CBS journalist Major Garrett on Wednesday grilled Barack Obama, demanding answers to why a deal with Iran didn't include the freeing of four U.S. prisoners in the country. While Garrett and ABC's Jon Karl pressed the President on his negotiations with Iran, there were still plenty of softballs. Garrett solemnly lectured, "...There are four Americans in Iran, three held on trumped up charges, according to your administration."
The reporter demanded, "Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content, with all the fanfare around this deal, to leave the conscience of in this nation, the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans?" How much of Garrett's tough query will actually air on the CBS Evening News?
Tuesday's Evening News skipped the status of Americans Robert Levinson, Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati and Jason Rezaian. Instead, anchor Scott Pelley hyped the "historic" nature of the deal:
SCOTT PELLEY: Now, let us show you a picture we have of a moment of history. This is Secretary Kerry last Saturday, writing his closing argument to the Iranians. We're told that he wrote for hours on an old U.S. Senate legal pad. A person close to the negotiations tells us Kerry told the Iranians they could make the world safer and improve the lives of their own people, and he told Foreign Minister Zarif that he could be the one to end the crippling sanctions.
CBS This Morning on Wednesday, however, investigated why the imprisoned Americans were not included in the deal.
During the news conference, April Ryan offered Obama this softball: "What does it mean to travel to Kenya in your father's homeland in the next couple of weeks as president of the United States?"
Carol Lee of the Wall Street Journal asked Obama to pontificate about the Middle East in general: "And if you don't mind, I want to see if you could step back a little bit and look at this Iran deal and all of the other issues and unrest that's happening in the Middle East, what kind of middle East do you want to leave when you leave the White House in a year and a half?"
These types of easy questions paled in comparison to Mark Smith of the Associated Press Radio. On Iran, he demanded, "The argument has been made that Iran has a cash windfall, billions to spend. Your people seem confident they're going to spend it at home. Why are you confident they're not going to spend it on arming Hezbollah? Arming Bashir al Assad?"
A transcript of all of the July 15 questions can be found below:
ANDREW BEATTY (AFP White House correspondent) : Thank you, Mr. President. Yesterday, you said the deal offered a new chance and direction with Iran. What steps will you take to enable a more moderate Iran and does this deal allow you to more forcefully counter Iran's destabilizing in the region, quite aside from the nuclear question?
BARACK OBAMA: Andrew, if you don't mind, just because I suspect there's going to be a common set of questions that are touched on, I promise I will get to your question, but I want to start off by stepping back and reminding folks of what is at stake here.
JON KARL (ABC News) : Mr. President, does it give you any pause to see this deal praised by Syrian dictator Assad as a great victory for Iran or praised by those in Tehran that still shout "Death to America" and yet our closest ally in the Middle East calls it a mistake of historic proportions and here in Congress, it looks like a large majority will vote to reject this deal. I know you can veto that rejection, but do you have any concerns of seeing a majority of the people's representatives in Congress saying this is a bad deal? And If I can just ask you a quick political question, a very quick one --
OBAMA: Jon, I think --
KARL: Let me answer the question that you asked. It does not give me pause that Mr. Assad, or others in Tehran, may be trying to spin the deal in a way that they think is favorable to what their constituencies want to hear.
KARL: Mr. President, Prime Minister Netanyahu said you have a situation where Iran has 24 days before getting access to military facilities. He –
OBAMA: I'm happy– That's a good example.
CAROL LEE (Wall Street Journal): Mr. President, I want to ask you about the arms and ballistic missile embargo. Why did you decide, agree to lift those even with the five and eight-year durations? It's obviously emerging as a sticking point on the hill and are you concerned that arms to Iran will go to Hezbollah or Hamas and is there anything you or a future president can do to stop that? And if you don't mind, I want to see if you could step back a little bit and look at this Iran deal and all of the other issues and unrest that's happening in the Middle East, what kind of middle East do you want to leave when you leave the White House in a year and a half?
MICHAEL CROWLEY (Politico): Thank you. You alluded earlier to Iran's role in Syria, just to focus on that for a moment. Many analysts and some form of your administration believe the political settlement that you say is necessary in Syria will require directly working with Iran and giving Iran a more important role. Do you agree and is that a dialogue you'll be actively seeking? And what about the fight against ISIS? What would it take for there to be explicit cooperation between the U.S. and Iran?
MAJOR GARRETT (CBS News): Thank you, Mr. President. As you well know, there are four Americans in Iran, three held on trumped up charges, according to your administration. One, whereabouts are unknown. Can you tell the country, sir, why you are content, with all the fanfare around this deal, to leave the conscience of in this nation, the strength of this nation unaccounted for in relation to these four Americans? And Last week, the chairman of the Joints of Staff said under no circumstances should there be any relief for Iran in terms of ballistic missiles or conventional weapons. It's perceived that's a last-minute capitulation in these negotiations. Many in the Pentagon feel you've left the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff high out to dry. Could you comment?
OBAMA: I gotta give you credit, Major, for how you craft those questions. The notion that I am content, as I celebrate with American citizens languishing in Iranian jails [long pause] Major, that's nonsense and you should no better.
APRIL RYAN (American Urban Radio Networks): Thank you, Mr. President. I want to change the subject a bit. Earlier this year, on the flight to Selma, you said, on matters of race, as president your job is to close remaining gaps that are left in state and federal government. Now, how does criminal justice reform fit into that equation and what gaps remain for you towards the end of your presidency. And also, what does it mean to travel to Kenya in your father's homeland in the next couple of weeks as president of the United States? And lastly, would you revoke the medal of freedom for Bill Cosby?
MARK SMITH (Associated Press Radio): Thanks Mr. President, I'll be brief. The argument has been made that Iran has a cash windfall, billions to spend. Your people seem confident they're going to spend it at home. Why are you confident they're not going to spend it on arming Hezbollah? Arming Bashir al Assad? Etc?