'60 Minutes' Obama, Clinton interview heavy on laughs, light on substance

If CBS ever needs a softball team, they should sign Steve Kroft. The veteran newsman filled nearly three fourths of his big interview with President Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with easy questions (11 out of 15). So much so that laughter was more commonplace that any challenging questions.

For media watchers, the much-ballyhooed half-hour was a waste of good interviewing time. Kroft only threw four mildly tough questions at the power duo and two of those were still fairly easy health questions aimed at Clinton. Only the last two questions tackled Libya, Syria and conservative criticisms that there has been “an abdication of the United States on the world stage.”

Kroft then let Obama dodge questions of his failure in Syria and let stand Obama’s bizarre assertion that the revolution in Egypt has turned out well. “When it comes to Egypt, had it not been for the leadership we showed, you might have seen a different outcome there,” said Obama.


Had Kroft not wasted the entire first two thirds of his interview on slow pitch, he might have thrown a fastball about the ongoing violence there now, the Muslim Brotherhood’s power grab, threats to Israel and bigoted comments from Obama’s buddy Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. (Just hours before the pre-recorded broadcast, Morsi declared a state of emergency in three provinces as 50 people had been killed in rioting.)

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It was the questions that weren’t asked that left viewers wondering if Kroft reads international news. What about tensions between China and its neighbors and U.S. allies Japan, Taiwan and South Korea? Or the increased tensions over the Falklands? Or that pesky little would-be nuclear state of Iran? Or how about U.S. involvement in Mali or terrorism in Algieria? Maybe even our relations with our nearest neighbors Canada, which is waiting on word about pipeline approval, and Mexico which is wondering about fast and furious?

CBS had certainly built up to the event with pre-show promotion that included the network’s Bob Schieffer remarking how unusual it was for president’s to share the stage with anyone. In that vein, Kroft began by reminding viewers that of the Obama-Clinton “rivalry that is one of the richest in American history.” Someone needs to get Kroft a better history book. Even Obama admitted that the pair agreed on policy.

Kroft’s questions weren’t just softballs. More than half resulted in laughter from Obama or Clinton and sometimes both. A couple were so bad that even Kroft laughed as well.

The most embarrassing one was a public relations person’s dream as Kroft reflected how he had been with both candidates back in 2008. “That was a very tough, bitter race and I’m going to spare you really some of the things that you said about each other during the campaign,” to which even he laughed.

He laughed again when he asked about Obama’s support for Clinton. “What’s the, I have to ask you, what’s the date of expiration on this endorsement?” Both Clinton and Obama’s responses were equally sickening. Clinton threw out an “Oh, Steve…” and Obama commented, “You guys in the press are incorrigible.”

This wasn’t the first embarrassing Kroft interview of Obama. Back before the election, “60 Minutes” ran another interview but left out key elements where Kroft asked Obama if the Libya attack had been by terrorists. Obama dodged and CBS dodged even more, releasing that full interview with less than 24 hours before Election Day.