The new Fusion Network debuted on Monday with an exclusive Barack Obama interview. Journalist Jim Avila offered mostly softball questions and avoided any mention of disastrous launch of the ObamaCare website. Avila pushed the President from the left on immigration, wondering, "...Why if you have been able to by presidential fiat say that dreamers will not be deported, why not their parents? Why not, why is it the splitting of families bothers them?"
Avila prefaced his question as coming from "some of the younger people Fusion listens to." (The query was in reference to Obama's 2012 decision to stop deporting illegal students eligible for the Dream Act.) On the issue of ObamaCare, the journalist vaguely wondered, "I guess the main question for Fusion-type listeners is, what's in it for the young people?"
Managing to be a little tougher, Avila pressed, "Are they just the people who are going to finance the older generation in their medical problems? Why would someone who's under 30 want to sign up for Obamacare?"
Those two questions were a little more on the mark, but why not ask about the difficulty millions of Americans, under and over 30, have experienced in signing up for the website? Avila skipped that contentious debate.
(See screen grab from Fusion website. Photo from White House photographer Pete Souza.)
The one exchange that qualifies as tough came when Avila brought up the latest National Security Agency spying revelations and the President's claim to know nothing. The journalist zeroed in: "...Why you didn't know, and who should've told you?"
After an evasive answer, Avila followed-up: "So would we assume from that answer, sir, that you did or would know, you would know if actually that was happening?"
Fusion is a joint venture with ABC News and was previewed on Monday's Good Morning America (where Avila regularly reports). The interview aired on America With Jorge Ramos.
Fusion is a news, pop culture and satire TV and digital network. It will engage and champion a young, diverse, and inclusive America with a unique mix of smart and irreverent original reporting, lifestyle, and comedic content.
A transcript of the October 28 interview is below:
JIM AVILA: Alright, so, Mr. President, let me ask you first about the news of the day: the National Security Administration. People wonder, how is it you didn't know about the cell phones being looked at or listened to, and why you didn't know, and who should've told you?
BARACK OBAMA: Well, first of all, I'm not confirming a bunch of assumptions that have been made in the press, but what I have said is that the national security operations generally, have one purpose, and that is to make sure the American people are safe and that I'm making good decisions, and I'm the final user of all the intelligence that they gather. But they're involved in a whole wide range of issues, and we give them policy direction, but what we've seen over the last several years is their capacities continue to develop and expand, and that's why I'm initiating now a review to make sure that what they're able to do doesn't necessarily mean what they should be doing.
AVILA: So would we assume from that answer, sir, that you did or would know, you would know if actually that was happening?
OBAMA: Jim, as I said, I'm not, here to talk about classified information. What I am confirming is the fact that we're undergoing a complete review of how our intelligence operates outside of the country. There are some very strict laws governing what we do internally, and that was the initial concern brought about by some of the Snowden disclosures. Internationally there are less constraints on how our intelligence teams operate, but, what I've said—and I said actually even before the Snowden leaks—is that it's important for us to make sure that, as technology develops and expands, and the capacity for intelligence-gathering becomes a lot greater, that we make sure that we're doing things in the right way and that are reflective of our values.
AVILA: And if I could switch to immigration which is you know is a very close window right now for action and I know you've have started to do some things including inviting over some Republican Congressmen tomorrow. But some of the younger people that Fusion listens to are asking the question about deportations, and why if you have been able to by presidential fiat say that dreamers will not be deported, why not their parents? Why not, why is it the splitting of families bothers them?
OBAMA: Well first of all, the decision we made to make sure that dreamers weren't deported wasn't by presidential fiat, it was an administrative judgement that we've got limited resources and so a we can exercise some judgement in terms of who are the top priority folks that should not be in this country - criminals, people who are breaking the law and that dreamers as a category, as a group, who are going to school, who've grown up here, just like every other kid and have the same ambitions and aspirations, that they shouldn't have that cloud over them. So, so that was the right thing to do. The the problem you get is once you get beyond that fairly small contained group, then how do you make a decision about other categories? You can say initially the parents are dreamers, but then what about uncles or cousins or relatives and at some point the biggest challenge we've got is that we've still got a law that doesn't serve the interests of this country. We've got an immigration system that is broken - that's why my top priority has been let's make sure that we comprehensively reform the whole system so that we're not just dealing with dreamers, we're also dealing with anybody who's here and is undocumented - let's give them an opportunity to earn a path to citizenship, make sure they're paying a fine, make sure that they're learning English, make sure they're paying back taxes, let's fix the legal immigration system so that we're not pushing people into an illegal process and let's make sure that we've got secure borders. And the good news is we've got bipartisan support for that concept. In fact, if the bill that passed on a bipartisan basis in the Senate was put on the floor of the House of Representatives right now, I think it would pass. So the key for folks who are listening to fusion is to make sure that they continue to put pressure on members of Congress to - let's go ahead and get this done before the end of the year. The majority of the American people agree with it, evangelical groups, labor groups, business groups are united around it, the Democratic party is fully supportive of it, and we've got some good Republican support for it as well.
AVILA: Let's go to Obamacare. I guess the main question for Fusion type listeners is, what's in it for the young people? Are they just the people who are going to finance the older generation in their medical problems? Why would someone who's under 30 want to sign up for Obamacare?
OBAMA: Well this is pretty straightforward. A study - analysis has shown that if you're between 18 and 34 right now, about half of the people can get high quality health care for less than 50 bucks a month - less than your cellphone bill, less than your cable bill. And about 70 percent can get if for less than 100 bucks a month. Now, you know I know that, or at least I kind of remember when I was in my 20s a and early 30s I thought I was invincible, but it turns out I broke my nose playing basketball, it turns out that a you know there were times where I had unexpected illnesses or accidents, and making sure that you've got coverage insures that you're not a ending up paying out of pocket thousands of dollars a that you may not have. And so this is a good investment for young people and you know when you look at the number of young people who actually want health insurance, but are having trouble affording it, that fact that we're making it affordable for them for the first time, that's a big deal.
AVILA: Alright, thank you Mr. President, appreciate it.
OBAMA: Thank you, enjoyed it.