On only his second day as a Don Imus-substitute, NBC reporter David Gregory proved that he can promote Democratic talking points in any medium. For the Thursday edition of "Gregory Live," which is simulcast on MSNBC and on radio, the veteran correspondent interviewed Illinois Senator and White House contender Barack Obama and asked him no tough questions.
He began by noting how the Democratic Senator has received "great media attention, great enthusiasm and crowds and people showering you with money." How absurd is it for Mr. Gregory to refer to Obama’s "great media attention" in the third person? After all, it was NBC’s "Today" show, where Gregory sometimes guest hosts, that labeled the Senator an "electrifying" "rock star."
After his fawning preface, Mr. Gregory did manage, finally, to segue into a question:
David Gregory: "And yet at the same time, do you feel like you are riding this, this wave as a phenomenon and you have got– That there is a pivot point that you have to take now, that people expect you to take, to make a pivot?"
Obama: "Look, I think there is no doubt that after a huge surge of excitement, you know, we are now into the heart of the campaign where you have to grind it out a little bit. And I think that people seem to be very responsive to the broader themes of my campaign, I think they believe that we need to bring the country together and get past some of the traditional divisions. I think they believe that we have to aspire to a higher vision of where America can be and recognize that we have got a series of challenges on healthcare and energy and foreign policy that can't be put aside."
Later in the interview, which aired at 8:07am on May 17, the veteran White House correspondent failed to press Obama on any issues and stuck mostly to questions that seemed to wonder just who is greater, Obama or Senator Clinton:
Gregory: "Is it your feeling that as part of the rational for your candidacy, that as prepared and proficient and as much of a force as Senator Clinton is, that when you think about Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton, when people go into the voting booth that they are just going to pause and say do we want all of this again?"
Obama: "No, look, I’m not running against Senator Clinton. We’re all on the same team. We are just trying out for quarterback."
Gregory: "Well, nobody is really going to believe you are not running against Senator Clinton, Senator."
Obama: "Well, no, no, what I'm saying, David, is my understanding at least is that there are a number of other pretty capable candidates out there who are all running. And, you know, all of them bring strengths and all of them have some weaknesses and that includes myself. The rational for me running is because I think I have the potential. It's not a certainty but there is a potential of being able to bring new people into the process, reach beyond some of the ideological divisions that we have had over the last several years and maybe shape a consensus to actually move the country forward, rather than just win an election."
It should also be noted that Gregory, who has only been hosting the Imus slot, 6am-9am for two days, is already beginning to complain about the early wake-up call. While talking with the Illinois Senator, he asked a rather self involved question that really didn’t seem to relate to Obama:
Gregory: "Senator, we have been talking a little bit this morning about– You know, I'm staying here in New York and supposed to get a wake up couple at 3:45am and I got it at 3:00 and it really kind of threw me, irritated me this morning and I know that is important, But I'm just wondering, you are out there traveling the country and your wife Michelle speaks rather, you know, candidly about you and about herself and the family. Are you high maintenance at all when you go around the country? Is there anything that really kind of irritates you on campaign trail?"
Obama, without missing a beat, managed to turn the reporter’s gripe into an actual question and discussed separation from his children. Perhaps the talk of Gregory becoming the permanent host may be a tad premature?
Finally, Leslie Gold, Gregory’s radio sidekick and host of "The Radio Chick" in New York demonstrated just how serious MSNBC’s questions would be to Democratic politicians. She wondered if Obama might choose Oprah Winfrey as his running mate:
Leslie Gold ("Gregory Live" co-host): "I wonder how important the Oprah factor is for you or was in increasing your recognition and broadening your appeal and would you ever consider making her your running mate?"
Obama: "I think Oprah is far more powerful than a vice president. So, I think that would be a demotion for her. You know, she is a terrific friend. We have gotten to know each other over the last couple of years. I'm very proud that she is supporting my campaign. I don’t think that there is any single individual or factor that is going to make a difference in this campaign because, you know, the job is so important and I think the country understands we're at a critical moment in history."
With these kind of hard hitting questions, is it any wonder where Obama’s "great media attention" comes from?