NBC & CBS Treat Obama Flack to Softball Interviews to Bash GOP

During interviews on both NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today and CBS This Morning on Monday, Barack Obama’s former communications director Dan Pfeiffer was treated to numerous softball questions that allowed him to promote his new book, political podcast, and blast the Trump administration.

“So let me ask you, as you watch President Trump, how effective do you think he has been in undoing President Obama’s legacy? Because that seems to be, clearly, his goal,” fretted NBC anchor Megyn Kelly during her 9:00 a.m. ET hour morning show. Predictably, Pfeiffer jumped at the chance to slam the current occupant of the White House:

 

 

I mean, that is the operating principle of Trump, who ran, with other than immigration, no real set of coherent policy beliefs. So you sort of wake up everyday and what’s your strategic filter of what you’re going to do that day? It’s undo Obama.

In response, Kelly lamented: “I feel like President Obama was not that effective in getting things done with bipartisan buy-in.” She noted that there were “all sorts of reasons for that,” but could think of two: “Republicans didn’t like what he’s proposing, they – you know, redistricting has caused a lot of people to just be beholden to their rich donors as opposed to looking to compromise and so on.”

Pfeiffer eagerly blamed the GOP: “I think we – the problem, as I write in my book, the Republicans under Obama moved very far to the right.” Kelly followed up: “What about moving more to like the middle?” Pfieffer proclaimed: “There’s no middle in this Republican party. There is none.” Kelly clarified which party her question referred to: “What about in the Democratic Party?” The liberal operative laughably declared: “There is, we have been willing to compromise.”

At that point, Kelly managed to think of an example of Obama’s partisanship:

KELLY: But I’m thinking about the Obama-McCain soundbite, you know, “There are consequences to the elections, John.”

PFEIFFER: Absolutely.

KELLY: When McCain was asking Obama to move his way a little bit on ObamaCare...

PFEIFFER: And we did.

KELLY: ...which is one of the most divisive things that happened.

PFEIFFER: We worked every day. Olympia Snowe, who was a Republican senator for Maine, was in the White House all the time. We worked so hard to get her on board. The president met with Senator Grassley and leader of the Republicans on the Finance Committee, for months.

Wrapping up the exchange, Kelly observed: “I know you were the director of communications and you said, ‘We never lied, but sometimes we spun.’ Which I’m sure there would be some challenges on that.” Rather than press him on that claim, the host teed up Pfieffer to attack the White House Press Secretary: “But what do you think of Sarah Huckabee Sanders?”

He unleashed more vitriol:

I think that she has made a decision to sacrifice her integrity for this position. I think it is an absolutely – [applause] – she knows what she is doing. It is a choice you essentially have to make to work for Donald Trump, which is you have to be willing to lie because he is a liar. It is a proven fact.

To her credit, Kelly pointed to Obama’s dishonesty: “I covered the Obama White House every night. And the biggest one was the Politifact Lie of the Year, ‘If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.’ So  dishonesty happens in all administrations...” However, she immediately softened that blow by justifying Pfeiffer’s attacks on Trump: “...but you’re not wrong to call out this president on his constant lack of adult relationship with the truth. I’ve got to leave it at that.”

Starting off the friendly segment, Kelly gushed over Pfeiffer’s podcast, Pod Save America:

Dan Pfeiffer worked for President Obama for eight years...Now, he’s one of the four hosts of Pod Save America, a twice-weekly political podcast. And he’s also the author of the new book Yes We (Still) Can....So everybody loves this podcast. They’re saying it’s like Jon Stewart, it’s sort of as hip as Jon Stewart was when he was on The Daily Show. And it’s basically you and three other guys from the Obama White House riffing on the day’s events.

He explained the show “as a way to engage progressive activists, talk about the issues of the day.” Kelly excitedly interjected: “The resistance.” Pfeiffer confirmed: “The resistance. And maybe even have a little fun in some dark times for progressives.”

At the top of his CBS This Morning appearance, co-host Norah O’Donnell offered a similar fawning introduction:

One of former President Barack Obama’s longest serving advisers is offering his strategy to help Democrats re-take the White House....Pfeiffer’s new book is called Yes We (Still) Can: Politics in the Age of Obama, Twitter, and Trump. He calls for Democrats to be “audacious, authentic and inspirational” to start winning again....[He] is also co-host of the very popular podcast, Pod Save America.

