Brinkley Boosts Obama Interview on CBS, CNN; Brushes Off President's 'BS-er' Slam

Liberal historian Douglas Brinkley gushed over President Obama on Thursday's CBS This Morning and Friday's CNN Newsroom, and tried to put the incumbent in the best possible light: "He's [Obama] a very natural person....He's a really warm and genial person. What he has going for him is he exudes family values." Brinkley later asserted to CNN's Suzanne Malveaux that Obama is an "intellectual...he reads all these books about Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, FDR...he's wonkish, in a sense of detail in history."

Both times, the Rice University professor downplayed the President's "BS-er" smear of his opponent, Mitt Romney, that emerged during his recent Rolling Stone interview of the Democrat by using the veneer of history: "It's another part of 'Romnesia', I suppose. The working man's 'Romnesia' is BS-er....I mean...there's no love between even John F. Kennedy and his own vice president, Lyndon Johnson; let alone Harry Truman, who once said about Eisenhower, he knows no more about politics than a pig knows about Sunday."

The writer repeated many of the same talking points about the chief executive during his appearances on the CBS morning show and on the CNN midday newscast. On Thursday, he replied to Charlie Rose's first question about his interview of Obama by spotlighting that "what I really got out of it, is that he's starting to play for the base hard right now, and he's going to use the overturning of Roe versus Wade as a possible incentive, to make sure he keeps women on his side - that issue. It's been a year of women in – in '12, and he's pushing that hard."

Brinkley gave a similar answer to Malveaux during the second half of her interview on Friday:

BRINKLEY: I thought the most interesting thing to me was how determined he was to say, no qualifiers, that if Mitt Romney becomes president, most likely, the effort to undo Roe versus Wade is upon us - really hitting that kind of hard when you read the interview - that there'll be a new Supreme Court justice; it will give it five people that want to undo Roe versus Wade; and that women need to wake up.

Open Obama supporter Gayle King asked her guest to counter a stereotype of the President: "He's considered self-reserved by nature, by many who – who say that they know him. Do you feel that you saw real moments when you spent time with him? Because you observed him for quite a lot – a lot of time before the 45-minute interview."

The liberal author gave his "really warm and genial person" answer about the Democrat, and added that "he's a great father; he's a – he has his mother-in-law around all the time; and he's – you know, a great husband."

Even though President Obama promised to "set aside childish things" in his 2009 inaugural address and emphasized at the memorial for the Arizona shooting victims in 2011 that Americans need to "make sure that we're talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds", Norah O'Donnell merely asked Brinkley, regarding the incumbent's "BS-er" slam, if it's "unusual to have this kind of dislike for your opponent, or is that natural?"

The CBS anchor got a bit stronger in her follow-up question: "But doesn't that say something about the state of politics? I mean, shouldn't you, at least, respect your opponent, or have some respect for them? I'm just wondering about where this fits, then, in the history of challengers?" Brinkley answered with his historical anecdotes about JFK, LBJ, and Truman.

Malveaux pressed the liberal historian a bit harder than O'Donnell did during her Friday interview, but he played the role of Obama apologist:

MALVEAUX: ...There was a moment here that caught our attention - this exchange between the President and, of course, Rolling Stone executive editor Eric Bates. This was, really, on the way out of the interview. Bates asked the President – he says his six-year-old daughter is rooting for him. And you write that the President responds to this, saying, 'You know, kids have good instincts. They look at the other guy and say, well, that's a BS-er, I can tell.' The President actually used the whole phrase there. We can make – we can certainly make it out what he actually said here. What do you think about the fact that he used that language?

BRINKLEY: Oh, he's – well, he's...I think we all use that word. He's very human, and it's, sort of, part of the 'Romnesia' theme. It's no – nothing really too new with that, that he doesn't trust Mitt Romney. He's – he was – I asked him-

MALVEAUX: But the language is new, Doug. I mean, obviously, the language is pretty tart there.


MALVEAUX: Do you think that was intentional?

BRINKLEY: I don't know, because I can't do the 'I think'. I just know it happened. I mean, people make a lot out of it, but I read – you know, Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy used to say that word almost every moment - so did LBJ. I think, if anything, we see a President that seldom uses that. During the BP spill, he used 'kick ass', and it created a little bit of a stir. But he seems pretty cautious. In this anecdote, it was, kind of, an informal moment.

MALVEAUX: I – I have my own theory on that because, you know, there was a, kind of, off-the-mic moment last go around, when he called Kanye West a jack-blank – and you know the word we are talking about, and it seemed as if he regretted that. I think he was pretty intentional with this. I mean, this is something that, perhaps, speaks to younger voters and the language that they're using, or that he's being a little bit more forthcoming about what he means there, and that he's very intentional about what he says and when he says it.

This is nothing new from Brinkley. During an August 2012 appearance on CBS This Morning, he sang the praises of the Kennedy family, and focused particular attention of the children of Robert Kennedy: "It's just remarkable to me how Bobby Kennedy's kids keep making public policy influences." 

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