Presidents Clinton and Obama Speak Out

Former President Bill Clinton was on The O’Reilly Factor the other day, 12/20/2011, and he made an admission about the media:

O’REILLY: (The Fox News Chanel) was created because of the — of the labyrinth that the media had set up that was largely liberal. Largely — and you were a beneficiary of it too, a little bit of — against Bush the elder. And it still is there to this day. So generally speaking, why is the media more liberal than conservative?

CLINTON:I don’t know that it’s always been that way.For example in 1992 when I ran, I was hardly — I was hardly the beneficiary of it in the primary —

O’REILLY:Not in the primary but in the main you were.

CLINTON:I was the flavor of the day.


CLINTON:And so — you know they always like what’s new. And they always like a conflict and they always like a story. But nothing I can say will contribute to anything good happening in America. And so I am not going to contribute to that.

Most of this interview was largely unmemorable. O’Reilly tried to get Clinton to say something negative about Obama. Clinton wouldn’t do it. Clinton stood up for Obama on many occasions, and on a number of occasions he said he would vote for Obama. O’Reilly then tried to get Clinton to say something negative about GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, and he did. Typically cautious, using veiled terminology, former President Clinton said the former Speaker was too political, and there were times when the two of them didn’t get along politically (like during the government shut down). To my mind the “I don’t know that it’s always been that way” admission is the pull quote from the interview.

So if we read into this quote, we hear a former president say that the media did back him over George H.W. Bush, and the media has been more liberal lately. “It hasn’t always been that way,” he says, but one doesn’t need to be a student of how the mechanism of language acquisition formulates from inner processes to understand that Clinton is saying that it the media is now.

President Barack Obama says he is one of the top four presidents of all time (save LBJ(?), FDR, and Lincoln) in a recent 60 Minutes interview. The portion of the 60 Minutes interview that contained this statement didn’t make it to air, but it did make the CBS News website portion of the interview.

The Washington Post writer Jonathon Capehart has a problem with the manner in which the Wall Street Journal characterized Obama’s 60 Minutes comments:

“It’s always dangerous for a sitting president, especially in the first term, to compare himself to great predecessors. He might come off as smug, too admiring of his own vision and too concerned with history rather than the here and now facing the people he was elected to lead. But notice that Obama never said he was the fourth-best president. Notice that he was calling for a side-by-side comparison of his first two years (and naturally casting himself in a positive light). To slam Obama as an arrogant schmuck for his comment is to ignore a key phrase in the above comment and the preceding discussion that served as its foundation.”

Here’s the exchange:

KROFT: You definitely have some impressive accomplishments.
OBAMA: Thank you, Steve.
KROFT: No, you do. And more than a lot of presidents who manage to get reelected. My question is, is it enough? Why do you think you deserve to be reelected?

Obama:The issue here is not gonna be a list of accomplishments. As you said yourself, Steve, you know, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president — with the possible exceptions of Johnson, F.D.R., and Lincoln — just in terms of what we’ve gotten done in modern history. But, you know, but when it comes to the economy, we’ve got a lot more work to do. And we’re gonna keep on at it.

Capehart then sums up his problem with the Wall Street Journal mischaracterization of Obama’s comments:

“It was Kroft who earlier said Obama had ‘some impressive accomplishments’ that were ‘more than a lot of presidents who manage to get reelected.’ It was the president who made clear later that he was talking about his ‘legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years’ compared to those of other presidents. If Obama is guilty of anything, it’s that he took the bait to compare himself with giants when it is history that will be the final arbiter.”

I’ve read this interview, and its pull quotes, about five times, and I don’t see how Obama escapes Capehart’s ‘could be’ comments (smug, too admiring of his own vision, too concerned with history, and an arrogant schmuck). If you are looking to characterize someone in such a manner, I don’t see how Obama’s comments don’t line up for a journalistic firing squad to methodically rip apart on that basis. I’m one who reads through analysis, such as Capehart’s, with as much objectivity as I can possible muster up to have the author prove me wrong. I don’t see where Capehart does this. Kroft was the one who said Obama had “some impressive accomplishments” that were “more than a lot of presidents who manage to get reelected.” Obama agreed with these assessments, then he expanded on the point. Obama took Kroft’s point and ran with it, and he was the one that specifically mentioned the other three presidents that he believes are the only ones who have more impressive records in their first two years. Obama is the one who got stoked by Kroft’s remarks and his competitive side came out.

Rather than attempting to parse Obama’s words, Capehart should be trumpeting them. Liberals around the nation should lock arms and sing the quotes. He’s their fella, and he’s not afraid to say that he believes he has been historically successful. He’s not afraid to do touchdown dances. Even though Middle America doesn’t like ‘arrogant schmuck’ touchdown dances, they’re just going to have to live with it. He doesn’t care what Middle America thinks, and liberals should be bathing in the realities of it, rather than parsing it and excusing it away.

Obama was speaking from the heart when he said this. He wasn’t using poll tested words in the manner a Bill Clinton would. He wasn’t reading his words off a Teleprompter. He wasn’t choosing humble words in the manner a George W. Bush would with words like, “I’ll let historians figure all that out.” Obama was in your face and dancing. He thinks his first two years stand only behind Lincoln, FDR, and, LBJ. If a conservative president—with an equally successful conservative agenda—said the same thing, I would probably have my fist in the air and my heart on my sleeve.


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