David Remnick of The New Yorker showed up on PBS’s Charlie Rose Monday night to discuss his long, mostly sympathetic profile of Barack Obama from the January 27 issue of the magazine. Near the end of the interview, Rose focused in on the president’s reported desire to be “big.” The host wondered, “[W]hat's his definition of 'big,' and does he believe in his deep recesses of his own mind that the chance of that has slipped away?”
Remnick replied that no, Obama does not think his chance of being “big” has slipped away. The editor then rattled off a laundry list of Obama achievements that might be considered hallmarks of a “big” – meaning “great” – president. Among them were these two gems:
The fact that there's been no scandal, major scandal, in this administration, which is a rare thing in an administration. The fact that science is now discussed as science.
No scandal? Really? I guess Remnick doesn’t consider the administration’s failure and subsequent coverup in Benghazi to be a scandal. I guess he doesn’t care that the IRS singled out conservative-sounding organizations for extra scrutiny. I guess he doesn’t care that Obama’s Justice Department spied on journalists like him. I guess he doesn’t consider Fast and Furious to be a scandal.
The whole “no scandal” routine is just ridiculous. But it was also absurd to see Remnick pull out the “only liberals understand science” card. You would think that such a scientific administration might have been able to find some better computer programmers to get Healthcare.gov up and running sooner. Also, the president claimed in his interview with Remnick that he believes marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol. However, scientists are far from a consensus on which substance is more dangerous.
Rose interrupted Remnick’s list of achievements to ask, “Does this measure up to greatness for you?” After some prodding, Remnick confessed his adoration of the president: “Well, I think those achievements are huge, yes.”
Below is a transcript of the relevant part of the discussion:
CHARLIE ROSE: You report that Obama told Doris Kearns Goodwin that he wanted to be “big.”
DAVID REMNICK: I guess they all start out wanting to be big. They don't want to be Franklin Pierce.
ROSE: Not just a name on a long list of presidents, you see their pictures lined up on the wall, he said. This is back to the Clinton question. They all -- what's his definition of "big," and does he believe in his deep recesses of his own mind that the chance of that has slipped away?
REMNICK: No, I don't. I think he is -- his -- despite all his dramatic doubt, despite that tone of -- that kind of slightly autumnal tone to the -- especially the end of this piece – I think –
ROSE: Meaning he's in the fall of his presidency?
REMNICK: Getting there, sure. It's September.
ROSE: Yes, okay.
REMNICK: That the fact that this country didn't fall into a depression, an economic depression, which it could easily have done. The fact that we are out of Iraq for all the problems in Iraq. Getting there in Afghanistan. The auto industry saved. Gay rights more and more ensured, not without help from the president of the United States. The fact that there's been no scandal, major scandal, in this administration, which is a rare thing in an administration. The fact that science is now discussed as science. The fact that climate change, however woefully inadequate the measures for it, is now –
ROSE: Does this measure up to greatness for you?
REMNICK: Well, let's wait till the end. Let's wait till the end. A lot of things could go wrong and –
ROSE: But all those things have already happened.
REMNICK: Well, I think those achievements are huge, yes.