The discussion began with O’Donnell and her co-hosts offering him the opportunity to slam the Trump administration’s immigration policy. Co-host John Dickerson wondered if Pfeiffer had “any empathy for the administration as it tries to get its message out, given that you were often in the same position?” The Democrat gave an resounding no: “I have zero. Zero empathy for them. Because they are – this policy is the perfect example of what sums up the Trump administration, which is tremendous cruelty followed by rank incompetence and dishonesty.”

Following the immigration topic, O’Donnell turned back to Pfieffer’s book: “You talk about the way forward for the Democrats. Who is going to be the standard bearer for the party? What’s that message going to be? You actually say the Democrats could learn something from Trump about his messaging.”

The headline on screen hopefully read: “Blue Wave?; Fmr. Obama Aide on Dems’ Chances & Challenges in Midterms & 2020.”

Pfeiffer announced:

Donald Trump did a very good job of controlling the conversation around the election. Everyone had to respond to Trump....And I think ultimately we need to tell a story. It is a compelling, inspirational, authentic story about where we want to lead this country and why Trump and the Republicans are the wrong people to do it. We have to do that in 2018 and we have to do that in 2020 if we want to win.

O’Donnell offered this follow up: “Is President Obama doing something from behind the scenes in order to help that process along?”

Pfeiffer teased: “Look, as I understand it, he’s going to be out there campaigning for Democrats in the fall, I think he’ll have things to say when he’s out there about what the message should be.”

Unlike NBC, the CBS morning show never bothered to challenge Pfieffer on Obama’s partisanship or dishonesty.  

Here is a full transcript of Pfeiffer’s June 18 interview with Kelly on NBC:

9:26 AM ET

MEGYN KELLY: So what’s it like to show up and to work each day at the White House? Our next guest knows. Dan Pfeiffer worked for President Obama for eight years, three of those as White House Communications Director. Now, he’s one of the four hosts of Pod Save America, a twice-weekly political podcast. And he’s also the author of the new book Yes We (Still) Can. Welcome Dan Pfeiffer, great to have you here.

DAN PFEIFFER: Thank you. [Applause]  

KELLY: So everybody loves this podcast. They’re saying it’s like Jon Stewart, it’s sort of as hip as Jon Stewart was when he was on The Daily Show. And it’s basically you and three other guys from the Obama White House riffing on the day’s events.

PFEIFFER: Right, it’s myself, Jon Favreau, Tommy Vietor, Jon Lovett, we all worked together for President Obama. We started this podcast originally back under a different name during the 2016 election to try to discuss the crazy things that were happening. After Trump won, we decided to keep it going and use it as a way to engage progressive activists, talk about the issues of the day.

KELLY: The resistance.

PFEIFFER: The resistance. And maybe even have a little fun in some dark times for progressives.

KELLY: So let me ask you, as you watch President Trump, how effective do you think he has been in undoing President Obama’s legacy? Because that seems to be, clearly, his goal.

PFEIFFER: I mean, that is the operating principle of Trump, who ran, with other than immigration, no real set of coherent policy beliefs. So you sort of wake up everyday and what’s your strategic filter of what you’re going to do that day? It’s undo Obama. I think he has been successful in some areas. Some things are more bark than bite. You know, a lot of the things that Scott Pruitt has done around EPA are caught up in the courts and we’re still operating under the same rules that we were under President Obama. But it is an argument every day for progressives about why we have to win in 2018 and 2020. If we’re going to go back to the progressive policies that we care about.

KELLY: So can I tell you my take on it?

PFEIFFER: Sure, of course.

KELLY: And then you tell me what you think. I feel like President Obama was not that effective in getting things done with bipartisan buy-in. And there are all sorts of reasons for that, the Republicans didn’t like what he’s proposing, they – you know, redistricting has caused a lot of people to just be beholden to their rich donors as opposed to looking to compromise and so on. And then, he took out his pen and his phone and did a lot of things on his own. And that allowed, in a way, President Trump to come in and undo all those things with his pen and his phone. Now, I think the American people are getting kind of whiplash, because now, who are we going to get next and are they going to reverse it, you know, back again? What do you think is the solution to that?

