. What is the one thing that a President Barack Obama -- what will he be remembered for -- achieving during his presidency or during his lifetime?
BLITZER: We're out of time, but a quick question on this Mother's Day weekend. Your mother raised you. She was on food stamps at one point -- a single mother. If she were alive today and she saw where you have reached, the point that you have reached right now, what would she say to you?