Interviewing President Barack Obama in New Orleans on Sunday afternoon, Brian Williams treated Obama with a level of deference he didn’t afford to President George W. Bush as he treated Obama as a great oracle of wisdom to pluck. “Katrina was about so many things. It was about class and race and government and the environment,” Williams told Obama in the except aired on the NBC Nightly News, yearning for guidance: “Whatever happened to that national conversation we were supposed to have about it?”
Williams raised how “it's getting baked in a little bit in the media that BP was President Obama's Katrina. And it's also getting baked in that the administration was slow off the mark,” but only to cue up Obama: “Is that unfair?” As the economy continues in dire straights and Obama’s economic policy of “stimulus” spending has obviously failed, all Williams could ask was: “Do you have anything new on the economy?”
Williams fretted that though “you're an American-born Christian...significant numbers of Americans in polls, upwards of a fifth of respondents are claiming you are neither.” The “question” from Williams: “This has to be troubling to you. This is, of course, all-new territory for an American President.”
In the full 22-minute session posted on MSNBC.com, instead of asking Obama whether his low approval ratings and the widespread rejection of his direction, as illustrated by the big turnout for Glenn Beck’s rally, suggests he needs to change course, Williams prompted Obama to denounce Beck’s use of MLK and “re-injection of God” into politics:
What does it say to you that Glenn Beck was able to draw a crowd of, perhaps north of 300,000 people, on the anniversary of Doctor King’s speech, on the site of Doctor King’s speech? The message appeared to be, at times, anti-government, anti-spread of government, anti-Obama administration and in favor of, I guess, re-injecting God into both politics and the American discourse.
Williams ended on a particularly sycophantic note:
And finally, I'm hoping to find you in a reflective mood on a cloudy day. We're the first to speak to you coming off your summer vacation. How does it re-charge you, what do you think about, what do you see, what do you read about, how are you thinking about your job these days?
Compare all of that to how Williams approached Bush on Tuesday, August 29, 2006, Katrina’s one-year anniversary:
> You have apologized for the damage, but what about the damage to your presidency? And, Mr. President, here's what I mean. Most of the analysts call it your low point. A lot of Americans are always going to believe that that weekend, that week, you were watching something on television other than what they were seeing, and Professor Dyson from the University of Pennsylvania said on our broadcast last night it was because of your patrician upbringing, that it's a class issue.
> When you take a tour of the world, a lot of Americans e-mail me with their fears that, you know, some days they wake up and it just feels to them like the end of the world is near, and you go from North Korea to Iran to Iraq to Afghanistan, and you look at how things have changed, how Americans are viewed overseas, if that is important to you, do you have any moments of doubt that we fought the wrong war, that there's something wrong with the perception of America overseas?
> The folks who say you should have asked for some sort of sacrifice from all of us after 9/11, do they have a case, looking back on it?
> Is there a palpable tension when you get together with the former President who happens to be your father? A lot of the guys who worked for him are not happy with the direction.
The questions from Williams to Obama aired on the Sunday, August 29 NBC Nightly News:
> Just a block from here, you may not have known it, you drove by houses with holes still in the roof where there’d been live rescues, there's still FEMA markings in spray paint. And yet, New Orleans is like this, this is a symbol of recovery. Katrina was about so many things. It was about class and race and government and the environment. Whatever happened to that national conversation we were supposed to have about it?
> This was of course New Orleans' Katrina and Mississippi's Katrina and you're familiar now that it's getting baked in a little bit in the media that BP was President Obama's Katrina. And it's also getting baked in that the administration was slow off the mark. Is that unfair?
> Let's talk about another topic that's part of the firmament here and everywhere. And that's the economy. The New York Times said this weekend, “President Obama has another new plan on the economy, now would be a good time to find out about it.” Do you have anything new on the economy? While you've been away, we've had a horrible GDP number last week.
> Mr. President, you're an American-born Christian. And yet, increasing and now significant numbers of Americans in polls, upwards of a fifth of respondents are claiming you are neither. A fifth of the people, just about, believe you're a Muslim.
[OBAMA: Keep in mind, those two things, American-born and Muslim are not the same. But I understand your point.]
Either or the latter. And the most recent number is the latter. This has to be troubling to you. This is, of course, all-new territory for an American President.
> Even a number as sizeable as this. What does it say to you, does it say anything about your communications or the effectiveness of your opponents to-