PFEIFFER: I think we – the problem, as I write in my book, the Republicans under Obama moved very far to the right. Mitch McConnell said his number one goal was to defeat President Obama. Paul Ryan, when he was the Budget Committee chair, helped sink a deal that Obama and Speaker Boehner had because he thought it would help Barack Obama win re-election. And so, obviously our first choice is to do things legislatively. That’s the best way to do it, it’s more enduring, it gets more buy-in from the public. But when you’re faced with a choice with do nothing or do everything in your power to improve the lives of Americans, Obama chose the ladder. I think –

KELLY: What about moving more to like the middle?

PFEIFFER: There’s no middle in this Republican party. There is none.

KELLY: What about in the Democratic Party?

PFEIFFER: There is, we have been willing to compromise. You have people like Joe Manchin in our party, you have people like Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly. That does not exist in the Republican Party.

KELLY: But I’m thinking about the Obama-McCain soundbite, you know, “There are consequences to the elections, John.”

PFEIFFER: Absolutely.

KELLY: When McCain was asking Obama to move his way a little bit on ObamaCare...

PFEIFFER: And we did.

KELLY: ...which is one of the most divisive things that happened.

PFEIFFER: We worked every day. Olympia Snowe, who was a Republican senator for Maine, was in the White House all the time. We worked so hard to get her on board. The president met with Senator Grassley and leader of the Republicans on the Finance Committee, for months. And they just would not do it. And Senator Grassley eventually told Obama, “There is no deal I can do with you because my voters won’t let me do it.” And so, given that choice of do nothing or do something, it is the right thing to do to do something.

KELLY: It’s so frustrating, right, when you see the state of our political discourse? I just think people have had it, they’ve had it up to here.

I have to ask you one last question because I know you were the director of communications and you said, “We never lied, but sometimes we spun.” Which I’m sure there would be some challenges on that. But what do you think of Sarah Huckabee Sanders?

PFEIFFER: I think that she has made a decision to sacrifice her integrity for this position. I think it is an absolutely – [applause] – she knows what she is doing. It is a choice you essentially have to make to work for Donald Trump, which is you have to be willing to lie because he is a liar. It is a proven fact. And so –

KELLY: I prefer to say he does not have an adult relationship with the truth. [Laughter]

PFEIFFER: I think we can use whatever euphemism we want, but he is unwilling to tell the truth. And we see that this weekend around blaming Democrats for a policy decision he made, when everyone knows that’s not the case.

KELLY I know, I mean it’s – I covered the Obama White House every night. And the biggest one was the Politifact Lie of the Year, “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” So  dishonesty happens in all administrations, but you’re not wrong to call out this president on his constant lack of adult relationship with the truth. I’ve got to leave it at that.

PFEIFFER: Yes, fair enough.

KELLY: Dan, I’m going to listen to the podcast, I haven’t heard it yet, but it’s very buzzy. And I’m just gonna hope I don’t hear anything negative about myself. [Laughter]  

PFEIFFER: On the podcast, I think you’ll be fine.

KELLY: Okay, good. Great to see you, good luck with the book.

PFEIFFER: Thank you so much.

Here is a full transcript of Pfeiffer’s June 18 interview with the hosts of CBS This Morning:

8:33 AM ET

NORAH O’DONNELL: One of former President Barack Obama’s longest serving advisers is offering his strategy to help Democrats re-take the White House. Dan Pfeiffer was communications director for the 2008 Obama campaign. He held the same role in the White House before becoming a senior adviser to the president. Pfeiffer’s new book is called Yes We (Still) Can: Politics in the Age of Obama, Twitter, and Trump. He calls for Democrats to be “audacious, authentic and inspirational” to start winning again.

Dan Pfeiffer is also co-host of the very popular podcast, Pod Save America. Good morning, good to have you here, across the table.  

PFEIFFER: Thank you, good to be here.

O’DONNELL: We’re going to get into some of what you talk about in the book. But first, the big story, because you know, Gayle is reporting from the border there on this immigration issue. The Obama administration also struggled [with] how to deal with immigrant families who had come through the border illegally.  

PFEIFFER: Right, the question of immigration and migrants is something that is one of the great challenges that every administration has to deal with. How do you find the right balance between your laws and your values? Ultimately, faced with a crisis like this, we decided not to take the step that the Trump administration did because it ran contrary to our values and it was simply immoral to separate parents from kids.  

