ABC, CBS and NBC all led Friday night with President Obama’s decision to appear in the White House press room to backtrack on the fury he inflamed by presuming “stupidity” by the police in the Professor Henry Gates alleged “racial profiling” incident, but only Katie Couric trumpeted Obama’s appearance in the White House briefing room -- which the CBS Evening News ran for an uninterrupted four solid minutes -- as “extraordinary” and “really unprecedented,” before she pouted over how “the timing could not be worse. Just as he was pushing so hard for health care reform and having some pretty serious setbacks.”
She pressed Bob Schieffier to provide Obama with guidance to get back on track on health care: “And how do you think the President can, if he can, resuscitate this whole effort?” Schieffer advised the obvious: “What he's got to do, I think now, is set out some specific things that he wants them to do and then push them to do it.” (Between the four minutes of Obama and when Couric turned to Schieffer, CBS aired a piece from reporter Bill Whitaker on why blacks fear the police.)
Audio: MP3 clip (45 secs)
ABC and NBC used less-excited language to describe Obama’s decision to go to the briefing room (ABC’s Charles Gibson: “most unusual,” NBC’s Chuck Todd: “an unannounced visit”), held their Obama clips to the normal length of soundbites and didn’t fret about the impact on Obama’s health care takeover agenda.
Couric introduced the Friday, July 24 CBS Evening News:
Good evening, everyone. This day started with the White House putting out the word the President would have no more to say about the arrest of his friend, a prominent black scholar, by a white police sergeant, or about the President’s comment that the sergeant had acted, quote, “stupidly.” But it turned out that would not be the last word after all. At mid-day, a multi-racial group of police union officials held a news conference to defend the Cambridge, Massachusetts, sergeant, and demand an apology from the President. Now, a short time after that, President Obama made an extraordinary appearance in the White House briefing room, where he made a surprise announcement.
Following the lengthy four minutes of Obama and Whitaker on why African-Americans fear the police, Couric brought aboard Schieffer from Washington (transcript provided by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth):
COURIC: Bob Schieffer is our chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation. Bob, you've covered Washington for a long time. The President's appearance today was really unprecedented.
BOB SCHIEFFER: I thought it was just extraordinary, Katie, because what the President was saying today was that, yes, this incident should not have happened, but he said his words basically had made it worse. Now, you just don't hear presidents say things like that very often. And he didn't release a written statement. He came to the press room, and he said it in person. Which tells you that he knew he had to get out there and get this thing cooled off before it blows into something, blows up into something that could bring everything around here to a halt for a while.
COURIC: And the President, as you know, Bob, and as you heard, sort of made a joke about it. But the timing could not be worse. Just as he was pushing so hard for health care reform and having some pretty serious setbacks.
SCHIEFFER: Well, and he got another one today, Katie, because the conservative blue dog Democrats in the House told the House leaders today that, sorry, we've negotiated all we can negotiate, we just cannot vote for this plan that you're trying to put out there. Now, my guess is negotiations will start right up, but the fact of the matter is, if they brought this bill to a vote tonight, Democrats do not have the votes to pass it in the House of Representatives.
COURIC: And how do you think the President can, if he can, resuscitate this whole effort?
SCHIEFFER: I think he's got to do this, Katie. What the President was trying to prevent is what happened to Hillary Clinton back during the Clinton administration. She worked out a health plan, she did it in secret, dumped it on the Congress, and it sank like a stone. He didn't want that to happen. So he stated some general principles for the Congress and then told them to find out how to get where he thought things ought to be. But he's never stated any real specifics. What he's got to do, I think now, is set out some specific things that he wants them to do and then push them to do it.
COURIC: And be much more hands on. Bob Schieffer. Bob, thank you so much.