Sunday, February 10, 2008

Katie Couric digs deep(ish) on 60 Minutes

60 Minutes had the Democratic presidential candidates on the show tonight. Steve Croft interviewed Barack Obama and Katie Couric interviewed Hillary Clinton. It was noteworthy how different the interviews were. While Croft asked questions about Iraq and negative campaigning, there was a moment in the Couric interview when I thought she might ask if she could brush Clinton's hair. Unable to shake off the discrepancy, Rob and I watched both interviews again and I recorded the questions.

Being that neither of us is a political/media analyst, these results are certainly questionable. But see what you think. Our conclusion was that of the 15 questions posed to Obama, 11 were about political issues or campaign strategy. Of the 23 questions asked of Clinton, 10 were about political issues or campaign strategy.

What I wonder is whether this is about the interviewers and the way they approached their assignments or whether the Clinton campaign requested that Hillary be asked softer, more "humanizing" questions.

I wish we had a political/media analyst living in the house with us. They could share the couch with Rob's PR person.

Note that these questions are not all verbatim, but I believe I am representing the gist of what the interviewer was asking. Issue/strategy questions are bold:

Croft interviews Obama:

1. Do you still consider yourself the underdog?
2. Regarding experience and your resume...some people would say the only thing you’ve run is the Harvard law review. {issues}
3. When you say you want change, you mean change from the Bush family…and the Clinton family? {issues}
4. What’s the biggest difference between you and Senator Clinton? {issues}
5. You talk a lot about big ideas. There’s been a complaint about your campaign that you’re not specific enough. {strategy}
6. What do you think is going on in Iraq right now? {issues}
7. With American casualties and violence down in Iraq, do you still think now is the right time to set a timetable for withdrawal? {issues}
8. So, regardless of the situation, even with sectarian violence, you would withdraw? {issues}
9. Why do you think you’re the best choice to beat McCain? {strategy}
10. You believe that Senator Clinton would galvanize the Republican party…against her? {strategy}
11. There’s been nastiness in the campaign and there will probably be more. Is there a point at which you go to the closet and pull out Clinton’s skeletons? {strategy}
12. Are you the same person you were a year ago? {personal}
13. I know you’re getting only 2-3 hours of sleep. [question essentially was, how do you handle it?] {personal}
14. [Obama mentions exercise in the morning being important] Playing basketball? {personal}
15. Did you play basketball on Super Tuesday? {personal}

Couric interviews Clinton:

1. Have you grappled with the idea that it could be him and not you? {personal}
2. Even in your deepest darkest moments when you’re exhausted? You have to once in a while think like that. {personal. And kind of annoying.}
3. How do you do it? I’m talking about pure stamina. {personal}
4. Having said that, do you pop vitamins, do you mainline coffee? {personal}
5. There are two schools of thought. One is the big crowds don’t necessarily translate into votes. The other is that this is a movement that’s just getting started and the more Obama is at it, the bigger it’s going to get. {strategy}
6. Do you like Barack Obama? {personal and, I'm sorry, this is not a good question. What does Couric THINK Clinton is going to say?}
7. Not one scintilla of bad blood between you now? {personal}
8. I understand when he joined the senate he came to you for advice and you told him to work hard and keep a low profile. He didn’t keep a low profile, did he? {I don’t know what this question is. Rhetorical?}
9. Do you think the media have treated you the same way they’ve treated Senator Obama? [strategy? This is iffy, plus Clinton’s answer that the media is “tough on her” didn’t exactly further the conversation.}
10. Tougher on you than on Senator Obama? {strategy again, since it’s the same question.}
11. You’ve said “I’ve been through the Republican attacks and I’ve been vetted.” Cynics have suggested that you’re insinuating a big deep dark secret in Obama’s past that will be unveiled by a GOP attack machine. {strategy}
12. Are you saying he couldn’t handle it? {strategy}
13. Why are you so often seen as polarizing? {strategy}
14. Senator Obama told Steve Croft that you represent the status quo. {Oh no he di-int! Issues}
15. [Clinton brings up the deficit that Bush got us into] A deficit that’s been caused largely by a war that you authorized? {issues}
16. If Iraq descends into an all-out civil war, will you reassess the plan to pull out? {issues}
17. President Clinton described your dad as tough and gruff. I’ve read that when you brought home stellar grades, he said you must be going to an easy school. That must have been so demoralizing! {personal. And I had to add the exclamation point. It was so clear in Couric's voice. I swear, during parts of this interview, you would think they were having a sleepover.}
18. Do you think he [your father] would still be saying you can do better? {personal}
19. What were you like in high school? Were you the girl in the front row taking meticulous notes and raising your hand? {personal}
20. Someone told me your nickname in school was Ms Frigidaire. Is that true? {personal. Whoa.}
21. When you say you’re looking forward to President Clinton’s advice and counsel, a co-presidency comes to mind and some people aren’t too keen on that. {issues}
22. What do you see yourself doing if this doesn’t work out? {personal}
23. [Clinton says that she is Senator and would stay in that position.] So, you’d be fine with that? {personal}

I would like to thank Rob for his contributions to this post. And for asking his PR person to sleep on the couch.


Daniel said...

You and Rob should tag team more often - tremendous post. Amanda and I were similarly blown away by the Couric/Clinton exchange. We were also puzzled by Clinton's admission that she does two things to stay healthy on the campaign trail: drinks lots of water and... wait for it... eats lots of hot peppers. Huh?

Sarah said...

Hot peppers! And then no follow up to explain what they do for you...definitely odd. Especially for someone referred to as Ms Frigidaire.

Amanda said...

Seriously. Sarah, Rob, Dan... I wish I could say more. Okay, wait, I can. I was totally floored by this interview on what's supposed to be a serious news program. I will add that it could be Hill's camp pushing this stuff. She was, after all, in US Weekly last week touting her "worst outfits of all time," complete with excellent pictures and personal commentary on each bad choice. This is the woman they want me to take seriously? She can't make the right decision on Iraq OR HER OWN WARDROBE, but we should let her in to the White House? N****, please.

Catherine said...

Read Time magazine and you'll pretty much know why the questions(I'm sure thought up by the czars of CBS)were aimed at their weaknesses. Obama's inspirational caucus speeches are weak on issues and her nitty gritty policy details are weak on warmth and inspiration. And all you unknowing youngsters have to start reading articles on "health after 50" to know about the hot pepper. I'll tell you if you ask!!!

Joe said...

Very thoughtful insights, Rob and Sarah. When two women sit down to chat, isn't it different than two men? Was this simply Katie talking to Hillary woman to woman? Wouldn't it sound different if a black deejay, say, interviewed Obama? He did use different phraseology in speaking to a black gathering in S.C.
Does the conversation Katie and Hillary had court the mainstream female vote, even if only subliminally?
Does the ground-breaking new president have to walk the fence of being seen as representing everyone while being the great hope of his/her particular (not political) group? Is it obvious from the question marks that I have no answers?