O’DONNELL: But the Obama administration considered it for a brief moment?  

PFEIFFER: There was a – every idea was up there and Cecilia Munoz, who was our – who led on this issue, said it was on the table for minutes, we looked at it and said there’s no way we can do this, and we didn’t.

JOHN DICKERSON: You’re not a fan of the Trump administration.

PFEIFFER: What? [Laughter]

ALEX WAGNER: Hold the phone.

PFEIFFER: Spoiler alert!

DICKERSON: Yes, breaking news here this morning. But when you see a moment like this, given the position you were in when you were – you guys were in the washing machine and you would look at the press coverage and you would say, “Gosh, they’re just totally getting it wrong” – do you have any empathy for the administration as it tries to get its message out, given that you were often in the same position?

PFEIFFER: I have zero. Zero empathy for them. Because they are – this policy is the perfect example of what sums up the Trump administration, which is tremendous cruelty followed by rank incompetence and dishonesty. Because they have offered five explanations for where this came from. If it is their policy and they believe in it, they should own it and explain it. Instead, they’re lying about it. And that’s simply not acceptable from our president.

WAGNER: Dan, what do Dem –

PFEIFFER: So, no.

WAGNER: Well, what do Democrats do in this moment? The president is trying to pin the blame squarely on their shoulders, there’s some legislation that’s going through Congress this week. What should Democrats do? Should they play ball on this?

PFEIFFER: I think ultimately Democrats need to work with Republicans to pass immigration laws that are consistent with our values, with Democratic values. However, we cannot allow the Trump administration to hold thousands of children hostage as leverage to get funding for the wall. So they need to do what they have been doing with the limited levers of power we have. Go to these centers, demand to see them, talk about it, fight back against the Trump administration, be unified and tough. And they have a bill in the Senate and I think they should demand a vote on that. And if Paul Ryan, in the House, put a bill to end this policy on the floor of the House, it would get 300 votes. But you need to do that.

DICKERSON: You say you want Democrats to work with the Republicans to create an immigration program in keeping with our values, but don’t you believe, from your experience and from what you've witnessed, because I think I’ve heard you say it, that basically you don’t believe Republicans will be allowed to buy their voters? So is what your talking about, bipartisan immigration reform, is that even possible given your view of politics today?

PFEIFFER: It may not be, but Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, they say they want to help the Dreamers, they say they want to do these things. Let’s call the cards, let’s see what they’re going to do, let’s push for it. And if they don’t, let’s let the voters know that they decided to do damage to these children, to deport the Dreamers, and let everyone know. But we should be willing to look for solutions, but we shouldn’t compromise our values to do that.

O’DONNELL: The book, you talk about the way forward for the Democrats. Who is going to be the standard bearer for the party? What’s that message going to be? You actually say the Democrats could learn something from Trump about his messaging.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Blue Wave?; Fmr. Obama Aide on Dems’ Chances & Challenges in Midterms & 2020]

PFEIFFER: Right, Donald Trump did a very good job of controlling the conversation around the election. Everyone had to respond to Trump. The only way – even Hillary Clinton, one of the most powerful, prominent figures, could get press coverage was to respond to Trump. And so Democrats need to learn the lessons of how Trump used social media, used media outlets that were consistent with his ideology to control the conversation and raise issues. And I think ultimately we need to tell a story. It is a compelling, inspirational, authentic story about where we want to lead this country and why Trump and the Republicans are the wrong people to do it. We have to do that in 2018 and we have to do that in 2020 if we want to win.

O’DONNELL: Is President Obama doing something from behind the scenes in order to help that process along?

PFEIFFER: Look, as I understand it, he’s going to be out there campaigning for Democrats in the fall, I think he’ll have things to say when he’s out there about what the message should be. But he gave us the roadmap, as Democrats, on what to do, in his farewell speech back in January 2017. We need to organize, we need to march, and we need to run races everywhere. And that’s what we’re doing. And if we continue to do the work that Democrats and progressives have been doing since Inauguration Day, since the Women’s March, then I think we’ll have success. But it’s gonna – there’s a lot more work to do.

O’DONNELL: A lot of interesting observations in this book. Dan Pfeiffer, good to see you.

PFEIFFER: Thank you guys so much.

O’DONNELL: Yes We (Still) Can goes on sale tomorrow.

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