Top of the Ticket

Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

« Previous Post | Top of the Ticket Home | Next Post »

Barack Obama deftly handles his much-anticipated "Fox News Sunday" interview

Barack Obama is off the clock with "Fox News Sunday," and -- 772 days after he first promised moderator Chris Wallace that he would chat on camera with him -- the result was a generally easygoing conversation notable mainly for the ability of the Democratic presidential candidate to avoid being pinned down.

Obama did give one direct answer, which Fox spotlighted on Saturday, saying that despite renewed requests from Hillary Clinton and her surrogates, he won't be sharing a stage with her for another debate before the May 6 primaries in North Carolina and Indiana. Instead, Obama said he wanted to concentrate on meeting voters in those states.

On several other topics, Obama artfully steered clear of specific answers to questions from Wallace.

He dodged saying whether he tried to personally discourage the Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- whom he pointedly referred to as his "former" pastor -- from embarking on his current round of public appearances that culminates Monday with a sold-out address at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday.

While reiterating that he was not sitting in a pew when Wright uttered the inflammatory lines that caused the political headache for Obama in March when they gained wide circulation via YouTube, he was vague about the nature of other provocative comments he has said he heard the preacher utter from the pulpit.

Asked about President Bush's recent decision to name Gen. David Petraeus ...

commander of U.S. Central Command, Obama said that as a senator he would vote to confirm that appointment. He praised Petraeus for "doing a good tactical job" as head of U.S. forces in Iraq.

But Obama declined to say whether, as president, he would replace Petraeus from the Central Command post if the general told him his plan to extract troops from Iraq was a mistake.

Finally, Obama skirted any commitment to rely on public financing in the general election campaign if he emerged as his party's presidential nominee.

All in all, a mistake-free performance by a candidate who appeared better rested -- and in a better mood -- than he often has in recent weeks.

The interview's very last question yielded a couple of responses worthy of note.

Asked what he had learned about himself so far during the grueling campaign, Obama said, "I have the right temperament to be president."

By that, he continued, he meant that (like a good baseball player), he doesn't get too high when things are going well or too low when they are not.

He also nicely worked in a reference to his two young daughters, saying that long separations from his family at times took a toll. There are moments on the campaign trail, he said, when "you need those two little girls in your arms."

To read the entire interview, go here.

-- Don Frederick

Comments () | Archives (67)

The comments to this entry are closed.

More waffling from the waffle man. Obama does NOT speak for me and my family.

Awww. That comment about his little girls was so sweet.

Go Obama !

"All in all, a mistake-free performance by a candidate who appeared better rested -- and in a better mood -- than he often has in recent weeks."

All the more evidence that you don't want to wake the President at 3:00 am if you don't have to.

Run Barack Run.......there will be no debates although over 11 million viewers saw the last debate and stayed through the entire program. Only Senator Obama's group have seen enough. I guess if I were them I would run away too. Senator Clinton is tough and Senator Obama cannot even stand up to her. The right temperment to be president? He looked angry and down during the last debate. I am a Clinton supporter and even I felt sorry for him because he could not seem to shake his bad temperment!!

I actually think it was a pretty good interview. I think Barack handled the questions very well and his answers should quell any doubt among those on the fence that Obama is definitely a great candidate for the President of the United States. The one thing I don't agree with from the hosts of the show is that Obama acted like he didn't need to do more for the middle class vote when he actually stated in the interview that he would have to work harder and go to more doors and make himself more visable. I think they are still trying to imply that middle class PA voters speak for the rest of the country, which is totally false, as Obama tried to point out. Obama brings everyone together and his message resonates that.

Great job, Barack!

Obama 08!!!

That is some kind of spin there. :)

I thought his answers were truthfully and well spoken. Senator Obama is not Clinton and he is not McCain. Senator Obama is not the polarizing figure many would try to make him out as. He has the right approach and attitude that this country needs right now.

My vote is for Senator Obama.

Very weak interview, just a rehash of Fox spinpoints. Nothing I haven't heard over and over and over. Typical cable trash. You would think with all the hype leading up to the interview Fox would have some original questions for Obama instead of last months hash and trash.

I don't think you could even classify that as an " interview ". He danced around the questions he didn't want to answer as usual...This is the very reason he won't have another debate with HRV prior to Indiana..Because he cannot control the questioning..If he gets out of his practiced arena of polished rhetoric he is lost...{ or will definately lose his temper .}..Not good Presidential material..A vote for Obama is a vote for McCain. His legacy of Rev. Wright will never go away..His elitist attitude, religion or lack of will never secure the blue collar worker or Catholic vote...We need a Democrat for President and he is not it. HRC is. BRING OUR SOLDIERS HOME....

