On Monday's CBS This Morning, the New York Times' Peter Baker didn't reveal anything shocking about George W. Bush's opinion about the liberal paper. Charlie Rose wondered about one detail concerning Baker's new book on Bush and Dick Cheney: "Why wouldn't President Bush talk to you?" He replied, "President Bush didn't believe that a book written by a New York Times reporter could be fair. He felt that the paper had not been balanced in his time in office." [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]
The journalist also dispelled the common liberal view about former Vice President Cheney's influence inside the Bush White House. Norah O'Donnell brought up how "there was this perception, of course, that Cheney was the one who was really pulling the levers of power." Baker bluntly retorted, "The picture that we have of this presidency and vice presidency is too cartoonish. It's too stick-figure – two-dimensional. It's a much more complicated story."
Rose led the interview with the longstanding question of Cheney's cardiovascular health, particularly in light of the recent 60 Minutes interview of the former politician. After asking two questions on that topic, O'Donnell asked her "pulling the lever of power" question about the Wyoming Republican. Baker gave his "cartoonish" answer, and continued that Cheney was "very influential" and "certainly, the most powerful vice president" of his time, but that his relationship with Bush "changed over time".
The CBS anchor followed up by playing up that her guest claimed in his book that "Bush and Cheney...by the time they left office, they were on opposite sides of almost every major issue, including North Korea, Syria, Lebanon, Russia, Middle East peace talks, gun rights, gay rights, climate change, surveillance. They were very far apart at the end." The New York Times correspondent spun this as a "course correction" on the former President's part.
Later in the segment, co-anchor Gayle King zeroed in on another detail from Baker's book: "You write, too, in the book that personality tests show that Dick Cheney's ideal job would have been that as a funeral director." This is actually not a new revelation, as ABC's Claire Shipman asked Cheney himself about this in an August 2004 interview on Good Morning America: "I read you once took a psychological profile test, and it said the position you’re most suited for is undertaker." The journalist did note that the former Vice President "did tell that to President Bush – yeah. And President Bush loved that. He thought that was a very funny line, and an apt line, too
King also contended that former President Bush "left office as the most disliked president in seven decades". Actually, a recent Gallup poll found that President Obama is barely more popular than Bush was at the same point in the presidencies. Both men, however, are still more popular than former President Nixon was, who had a 31.8 percent approval rating during the third quarter of 1973.
[Update, Tuesday, 11:20 am Eastern: the full transcript of the Peter Baker segment from Monday's CBS This Morning is available at MRC.org.]