Before Tom Brokaw formally stepped down as interim host of the long-running NBC news show “Meet The Press,” he had one last important interview to conduct. For his last interview, before passing the reins to David Gregory, Tom Brokaw talked with President-Elect Barack Obama.
Tom Brokaw, professional to the end, set the stage for the interview by backgrounding it with the disquieting parameters the job awaiting President-Elect Obama after his inauguration. He reminded Obama that he the country in an “official recession,” that terrorism had reared its ugly head again in Mumbai, India, that unemployment was at its highest numbers in fifteen years, that the automotive industry was nearing collapse. To which Obama replied that, as bad it is, it still does not compare to the problems facing the country during the Great Depression.
Obama told Brokaw that the economy was the “number one priority coming in” for his administration. He also said that the Big 3 automakers could not be allowed to fail. Obama pointed out that restructuring was needed, pulled short of saying that the government needed an “Auto Czar,” and maintained that the car companies would have to be accountable and implement plans to become competitive or lose in the long run. Pointing out that government takeover of businesses generally ended in failure (historically), the President-Elect told Brokaw, “We don’t want government to run companies.” But he pointed out that America needs and wants an auto industry that actually works and functions properly, not one that keeps heading to Washington for loans. Taxpayers were demanding accountability.
Brokaw asked if current executive management at the Big 3 should be replaced. Obama hedged, saying that “incremental progress” had been made, that there had been “investment in green technology.” He said that, however, the car companies had had no “sense of urgency.” Obama said that company executives needed to begin making sacrifices, just as their workers had and were, suggesting “give up some of your compensations and your bonuses.”
When Brokaw suggested a gasoline tax, Obama said that he felt that, given the current economy, an “additional burden is a mistake.”
And mortgages? Was Obama’s proposal to give homeowners a three-month moratorium still an option. Obama said that it was an “important option.” He said that his Economic Team was also working on other options, including the restructuring of mortgages, which he believed would lend itself to long-term benefits of the country as a whole.
Brokaw asked if Obama and/or his Economic Team had conveyed their concerns and ideas to Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson. The President-Elect said that they had, then pointedly said that dealing in half measures – such as fixing Wall Street’s problems without fixing Main Street’s – would not work. Obama pointed out that the housing market needed strengthening and that more regulations would be needed to curtail speculation and the destabilizing business practices like those that led to the current mortgage and financial crises. President-Elect Obama said, “Everything is so interdependent.”
Obama also told Tom Brokaw that his administration would work on policies to not only strengthen the economy, but the economic status of every citizen. He pointed out that in the past ten years there had been a drastic wealth shift, mostly toward the already wealthy. He said that putting a heavier tax burden on the wealthy had worked in previous administration’s to strengthen the country’s economic standing through the buying power of the average citizen. “When we all do well, the economy is going to benefit.”
Although the overall tone of the interview (with regard to the economy) was reassuring, President-Elect Obama tempered it all by saying that it was going “to get worse before it gets better.” A healthy dose of realism no doubt should go a long way in dealing with too many detractors in the first few months of the nascent administration. Not that that will stop the hardliners like Rush Limbaugh, who has already begun calling the economy “Obama’s Recession.” But it must be remembered that it took months upon months to slide into the current economic situation, so it will take more of same to climb back out.
Tom Brokaw’s last appearance as host on “Meet The Press” not only showcased the skills of the veteran newsman, but it also extended to the American people an image of an incoming president confident of his and his appointees’ abilities to do the difficult job necessary to run the United States during admittedly trying times. For this image and the presenting of Obama as a man in charge, the American people were given another glimpse of what made Tom Brokaw the award-winning news journalist he was for four decades.
David Gregory will take over as host of “Meet The Press” on December 14.
“Meet The Press,” NBC Television