CBS always assigns Steve Kroft to interview President Obama, and Kroft never fails to echo the latest right-wing talking points framed as questions to the President. Last night was no different.
When Kroft got to the question about Syria, Putin, and leadership, it was framed in the usual right-wing way, with Kroft suggesting Putin was challenging Obama's leadership. Translated from Village-speak, that reads as "leading from behind."
Obama's response was swift and somewhat derisive. From the transcript:
Steve Kroft: --bombing the people-- that we are supporting.
President Barack Obama: So that's leading, Steve? Let me ask you this question. When I came into office, Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin. Syria was Russia's only ally in the region. And today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria, which they've had for a long time, Mr. Putin now is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally. And in Ukraine--
Steve Kroft: He's challenging your leadership, Mr. President. He's challenging your leadership-
President Barack Obama: -Well Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we've got a different definition of leadership. My definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we'll get in Paris. My definition of leadership is mobilizing the entire world community to make sure that Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon. And with respect to the Middle East, we've got a 60-country coalition that isn't suddenly lining up around Russia's strategy. To the contrary, they are arguing that, in fact, that strategy will not work.
Take careful note of how Kroft uses the word "they." It's a mysterious "they," for sure, but from the context we can assume they are right-wing talking point writers.
The President was having none of it, even when Kroft continued to press the point. It's almost embarrassing to watch Kroft try to press the President toward war. It's definitely galling.
Steve Kroft: You say he's doing this out of weakness. There is a perception in the Middle East among our adversaries, certainly and even among some of our allies that the United States is in retreat, that we pulled our troops out of Iraq and ISIS has moved in and taken over much of that territory. The situation in Afghanistan is very precarious and the Taliban is on the march again. And ISIS controls a large part of Syria.
President Barack Obama: I think it's fair to say, Steve, that if--
Steve Kroft: It's-- they-- let me just finish the thought. They say your--
President Barack Obama: You're--
Steve Kroft: --they say you're projecting a weakness, not a strength--
President Barack Obama: --you're saying "they," but you're not citing too many folks. But here--
Steve Kroft: No, I'll cite-- I'll cite if you want me, too.
President Barack Obama: --here-- yes. Here--
Steve Kroft: I'd say the Saudis. I'd say the Israelis. I'd say a lot of our friends in the Middle East. I'd say everybody in the Republican party. Well, you want me to keep going?
President Barack Obama: Yeah. The-- the-- if you are-- if you're citing the Republican party, I think it's fair to say that there is nothing I've done right over the last seven and a half years. And I think that's right. It-- and-- I also think what is true is that these are the same folks who were making an argument for us to go into Iraq and who, in some cases, still have difficulty acknowledging that it was a mistake. And Steve, I guarantee you that there are factions inside of the Middle East, and I guess factions inside the Republican party who think that we should send endless numbers of troops into the Middle East, that the only measure of strength is us sending back several hundred thousand troops, that we are going to impose a peace, police the region, and-- that the fact that we might have more deaths of U.S. troops, thousands of troops killed, thousands of troops injured, spend another trillion dollars, they would have no problem with that. There are people who would like to see us do that. And unless we do that, they'll suggest we're in retreat.
The President continued in this vein until he stripped away all of Kroft's concerns, one by one. I only wish he had also slammed Kroft and his Republican friends for their ridiculous Putin worship, which is disgusting.
Kroft was left with the "are we safer today?" fallback question, which the President also shredded.
Steve Kroft: Do you think the world's a safer place?
President Barack Obama: America is a safer place. I think that there are places, obviously, like Syria that are not safer than when I came into office. But, in terms of us protecting ourselves against terrorism, in terms of us making sure that we are strengthening our alliances, in terms of our reputation around the world, absolutely we're stronger.