CBS vs. CBS: Is Obama "Open to Ideas" or Demanding "Surrender"?

On Tuesday's CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric and White House reporter Chip Reid cast President Obama's push for "bipartisanship" in a favorable light, with Obama "working hard," "following through on a promise" and "open to ideas from Republicans." But in an item posted on, Reid's fellow CBS White House correspondent, Mark Knoller - who has covered every President since Gerald Ford in the mid-1970s - was far more skeptical: "When a sitting President calls for bipartisanship by the opposition - he really means surrender."

Knoller's blog, with the jaundiced headline: "Obama Says Bipartisanshp, But What He Wants Is GOP Surrender," was posted at roughly the same time the CBS Evening News was airing on the East Coast. [Here in Washington, D.C., the CBS affiliate WUSA-TV pre-empted the Evening News in favor of local weather coverage, but I was able to view the entire February 9 broadcast at]

Knoller painted the President as motivated by frustration: "His top legislative priorities are going nowhere and he's searching for a way to get them out of lockup." After recounting past Presidents' tactical demands for bipartisanship, Knoller outlined the political motive:

When a sitting president calls for bipartisanship by the opposition - he really means surrender. And if they block his proposals, its "obstinacy" and not political views they hold as strongly as he holds his. Mr. Obama again said the American people are frustrated by the political stalemate in Congress. And he can be counted among the frustrated as well.

Little of that skepticism was evident on the on-air broadcast, as Couric claimed Obama was "working hard to try to bring Democrats and Republicans together." Reporter Chip Reid saw Obama's meeting as "following through on a promise," only to be thwarted by GOP leaders who "dug in their feet" when it came to Obama's health care proposals.

On health care, Reid agreed that while the President is demanding that any negotiations begin with the Democratic-written bills passed by the House and Senate, "he's open to other ideas from Republicans. But, you know, that's really what he's been saying all along."

[The CBS Evening News also skipped how, shortly after Obama made his plea for bipartisanship, his press secretary Robert Gibbs took a highly partisan shot at former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, showing reoprters the words "hope" and "change" written on his palm.]

Here's the full item from the February 9 Evening News, as viewed at

KATIE COURIC: The snow has much of the federal government shut down, but President Obama was working hard today to try to bring Democrats and Republicans together. And he later made a surprise appearance. Chip Reid was there.

[Graphic headlines: Bipartisan Politics; Looking for Common Ground]

CHIP REID: At the White House today, the President met with congressional leaders from both parties, following through on a promise to give bipartisanship another chance.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We're going to be doing these on a regular basis.

REID: Republican leaders emerged with some hope of working together on a jobs bill that focuses on tax breaks for small business.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: There's a chance we could move this forward on a bipartisan basis.

REID: But, when the topic turned to health care reform, they dug in their feet.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: It really is time to scrap the bill and start over.

REID: Soon after that, the President made a surprise visit to the briefing room, with a stern response, making clear he will not abandon health reform bills now before Congress.

OBAMA: Bipartisanship can't be that I agree to all the things that they believe in or want, and they agree to none of the things I believe in or want.

REID: But he also tried to keep the door open, slightly, to compromise.

OBAMA: So, I'm going to be starting from scratch in the sense that I will be open to any ideas that help promote these goals.

REID: In his mini-press conference, the President also talked about Iran's nuclear program. He said that in the coming weeks, the United States and other nations will be unveiling a new set of tough sanctions, Katie.

COURIC: And, Chip, what does the President really mean when he says he's willing to start from scratch?

REID: Well, he is not willing to start from scratch, Katie. He made clear that what that means to him is that he's willing to look at ideas from Republicans - and Robert Gibbs, the press secretary, made very clear later on that he is not backing away from those massive bills that are now before Congress. Those will be the starting point, but he's open to other ideas from Republicans. But, you know, that's really what he's been saying all along. No change, Katie.

COURIC: Chip Reid, in a snowy Washington, D.C. tonight. Thank you, Chip.

-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center.