On CBS, Dickerson Defends 'Obama Can Only Cement His Legacy If He Destroys the GOP' Column

Wednesday's CBS This Morning set up John Dickerson to brazenly defend his Friday column for the Washington Post's Slate.com, "Go for the Throat!", where he concluded that President Obama "can only cement his legacy if he destroys the GOP." Dickerson fired back at conservative critics of his piece by claiming that he "wasn't trying to give advice. I was trying to highlight, in a very stark way, what seems like an impossible-to-avoid conclusion about this second term." [audio clips available here; video below]

The journalist's admitted "very stark" language was apparent in his item for Slate. In the sentence following the "destroy the GOP" line, Dickerson added that "if he [Obama] wants to transform American politics, he must go for the throat." Four paragraphs later, he continued that "Obama's only remaining option is to pulverize. Whether he succeeds in passing legislation or not...his goal should be to delegitimize his opponents."

Anchor Charlie Rose raised the controversy over the Friday article near the end of a segment with Dickerson: "You wrote a piece in which you said the President has decided that accommodations didn't work, and that his only remaining option is to pulverize. Some conservatives have jumped back at you. So, what do you say to the criticism that they're making?"

After acknowledging that "there was some pretty aggressive language in the piece," the CBS News political director made his denial about giving "personal advice" to Obama. He continued with many of the points he made in a follow-up column for Slate on Tuesday, and added that the President was seemingly following the path towards "destroying" the Republicans:

JOHN DICKERSON: ...We know the President wants to be transformational and not just bounce along in his second term. We also know he doesn't have much time before he's a lame duck. He's picked a controversial agenda for a second term; and, most important, he's decided, essentially, to write off trying to cajole and schmooz the House GOP. That's just a conclusion they've made in the White House.

So, given all of those facts, what does an ambitious President try to do? And the only president I could – and the only solution I could come up with is that he gets aggressive. That seems to be the only option. I wrote this before the inauguration. Now, he's given a speech that suggests that's exactly what he's going to do.

This is actually the second time Dickerson has defended his Friday Slate column on the air. Mere hours before the inaugural ceremony on Monday, the CBS News political director made some of the same points that he made in his Tuesday column during the network's live coverage:

DICKERSON: ...This is not a speech full of specifics....This is about themes. But in it, the President will be making a case for what he won. This is a part of his new tone in...his second administration, which is a more aggressive tone. And in dealing with Congress, one final note: it's not so much that he doesn't think schmoozing will work because they're not nice people. He just thinks that a deal made with Republicans in Congress in the House specifically will not get through the House. And that he has to be more aggressive because only aggression will get deals made.

Back in November 2012, the journalist all but crossed his fingers during a segment on CBS This Morning as he forwarded the idea of letting the country go over the looming fiscal cliff so President Obama could gain the political advantage: "There is an argument for actually...letting this happen. The President gets even more leverage." 

— Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.