‘Destructive’ Fox News And The ‘Darker’ Parts Of The Tea Party: Obama’s Rolling Stone Interview

September 28, 2010 7:40 a.m.

Progressives itching to hear President Obama call out the tea party, take on Fox News and call on his liberal base to step up to the plate in November should head to newsstands and pick up the Oct. 15 issue of Rolling Stone (or just click here). Progressives who want to quibble with Obama and listen to him explain why LGBT rights haven’t found their way into the U.S. military yet, why Gitmo’s still open and why they have no public health insurance option should pick up a copy, too.

Two years after Obama became the first politician to ever win an endorsement from the magazine, Rolling Stone‘s Jann Wenner sat down for a wide-ranging interview with the the president that seems directly aimed at his Democratic progressive base. From discussing the hipness of his iPod (L’il Wayne plus a little opera, natch) to coming this close to calling the tea party racist, it’s a fun read for his fans. For his left-leaning detractors, the president’s probably still got a lot to answer for.

Here now are some juicy morsels from the interview.

On The Darker Aspects Of The Tea Party

“What do you think of the Tea Party and the people behind it?,” Wenner asks. Obama breaks down the movement as a little bit libertarian, a little bit social conservative and a little bit frustrated middle class. “Their anger is misdirected,” Obama says. Beyond that, Obama says the movement is a little bit, well, you know…

And then there are probably some aspects of the Tea Party that are a little darker, that have to do with anti-immigrant sentiment or are troubled by what I represent as the president. So I think it’s hard to characterize the Tea Party as a whole, and I think it’s still defining itself.

On How Fox News Is Destroying America

“Do you think it’s a good institution for America and for democracy?,” Wenner asks, referring to the nation’s most-watched cable news outlet. Obama takes the opportunity to essentially call Fox News mogul Rupert Murdoch the Charles Foster Kane of our age.

The golden age of an objective press was a pretty narrow span of time in our history. Before that, you had folks like Hearst who used their newspapers very intentionally to promote their viewpoints. I think Fox is part of that tradition — it is part of the tradition that has a very clear, undeniable point of view. It’s a point of view that I disagree with. It’s a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world.

On Telling Progressives To Wake Up And Smell The Coffee, Er, Tea

After the interview was officially over, Obama apparently wouldn’t let Wenner leave until he got a chance to get real with the frustrated/apathetic left. “Signaled by his aides, the president brings the interview to a close and leaves the Oval Office,” Wenner writes. “A moment later, however, he returns to the office and says that he has one more thing to add. He speaks with intensity and passion, repeatedly stabbing the air with his finger.”

One closing remark that I want to make: It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election. There may be complaints about us not having gotten certain things done, not fast enough, making certain legislative compromises. But right now, we’ve got a choice between a Republican Party that has moved to the right of George Bush and is looking to lock in the same policies that got us into these disasters in the first place, versus an administration that, with some admitted warts, has been the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward.

The idea that we’ve got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible…It has been hard, and we’ve got some lumps to show for it. But if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren’t serious in the first place.

On How That Hopey-Changey Stuff Is Working Out

In a nutshell, Obama blames the GOP for not delivering more on the promises he made on the campaign trail. Which is not to say Obama thinks he hasn’t delivered — according to him, his administration has delivered in spades. The president points to health care reform, financial reform, the stimulus, student loan reform and “ending” the war in Iraq as evidence he has done what he said he would.

“I keep in my pocket a checklist of the promises I made during the campaign, and here I am, halfway through my first term, and we’ve probably accomplished 70 percent of the things that we said we were going to do — and by the way, I’ve got two years left to finish the rest of the list, at minimum.”

On The Lack Of Options When It Came To The Public Option

There was no chance at getting a public option as a part of heath care reform, Obama tells Wenner. So quit your bellyachin’.

I could have had a knock-down, drag-out fight on the public option that might have energized you and The Huffington Post, and we would not have health care legislation now.

On Leaving Gitmo Open, After All

Let’s just take a glass half-full view of that extra-jurisdictional prison for accused terrorists America still runs down in Cuba, Obama says.

“When people start being concerned about, ‘You haven’t closed Guantánamo yet,’ I say, listen, that’s something I wanted to get done by now, and I haven’t gotten done because of recalcitrance from the other side.”

On Asking and Telling (Sort Of) About Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Obama reiterates his support for ending DADT, and seems unhappy he hasn’t gotten more credit for what he has done when it comes to the still-active military ban on open homosexuality.

Understandably, everybody has a great sense of urgency about these issues. But one of the things that I constantly want to counsel my friends is to keep the long view in mind. On social issues, something like “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Here, I’ve got the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff both committed to changing the policy. That’s a big deal.

Read the whole thing here.

Support The TPM Journalism Fund
  • Contributions allow us to hire more journalists
  • Contributions allow us to provide free memberships to those who cannot afford them
  • Contributions support independent, non-corporate journalism
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: