Howard Kurtz, one of the best media analysts in the mainstream media, will probably make an adjustment in his normal morning update to his column filed last night. Kurtz wrote about the ascendance of Steve Kroft at 60 Minutes to the lead position:
Kroft, who spent 90 minutes with Obama, says the president was “very, very relaxed” and seems comfortable with him after several previous interviews. “He did not seem at all concerned about what the press has been playing up as his worst week,” says Kroft, who was editing the story until 3:30 a.m. Sunday. “My own personal feeling is they sense they’re having trouble getting their message out in Washington and wanted a discussion at a more leisurely pace that went beyond a sound bite. . . . The challenge was to try to break through and get him to talk about things he hadn’t been talking about.”
Whether he’s reporting from the White House or a war zone, the newly designated lead guy is anything but flashy. Kroft delights in tackling such subjects as credit default swaps and oil price speculation, doing much of the digging himself rather than relegating it to his producers, a common practice in television. And when the 63-year-old reporter sits down with a newsmaker, you tend to remember the person’s answers, not Kroft’s questions.
In a splendid demonstration of Murphy’s Law, Kroft made the big splash last night not from a Barack Obama answer, but for this question:
Kroft: You’re sitting here. And you’re laughing. You are laughing about some of these problems. Are people going to look at this and say, ‘I mean, he’s sitting there just making jokes about money?’ How do you deal with — I mean: explain … Are you punch-drunk?”
Obama: No, no. There’s gotta be a little gallows humor to get you through the day. Sometimes my team talks about the fact that, uh, if you had said a year ago that the least of my problems would have been Iraq — which is still a pretty serious problem — I don’t think anyone would have believed it. But we’ve got a lot on our plate, and a lot of difficult decisions we’re going to have to make.
Unfortunately for Obama, he was giggling during the question, which made Kroft’s question seem as though Kroft was challenging him at that very moment. It made Obama look unserious, although I actually think Obama is right and that someone with those responsibilities does need to keep a sense of humor. It’s probably a bad idea to demonstrate it by giggling through a prime-time interview while answering questions about the economy.
Oh, and Mr. President? We tried to tell you repeatedly during the campaign that Iraq was nowhere near the problem you claimed it to be, especially in the last year. It stopped being the problem you thought it was in late 2007.