"Nightline" co-host Terry Moran on Monday fawned over every detail of Barack Obama's White House meeting with President Bush and insisted that that since the President-elect arrived in Washington D.C. wearing sunglasses, this was an example of the "Obama cool on display." Moran, who has regularly gushed over every aspect of Obama's election and transition, narrated the Democrat's interactions with the current president. As video of Bush and Obama played, he breathlessly related, "You could see the power shifting though. Look at Obama putting his arm on Bush's back, letting the President go first."
Moran awkwardly brought up the issue of past commanders in chief who owned slaves and asked, "And you had to wonder that if in fact the [White House] is haunted, what the spirits of those former presidents, many of whom were slave owners themselves would have made of what happened there today?" (An aside: 12 of 43 presidents owned slaves. Is that "many?")
He then played a passage from the audio book of Obama's autobiography "The Audacity of Hope" where the senator described a White House meeting with President Bush. Unusually for Moran, the journalist sounded a critical note and labeled Obama's description of Bush as "tinged with condescension." (In the book, the Democrat described Bush as someone who "would make for good company so long as the conversation revolved around sports and the kids.")
However, if Moran was really interested in giving viewers an idea of what Obama thinks of George W. Bush, he would have quoted from this angry passage on pages 45 and 46. Here the senator described the same White House meeting:
"The President’s eyes became fixed; his voice took on the agitated, rapid tone of someone neither accustomed to nor welcoming interruption; his easy affability was replaced by an almost messianic certainty. As I watched my mostly Republican Senate colleagues hang on his every word, I was reminded of the dangerous isolation that power can bring and appreciated the Founders’ wisdom in designing a system to keep power in check." [Emphasis added]
Of course, Moran didn't mention that particular section.
The day after Obama's win, on the November 5 "Nightline," Moran confidently asserted that "so many people greeted this election as a human rights milestone and a repudiation of the deeply unpopular President George W. Bush."
A transcript of the November 10 segment, which aired at 11:35pm, follows:
MARTIN BASHIR: The extent of Barack Obama's life journey must have dawned upon him today like never before. From Hawaii to Chicago and in a little over two months time, the White House. The President-elect and his wife Michelle were granted a sneak preview of their future home today by the current residents, as part of a transition that's now in process. And my co-anchor Terry Moran was there to welcome the house warming. Good evening, Terry.
TERRY MORAN: Good evening, Martin. Well, this old house behind me here has seen a lot of history, but nothing quite like today. You know, they say that Richard Nixon in his final days in office was wandering the halls of the White House, talking to the portraits and maybe even the ghosts of former presidents. And you had to wonder that if in fact the house is haunted, what the spirits of those former presidents, many of whom were slave owners themselves would have made of what happened there today? Barack Obama crossing the threshold of the White House. Walking into the Oval Office preparing for the transition of power. It was an extraordinary day. The president-elect of the United States began his day as just dad, dropping off his daughters at school. How their lives will change. Today as Barack Obama flew on a chartered American Airlines jet from Chicago to Washington, that change began in earnest. Arriving in the nation's capital, he was the President-elect in shades. The Obama cool on display. A sign of the low key way he played his first visit to Washington after his election. But how could anyone be cool about this? At the south entrance to the White House, the president and the First Lady greeted the next president and First Lady. A formal tableau for the cameras but it seemed cordial. You could see the power shifting though. [Video of Obama and Bush plays over Moran.] Look at Obama putting his arm on Bush's back, letting the President go first. And then a few minutes later, more history. The 43rd and soon to be 44th presidents, the Texas rancher and the Illinois lawyer, bound forever now by the unique trust the American people have imposed on them. They didn't seem tense, but they didn't seem warm either. And as they headed into the Oval Office, look at how Bush guides in Obama here. This was Barack Obama's seventh visit to the White House, but his first one to the Oval Office. Just the two of them in there. And some recent history.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: I don't blame Senator McCain for all of President Bush's mistakes. After all, John McCain only voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time.
MORAN: Obama's entire campaign amounted to an assault on the Bush presidency, a promise of a new direction and the election was a repudiation of Bush. That's what change meant.
OBAMA: We can't afford four more years like the last eight.
MORAN: And it wasn't just political. There's some personal tension too. In his book "The Audacity of Hope", Obama recalled his first meeting with President Bush, his description tinged with condescension.
OBAMA [reading from audio book]: I had found the president to be a likable man, shrewd and disciplined but with the same straightforward manner that had helped him win two elections. You could easily imagine him owning the local car dealership down the street, coaching little league and grilling in his backyard. The kind of guy that would make for good company so long as the conversation revolved around sports and the kids.
MORAN: And then Obama, who read this account for the audio book edition remember some advice Bush gave him that day.
OBAMA [reading from audio book]: 'Come over here for a second,' he said, leading me off to one side of the room. 'You know,' he said quietly, 'I hope you don't mind me giving you a piece of advice.' 'Not at all, Mr. President.' He nodded. 'You've got a bright future,' he said. 'Very bright. But I have been in this town a while and let me tell you, it can be tough. When you get a lot of attention like you've been getting, people start gunning for you and it won't necessarily be just coming from my side, you understand, from yours too. Everybody will be waiting for you to slip, know what I mean? So watch yourself.'
MORAN: Today in front of the cameras, and aides said in the Oval Office as well it was all business. The battered economy, especially the auto industry and the troubled world situation were the topics. President Bush is clearly determined to work out a smooth transition for his successor, especially because this is the first war time transition in 40 years, as he noted last week.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH: We're in a struggle against violent extremists, determined to attack us. And they would like nothing more than to exploit this period of change to harm the American people.
MORAN: For the Obama family, there's a transition too. And today the first lady took Michelle
on a tour of her family's new home. It's an extraordinary moment. The Obama family will move into a house built by slaves.
GARY WALTERS (former White House chief usher): The house is theirs. It's their space. If they want to paint the walls fuchsia, that's their decision.
MORAN: Gary Walters is the former chief usher at the White House. He served for decades there and he says Sasha and Malia, the Obama girls, will change this old house.
WALTERS: Children at the White House adds a different dimension. There's other activities. They're bringing friends in. They're having pizza parties. They're watching different movies, cartoons in the theater. They're energetic. They enjoy what is there.
MORAN: Right now, official Washington is consumed with a question - where will the girl goes to school? It even came up at the president-elect's first press conference.
OBAMA: Michelle will be, will be scouting out some schools. We'll be making a decision about that in the future.
MORAN: A lot of challenges, but also as ABC's veteran White House reporter Ann Compton notes, room for some fun too.
ANN COMPTON (ABC News reporter): There's a secret children's garden back in all of those trees on the south lawn. That dates back to the Kennedy era. So, the children had a little play area of their own. There's a full tennis court and a half basketball court and an outdoor swimming pool. Totally unseen by the public.
MORAN: So the President-elect jetted back to Chicago after this brief, but compelling trip. His grand new home and his daunting new job await him. The White House released a statement on today's meeting as did the Obama team. Both were brief and to the point. They said it went well. And given the scale of the problems the country faces, that is certainly a good sign. Martin?