I am a Republican and probably will not vote for Obama, but I am more than tempted. He shows that you can have a thoughtful, honest discussion even with people you disagree strongly with. I really wish he did not advocate so much redistribution of wealth, if he would temper that just a little he would have my vote. That was a very very good interview on Sunday and Mcain should not count on Obama blowing up, but should be prepared to talk substantively on the issues.

who does obama think he is? like some God-anointed candidate of the democratic party?

excuse me, but obama’s presumptuousness is unbearable. he’s putting the cart before the horse, talking of remodeling the white house, when he can’t even wrap up the democratic party’s nominating contest, when he can’t even debate hillary, a la lincoln-douglas type.

first things first. let the american people see—via such hillary proffered debate-- if obama has got some grey matter in his cranium, before he hallucinates about rearranging things in the white house.

but no, it seems obama has got a warped sense of priorities. instead of prioritizing such debate, & giving the american electorate the chance to show more of his ‘brains’ & less of his bravado, obama doesn’t want anything to do with it. he can’t even answer directly hillary’s dare to debate.

obama’s refusal to debate hillary a la lincoln-douglas format surprises me. a prexy candidate withering under an intense grueling by his opponent has no right to even dream of making it even as a mere democratic nominee, more so as a white house tenant. why has obama so suddenly turned sissy to hillary, a lady presidential hopeful who has always said she’s ready to be commander-in-chief on day one?

as far as i know, obama is the first nominee-candidate in the history of american presidential contests who refuses to engage his opponent in a no-nonsense, one-on-one debate, where only policy issues or some such matter are taken up, & where the ‘irrelevant,’ ‘tough,’ ‘personal,’ ‘distracting’ questions that are obama’s nightmare aren’t given the chance to pop up.

by doing so, obama prevents the electorate to compare & contrast his & hillary’s specific programs of government. obama also denies himself an avenue by which to refute the charge that he really has got no program of government that he can rightfully & proudly call his own, giving credence to the claim that all he’s got is a rehashed hillary program that obama has appropriated for himself.

thus, by refusing to debate hillary under this new format, obama is doing the american people a disservice, even as he closes one avenue by which the electorate may know who’s got more sense as a nominee, & who’s got mere bluff.

what is obama afraid of? is he afraid that hillary would pummel him, figuratively speaking, during their debate, that he’d be shown up to the electorate as a mere strawman? is obama content with just deriding hillary via a kind press through name-calling, ad hominems, personal insults, & argumentum ad absurdum?

i didn’t know that a big mouth like obama—who always frets before a very cooperative press-- is such a shrinking violet, who can’t even handle a mere woman like hillary. come to think of it, it may be because hillary’s towering, highly analytic, encyclopedic, deeply-probing mind has never been obama’s intellectual match.

& finally, this so-called “growing concern’ within the democratic party about “what the debate would do to party unity.” i find this concern inane. is democratic party unity more important than the education of the electorate on what hillary & obama offer as an alternative to the republican stupidity? what can the unity of the democratic party do to counter the onslaught of the republican attack dogs, if the american electorate find little substance in what the democrats offer--& scant knowledge on the ultimate bearer of its torch to the people?

reconsider your silly stand on the hillary debate challenge, please, leaders of the democratic party.

unless you want to rig the nominating contest in favor of a sissy like obama, go ahead, twist the knife yourselves, & ram it down the throats of your members. then might as well cut out the nominating contest farce.****

The 'report' on Obama's interview appears decidedly biased.
It states or implies repeatedly that the subject snaked his way through the interview, rather than being candid and above board without providing/documenting supporting information.
Fox news again shows it's unwillingness to be honest and forthright; instead it is biased and opinionated.
Vin Allen

Is this supposed to be a positive review of Obamas performance? I see how "he avoided being pinned down", "gave one direct answer", "steered clear of specific answers"", and "dodged" questions about Jeremiah Wright. It sounds as though the Times is congratulating him on the evasive double speak that we have come to loathe in our politicians.

Let's see. To sum it all up. Obama cannot directly answer a question. Your quote "Obama artfully steered clear of specific answers". So when he's president, will he "artfully steer clear" of all major issues? I do applaud your attempt to spin this interview as if it showed Obama in a positive light, beginning with the title of your article. The only responses "worthy of note" in your opinion were, at best, trivial. "Right Temperment". All candidates will say they have the right temperment. And also, Barack wants sympathy for being away from his family for campaigning. Poor Barack.

Obama was great, much better than was Bill Clinton when interviewed by Wallace.

