Charlie Rose did his best to avoid asking any tough questions during an interview of President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle that aired on Sunday's CBS Sunday Morning and Monday's CBS This Morning. Rose devoted over four straight minutes to the couple's summer vacation, family life, and marriage. He also touted the Democrat's ObamaCare law as "enormously successful," and wondered if it was his "proudest achievement in the first four years."
Rose, who hounded House Speaker John Boehner over Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan during a April 2012 interview, harkened back to the 2008 Obama campaign and early presidency by showing off a 2009 issue of Newsweek with a picture of the President taking the oath of office. He then asked, "This was also a time of 'yes, we can'; hope and change. What happened to that, because that's not the narrative today?"
The CBS journalist immediately set the softball tone of the interview during the first segment on Sunday by complimenting the Obamas over the White House venue, as the three of them stood outside on a balcony: "It's not a bad place to live....Well, you got a basketball court; you got a tennis court. You have a fountain. You can see the Washington Monument." Rose's first question couldn't have been easier: "How are you going to spend your summer? What is summer vacation?"
The President responded, in part, by noting how his daughters were off at a sleep-away camp and his experience with what he labeled "the first stages of empty nest syndrome." The anchor sympathetically replied, "Are you prepared for that?" Rose kept up the kid glove treatment during the first half of the segment by asking about hypothetical travel destinations: "You didn't have all of these important things to do, and you could travel to anyplace in the world, where would you want to go? What would you want to see and experience?"
Even after the journalist switched the venue to the Blue Room of the White House "to talk about affairs of state and matters of politics," he sucked up to presidential couple by reading what he labeled a supposedly "fascinating" anecdote about their marriage:
ROSE: I noticed you playing a prominent role in the campaign -- but also because of the significance of family. I read you though, this, that I found fascinating. You said, I trust her completely, but at the same time, she's also a complete mystery to me in some ways. It is that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong. Is that even more so now and in this place?
B. OBAMA: Absolutely. The-
M. OBAMA: That's very sweet.
B. OBAMA: Yeah-
M. OBAMA: Where did he write that?
B. OBAMA: Yeah. You know, I am happily surprised at how I think this experience has strengthened, rather than diminished our marriage. I rely on her even more now than I did back then, and I do think that part of the great thing about our marriage is, we have complete trust and honesty, and that keeps the relationship fresh. Yeah.
ROSE: Does this place change you?
M. OBAMA: You know, I don't -- I say this all the time. I think, particularly at our age - you know, late 40s-
B. OBAMA: Fifty-
M. OBAMA: Early 50s. You -- I'm 48-
ROSE: Have you forgotten that he just turned 50?
M. OBAMA: No, I didn't. I'm just being clear that I'm not there yet. (Michelle and Barack Obama laugh)....I have just been so proud to watch him maneuver through some pretty interesting waters and -- to retain himself. He shows us in the way he looks at me and the girls, when he comes home at 6:30, that there is nothing more important than being there with us. And the fact that he can do that, and then, later on after dinner, after we have walked the dog and got the girls started on their homework, he starts unloading his day, and I think, wow, is that what happened?..I am impressed with his steadiness.
When Rose finally got the issue of the campaign, he didn't press the Democrat on the economy, but merely presented the line of attack that the opposing Romney campaign has raised:
ROSE: ...[Romney] clearly will say, let's look at your record. Let's look at the fact that unemployment is at 8.2 percent, and is unlikely to change. Let's look at how effective the stimulus was....Let's look at your management of the economy....Yes, it was a bad hand you were dealt, but you have not made it to what it ought to be....That is the centrality of their campaign.
The CBS anchor ended the first segment with his showing off of the Newsweek cover:
ROSE: Take a look at this. That's four years ago-
B. OBAMA: Look at that-
ROSE: Come January-
B. OBAMA: Almost no break- (Rose laughs)
ROSE: ...This was also a time of 'yes, we can'; hope and change. What happened to that, because that's not the narrative today?
B. OBAMA: Well, it's funny. You know, I just came back from a bus tour in Ohio, and we're now starting to get in the campaign swing. And I tell people this campaign's still about hope. If somebody asks you, it's still about change. Washington feels as broken as it did four years ago, and, you know, if you ask me what is the one thing that has frustrated me most over the last four years -- it's not the hard work. It's not the -- you know, enormity of the decisions. It's not the pace. It is that I haven't been able to change the atmosphere here in Washington, to reflect the decency s and common sense of ordinary people - Democrats, Republicans and independents - who I think just want to see their leadership solve problems. And, you know, there's enough blame to go around for that.
ROSE: And do you blame yourself, in part, because, I mean, you had this confidence - that you had the skills that would allow you to bridge the gap. I mean-
B. OBAMA: What -- I think there's no doubt that I underestimated the degree to which in this town, politics trumps problem solving.
The following day, on CBS This Morning, the closest Rose got to asking a tough question was when he asked about what he might do during a possible second term: "Where will you take the country, and what will be the significant achievement, and why can you do it in the next four years, if you could not do it in the first four years? If you could not produce the grand bargain, how can you do it in the next four?"
The anchor also raised the negative advertising coming from the President's campaign:
ROSE: Many people are looking at the campaign so far, and they're saying, I see too much negative campaigning, and not enough talk about the future. They look at your own ads from your own campaign, and they say that -- rather than talking about the future, there is an effort here to tear down your opponent and make him unacceptable, so there will not be a debate or a referendum on the first four years.
Rose ended the interview by trumpeting the chief executive's health care law and how it was recently upheld by the Supreme Court: "You had an enormously successful health care legislation because the Supreme Court did not declare it unconstitutional. That's your proudest achievement in the first four years?"
The anchor and his morning newscast have long been sympathetic towards first couple. Just days after CBS This Morning launched in January 2012, fellow anchor and open Obama supporter Gayle King conducted her own softball interview of Mrs. Obama, which aired on two straight days. Rose, who attended a state dinner at the White House in March, spent more time talking about the wine served at the function than the presence of major campaign donors. The veteran journalist also fished for "high marks" for the commander-in-chief from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates during a May 16, 2012 interview on CBS This Morning.