CBS Reporter Files Puff Piece on Obama Using Letters that ‘Construct His Political Narrative’

Thursday’s edition of CBS This Morning featured the latest installment in the media’s love affair with President Barack Obama. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante switched course from a constructive work of journalism he did Tuesday to a fluff piece on how Obama uses letters Americans send to the White House “to construct his political agenda.”

The story comes as Obama headed to Minnesota on Thursday to have lunch with a woman who wrote to him about how sending her two children to daycare costs more than her family’s mortgage payment. Plante marveled about how the woman’s letter “fit perfectly into the President's agenda to emphasize the difficulties facing working families.” [MP3 audio here]

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It was two days earlier that Plante took two other well-known Democrats, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, to task for their attempts to relate to middle class voters. Here, however, Plante reversed course and reported on how the office of the president “is often characterized as being aloof” and out of touch with Americans. To change that, Plante said “he often pulls a letter out of his mailbox” so he can “rally support for his agenda.”

Plante noted that Obama has done this on numerous occasions by playing three separate clips of him naming individuals who he received letters from. Further, Plante detailed how one letter from a cancer survivor that Obama referenced during the push to enact Obamacare in 2010 led her to be “the centerpiece of a health care event in Ohio” that year.

At the end of the story, Plante reported that after having lunch with the woman and having her attend a town hall event that he is holding in the Minneapolis area, he will be attending a fund-raiser tonight for Democrats.

The complete transcript is transcribed below. 

CBS This Morning

June 26, 2014

8:06 a.m. Eastern

NORAH O’DONNELL: Well, President Obama switches gears this morning when he leaves for Minnesota and that's where he'll come face to face with Rebekah Erler. She’s a mother of two who wrote a letter that got his attention. Bill Plante is at the White House with more on this special trip. Bill, good morning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: “Dear Mr. President: Obama Meeting With MN Woman Who Wrote Him”]

BILL PLANTE: Good morning. Well, you know, the president is often characterized as being aloof. But, when he wants to show that he's in touch with the concerns of average Americans, and to rally support for his agenda at the same time, he often pulls a letter out of his mailbox. 

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Look, I definitely feel folks' pain. 

PLANTE: Every night, the White House staff culls ten letters from the thousands received for the president to read. 

OBAMA: A few months ago I got a letter from a woman named Sheila Artice. 

Couple weeks ago I got a letter from Julia Walsh in California. 

Couple weeks ago I got a letter from Jeffrey Huff. 

PLANTE: The president uses the writers of those letters to construct his political narrative and to show that he can relate to folks on an emotional level. Meet Rebekah Erler of St. Anthony Park, Minnesota, with whom the president will have lunch today. 

REBEKAH ERLER: I was frustrated. I paid for my – our family's mortgage payment and our child care payment all on the same day and I was really frustrated at how much it all cost. 

PLANTE: The Erlers both work and have two children in preschool which, said Rebekah, costs more than their mortgage. 

ERLER: Somebody has to say something about this. This is nuts. It costs more in Minnesota to send kids to daycare than it does to send them to in-state college. 

PLANTE: Erler’s letter fit perfectly into the president's agenda to emphasize the difficulties facing working families and he used her letter at this week's White House summit. 

OBAMA: I recently got a letter from a woman in Minnesota whose kid's preschool is so expensive, it costs more than her monthly mortgage payment. 

PLANTE: In 2010, as he tried to pass health care, President Obama read a group of insurance executives a letter from cancer survivor Natoma Canfield that later made her the centerpiece of a health care event in Ohio. 

OBAMA: I'm here because of Natoma. 

PLANTE: And again last year at the white house. 

OBAMA: I kept Natola’s story with me as we fought to pass this law and I hung her letter on one of my walls in the Oval Office. 

PLANTE: Now, today's presidential trip is just the first in a series of person-to-person meetings across the country designed to position the administration and the Democrats as more concerned about the economic problems of every day Americans than the Republicans. After lunch today, Rebekah Erler will join the president at a town hall event before he heads off to a fund-raiser in support of Democrats. Gayle?

GAYLE KING: Alright, Bill Plante, thank you. 

— Curtis Houck is News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Curtis Houck on Twitter.