Deft is the word. I was horrified at the prospect of this interview; but I watched it and came away impressed, as I always do, with Obama's quick intelligence, political smarts, and dignity. And most of all by his courage - defined, memorably, by Ernest Hemingway, as grace under pressure.

I guess we'll see what snippets are looped for the next two weeks, but I thought this interview was a brilliant move beautifully executed, and another example of what a skillful politician, ideally, could look like.

It's been a long dry spell for civil discourse in this country. I hope we can manage to elect this man. If we can't, we don't deserve him.

I saw the most of it....and Obama came off as thoughtful, intelligent, and decent.

and so did (surprisingly?) Fox


Senator Obama said in his book that he hung out with Marxists while attending college. I would like to ask Obama how his associations with Marxist students and Marxist professors while a student in college and his friendly relationship with Bill Ayers, another Marxist of some note, has influenced his political beliefs. To me this is major issue. I can't vote for a man who may not believe in our system of government or our way of life. This is an issue that no one seems to want to ask the candidate.

We cannot say that Obama handled the interview "deftly", since his dodging of questions was obvious. If his dodging of questions hadn't been obvious, then we could say that he handled the interview deftly.

Obama did a very nice job during this interview. I think it might mend some weary voters...


The most hilarious point came when Obama tried to claim credit for bipartisanship on the John Roberts confirmation vote — not because he supported Roberts. He voted against Roberts. However, Obama wanted credit for defending the few Democrats who did support Roberts on Daily Kos, and taking the venom of Kos’ readership for his defense. That’s bipartisanship — standing up to the Kos Radicals? If that amounts to an act of courage for Obama, it tells you how bipartisan he will be prepared to be as President.

"I have the right temperament to be president." ??
Obama just flatly refused to debate HRC again in Indiana.
That's running away from facing a "hardship" ... That's definitely not presidenetial!

If Obama is the nominee, I'll write in Hillary's name in November. She's the better candidate. I trust her on the economy, health care, and national security. Obama won't debate Hillary because he's afraid of her. She's more knowledgeable about the issues than he is.

Obama does have the right temperant to be President. US and the world need change. Obama will be wonderful and retore the trust of the world!

Senator Obama did well in this interview and has displayed through his actions his ability to run a successful campaign. It is evident that Hillary Clinton will not be ready on day 1. Her planning and experience gave her a loss right out of the gate and she is currently behind in delegates, the popular vote ,states won, bankrupt finances and a loose cannon campaign manager and husband. Additionallly, if she wanted to use Florida and Michigan why was she not smart enough to plan for for this fall back plan, She is not ready on day 1 neither will she be ready on dqy 365. It is time to put this lady out to pasture. Everytime she opens her mouth she brings to bare some slick williy tactic because she could never do things according to the rules.

EXcellent Job from the next democratic nominee-
GO Obama!

Barrack Obama can't win over the working-class white Catholics which the Democrats need to win the election. Whether it's true or not, Wright's Youtube video changed the picture. Obama is being hit hard by Fox - they show Wright's video, show Obama, and then show a black tax dodger -- fuel for racial hatred. The Democratic party has to go with Clinton to win. Obama is toast.

Wright qualifies as Obama's former "pastor" because they have a new person in the pulpit now.

Obama unequivocally favors abortion of all kinds against black babies. How can anyone —black or white — support the wholesale killing of the most innocent, defenseless, and vulnerable in our society? How many black babies will never get to run for President because someone "legally" killed them?

Senator Obama did an excellent job during the interview with Mike Wallace. He has further done a good job running a successful campaign, addressing key issues that are all important to the American people. He has managed to do this inspite of Hillary Clinton's determination to discredit this fine man by distorting facts.
It appears that she will stop at nothing in an attempt to "snacth" the nomination away from her more worthy opponant. Her math is off and her argument about counting votes from Michigan and Florida is just plain wrong.
It is highly inappropriate to ask for"DO OVERS" at her age, ( kindergarteners are taught to keep their word)after both candidates agreed that neither state will count if rules are violated. She is clearly a poor loser and a big whinner, who has the guts to fault the Obama campaign for doing what was originally agreed upon. IF tables were turned and she were winning, she'd be whistling a different tune.
As an older, hard working, wht. american female I am no longer supporting the Clinton campaign. I once admired her and former president Clinton for doing some very good things in the "90's", however, her campaign tactics have been deplorable and I can no longer support this woman for the highest office in the land- She simply does not deserve this honor.

I donated several times to her campaign and I only wish I could request a refund and redirect to Mr. Obama's
campaign. I wish him well going forward.

