A frustrated President Obama reacted angrily to tough questions during an interview aired last night from CBS interviewer Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes.
Regarding Syria and ISIS, Kroft pointed out that it had already been a year since Obama announced military action in the region with little signs of progress.
Obama was dismissive of the notion that it was his job to eliminate ISIS.
“Over time, the community of nations will all get rid of them, and we will be leading getting rid of them,” he said.
When challenged over his failed $500 million training program for fighters in Syria, Obama quickly added that he was “skeptical from the beginning” but that it was important to “try different things.”
As Obama expressed skepticism about multiple theoretical solutions for the Middle East including training or arming Syrian rebels, he remarked that there were no “silver bullets” in Syria.
“I feel like I’m being filibustered Mr. President,” Kroft interrupted.
“No, no, no, no, no. Steve,” Obama replied with a flash of annoyance. “I think if you want to roll back the tape, you’ve been giving me long questions and statements, and now I’m responding to ’em. So let’s — so — if you ask me big, open-ended questions, expect big, open-ended answers.
When challenged over Putin, Obama dismissed the idea that somehow he was outmaneuvered even though he admitted that intelligence indicated that they knew he would act in Syria.
“He’s challenging your leadership Mr. President,” Kroft said, prompting a strong reaction from Obama.
“Steve, I gotta tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in, in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we’ve got a different definition of leadership,” he said. “My definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we’ll get in Paris.”
Obama insisted that his critics would only be content if thousands of American troops and trillions of American dollars would continue to be spent in the region to try to solve the political situation in the Middle East and combat Putin.
After the contentious interview, Kroft informed his viewers that the pair halted the interview for a water break before resuming their conversation.
“What else do you got?” Obama challenged Kroft with a grin as the interview resumed.
Perhaps Obama was surprised by Kroft’s unusual toughness, after years of 60 Minutes interviews where he was allowed to answer questions at his own pace. The most surprising portion of the interview was hearing Kroft repeatedly interrupting the president and pressing him on foreign policy.
A frequent interviewer of the president, Kroft has been mocked by critics for giving Obama softball questions, allowing him to distract from the questions by lengthy responses.
After Kroft sat down with both Hillary Clinton and Obama in 2013 to discuss the nature of their relationship, many journalists marveled at the coziness that Kroft was experiencing with the Obama White House.
The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf called that interview “a performance that ought to earn him a rebuke from his peers in the news business.”
Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan described that interview as “so soft, so dazzled, so supportive, so embarrassing.”
Other journalists recalled a 2013 interview with Piers Morgan where Kroft admitted that “we’re not going to play ‘gotcha’ with him” and that 60 Minutes was “not going to go out of our way to make him look bad or stupid.” “We’ll let him answer the questions,” he said.
Now that Obama is in the fourth quarter of his presidency, perhaps Kroft decided it was time to turn up the heat. But after last night’s contentious interview, it will be interesting to see if Kroft ever interviews this president again.