Those who have not seen enough perhaps were not paying attention during the last debates. They also are desperate to give Hillary another boost in ratings. She can give herself the boost. Obama doesn't need to help her to that end. He needs to stick to his plans. I don't perceive that he is scared. I see that she needs him. Why should he facilitate her need. Go Obama.

People who say Obama should debate Hillary again need to realize two things:

1. They already had 21 debates. He can recite her answers and she can recite his. Anyone who doesn't know what and where each candidate stands is/are out of touch and not paying attention.

2. History says and proves that its always the LOSER, the one who is BEHIND, the one that ISN"T winning that requests debates. Remember Huckabee asking McCain for a debate....never happened. So, I guess Hillary must be losing.

Obama has proven himself to me after watching the Fox interview and will get my vote in Indiana.

Re the proposed debates, Obama has better things to do with his time than debate a candiate who as already lost.

Nothing against HRC -- I think she'd be a great candidate in the general. But at this point, she cannot win the nomination other than by superdelegate coup or Spitzer-esque self destruction by Obama. Her win in PA was too little, too late. She needs to be winning something like 70% of the remaining elected delegates just to pull even with Obama. Winning by 10 points is not going to cut it when you need to be winning by 40 in every remaining contest.

Obama (and the rest of Democratic party) needs to start focusing on John McCain and the general election.

I am not a Democrat, but I must say Senator Obama came off as intelligent and sincere. I believe he would make a good president. Hillary and Bill have flawed characters. Period!

I am so sick of the media spin. Anything Obama does is totally twisted into something less than expected and every horrible thing Hillary does is blown into some presidential-like behavior. To wit... debate me again so that we can talk about flag pins with my former press secretary! Let Hillary earn the contributions of the American people if she wants some air time.

Also, who is Hillary supposed to be? The lying bully for all the wimps? We don't need another fight, fight, fight candidate. We need a negotiator that can pull this country back on track and make it work for rich, middle class and poor folk.

Yes. The exit polls from Pennsylvania showed that the wimpy racists all voted for Hillary -- mostly at Rush Limbaugh's command to keep Obama from winning. Did it ever occur to the media that Limbaugh followers need to keep Obama in the hot seat so that Hillary can help them find some dirt?

Fox/Rush... He's not dirty! You just need to keep Hillary digging like she should have been doing when her husband 'did not have sexual relations with that woman'. Right under her nose according to her diaries... She didn't catch Bill and Monica, so what do you really expect her to find on Obama. Give up already. Obama's going to win!

Obama '08!

Does it worry anybody that Obama surrounds himself with pro-terrorist, pro-communist, anti-american scum or that he barely has a work history?

Obama waffling?

Did we hit our head and forget the years since Clinton that emphasize why the presidential baton can't keep swapping from a bush to a clinton to a bush to a clinton and keep the rosy vision of those years?

Bill Clinton debated how you define the word 'is'......

(hands in air)


If the best argument for Hillary is White working class voters (as if their is no such thing as a black working class) won't vote for him, can we really be swayed by that and still think we didn't deserve 8 years of bush, that we are still no better as a people?

Blue collar workers of any creed or color are not simpletons, they are not scared of race, and they do support Barack, look at any of the other states he's won, which, by the way, is the most, hint hint.

I have the utmost respect for Senator Obama and hope he's the next president of the United States. I think the reason he doesn't want to debate Senator Clinton is because she plays dirty politics and will want to continually go over the same things she's already slung at him and that he wants to keep things positive.

Why hasn't the press focused on the fact that when the Clintons were having problems due to Monica Lewinsky they brought in the SAME Reverend Wright for spiritual counseling. Senator Obama isn't the only candidate who has a history with him.

Senator Obama handles himself with a great deal of poise and always takes the high road. His optimism and determination not to point fingers and go negative is to his credit. I love this man!

Obama wants to be free of scrutiny, free from answering his true religious beliefs, free from real estate transactions, free having to answer about "his racist" comment about rural people. Anyone who opposes him is racist, white, old, gun-toting, religious-clinging, typical white woman (grandmother) The Obama camp wants nothing but glassy-eyed, cult frenzy, American Idol worship followers. He knows nothing about blue-collar workers, which he stated. Most of this country is blue-collar, but you wouldn't know that at Harvard. He is an elitist, and the DNC is full of nothing but pompous, overstuffed, full of themselves elitists. Letting Obama blame all "his" mistakes on Hillary. Hamas wants him to be president. Maybe he, his pastor, Louis Farrakhan and Hamas can sit down and figure out a way to get rid of the "white Devils". The DNC put their backing in the wrong place. Why? Because Hillary is female. That's the bottom line. Thought she would just fold, like a nice little lady, but they forgot how tough she is , which is the toughness of a President, not some whiny guy always saying how mean everyone is to him. I will vote Republican before I vote Whiney!

Maybe we should all mellow out ( Including me ). This is
America. We don't get all huffy and impolite at the drop of
a feather. If Obama was a marxist in college; that doesn't
mean he's a marxist now. Hillary was a marxist in college
and she's not one now. Let's be fair. Jeremiah Wright has the right to hate America and hate White People. I
don't agree with him, but so what? It's a free country and what he's said in public over the years is a matter of public record. But he's entitled to his own opinion. I remember when Louis Farrakhan got on cable news right after Katrina and told the whole world that he
had incontrovertible proof that white people in the
administration had planted a bomb in the New Orleans
levee and deliberately flooded the city to kill black people.
We all remember that. Are we still getting on his case for
those stupid remarks? No. So maybe we should all
chill out and count to ten.

If I had a dollar for every time I have stuck my own foot
in my own mouth, Bill Gates would be my yard boy. Can
we all lighten up, forgive these candidates and their
mentors for stupid remarks and move on?

Obama 2008!

Go away Hillary!

I'm voting for Obama and I think he was terrific when on TV today.

$109,000,000.00 in five years. With an income history like that I'm sure the Clinton's can feel the pain of those who have lost their jobs.

We can see what the climate of the country would be if Clinton were elected by reading the comments of her supporters above. Sheeees. This is not politics. It's warfare. Sign of toughness? I don't think so. It's a sign of desperation, movtivated by a passion for Hillary, not by concern for the body politic.

I like a lot of Hillary's positions, but I would never support this kind of public discourse. Throwing mud and hatchets and calling it the way the world works. Not the way I want my world to work.

Why would anyone pic a President based on their Pastors comments, we all have said racist, ignorant comments. Hillary and Bill have exploited blacks, and hispanics and now working class whites. Whats next...selling America to the rest of the world...Oops Wall Street is doing that for them. VOTE OBAMA if we are to stay WORLD CLASS Leaders of the Free WORLD.

jennifer potenciano: you are one sick twisted girl. Obama is the most honest poitician i have ever come across. Its time for a new direction, its time for Obama to lead a nation and write a new chapter in history.

Or Jennifer, perhaps you're just one of the many people on the Clinton payroll employed to place negative comments on obama positive news articles.

Truely pathetic.

Obana doesn't need to debate Hillary. He has won and Hillary is a distraction at this point. She is a smart candidate, but so were others (John Edwards, most of all). Give it a rest and let's move on to defeat the Rebubs.

Any democrat that says they'll vote for John McCain if Obama is elected is no democrat. I'm a big Obama fan, but I would vote for Hillary a million times before I'd vote once for John McCain. Hillary supporters: John McCain disagrees with Hillary on almost every single issue and has identical positions as George W. Bush. You can't doom this country for four years just because your favorite candidate didn't get nominated. Even if you don't like Obama's character, you have to admit that his positions are almost the same as Hillary's on the important issues we are facing.

Accurate headline but the article implies that Obama was evasive overall; I disagree with that characterization. Deft, yes.

And he has displayed the right temperament throughout this drawn-out process--we don't need to be worried about Sybil-like changes nor finger-wagging rants from him. We haven't seen any personality changes nor angry outbursts, despite some pretty outrageous charges and tactics leveled against him.

(How would you feel if your patriotism were routinely questioned on the purported basis of a flag pin--by people who themselves were sans flag pins? And your opponents themselves were sans flag pins? It's pretty insulting on the face of it, and even worse when you think of the underlying reasons.)

To those of you harping about debates, note that in the 2006 NY senate primary, HRC refused to debate her antiwar challenger, Jonathan Tasini, all but ignoring his candidacy and sidestepping his attacks on her vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq. Calling for debates is a tactic used by the candidate who's behind and lacking in money.

Also, debating is simply a skill. One of the best debaters was William F. Buckley, but I sure wouldn't have wanted him as my president.

The president does not govern by debate. I do not want a president who views everything as a zero-sum game. I want my president to LEAD, to LISTEN, to UNDERSTAND COMPLEX MATTERS, to INNOVATE, to PERSUADE AND INSPIRE consensus amongst conflicting interests, and finally, to BE AN HONEST, DECENT PERSON.

That's why Obama needs to take his case directly to the voters.

Debates are too often exercises in oneupmanship and gotchas rather than a true reflection of one's complex ideas and positions, which cannot be summed up in 30-second attack answers.

1 2 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
President Obama
Republican Politics
Democratic Politics



Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: