CBS and ABC Wish Obama Happy Birthday: Still 'Full of Energy,' But Feeling 'Weight of the Presidency'
Playing Stevie Wonder's version of 'Happy Birthday' at the end of Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Erica Hill reported: "The Obamas, of course, big Stevie Wonder fans. And President Obama, 49 years old today." After she observed that Obama looked a little grayer, co-host Harry Smith, who interviewed the President on Friday, chimed in: "He came bounding into the interview area full of energy."
Smith went on to note how "in terms of energy and sort of lines on the face or any of that other kind of stuff....looks like [Obama's] still got it together." Hill wondered: "He doesn't look tired or drawn or stressed?" Smith replied, "No, no. Nope," and started to joke about his own age: "[Obama] was probably very happy to see me....Because Lord knows, everybody likes it when they see the old- "
At that point, weatherman Dave Price interjected: "But keep in mind, you really never notice it until you see those pictures." He added: "...the only one who really came out looking just like he did was Reagan....left looking great." Smith couldn't resist getting in a quick shot at the late president: "...they insisted till the end that he never dyed his hair."
Back in 2001, Early Show news reader Melissa McDermott offered only a dry, three-sentence news brief on President George W. Bush's 55th birthday: "Well, today is President Bush's 55th birthday. Mr. and Mrs. Bush arrived in Maine yesterday to celebrate with family and friends at the family's home in Kennebunkport, Maine. The White House says his only goals for the day are to make an early tee time and shoot a low score." In 2002, Tracy Smith and Mark Knoller added a couple extra lines to a nearly identical brief:
TRACY SMITH: All right, Mark. Now it is the president's 56th birthday today, so how's he celebrating? KNOLLER: Well, he's celebrating it with his family at the family home here at Kennebunkport, Maine. The president and his dad were up early this morning, teeing off for a round of golf at just after 6 AM. There'll be a birthday party by the family for the president this evening. We're told there will be birthday cake and singing.SMITH: Yum. All right. Thanks, Mark.
There was no birthday music or discussion of Bush's energy level and hair color.
The Early Show wasn't the only network morning show to send Obama a special birthday message on Wednesday, ABC's Good Morning America had a similar segment. With 'They say it's your birthday!' playing in the background, co-host Robin Roberts announced: "...the President of the United States is celebrating his 49th birthday today." A headline on-screen read: "Happy Birthday, Mr. President: Has White House Aged Obama?"
Correspondent Yunji de Nies reported: "It's the President's birthday. And apparently, he's been feeling his age....It was just 18 months ago that the vibrant 47-year-old took the oath." A clip was played of de Nies fretting over the President's aging to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs: "Does he feel like the weight of the presidency is, perhaps, accelerating his aging?" She explained: "This president isn't unique. Bill Clinton entered a fresh-faced baby-boomer and emerged mature. Eight years weren't easy an George W. Bush, either. And take a look at Abraham Lincoln. No matter the century, the Oval Office takes its toll."
De Nies went so far as to ask Dr. Michael Roizen of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, "What's the best advice on his birthday? How can he stay young?" Roizen replied: "Keep playing basketball. And make sure he makes time for family time."
Here is a transcript of the August 4 Early Show segment:
[SONG: Happy birthday to you]
ERICA HILL: A little Stevie Wonder Happy Birthday for you. The Obamas, of course, big Stevie Wonder fans. And President Obama, 49 years old today.
HARRY SMITH: You really tied it all together there.
HILL: I just - I just tied it up with a bow for you on a birthday gift.
DAVE PRICE: Thank you Casey Kasem.
HILL: Any time. Your top 40-
DAVE PRICE: How about a long distance dedication?
HILL: Oh, coming up a little later in the show. So, it's President Obama's birthday today. He's heading home to Chicago to celebrate tonight. Of course, Mrs. Obama and Sasha are in Spain, Malia's at camp. He's hanging out with friends in Chicago. I got to ask you, Harry, he's looks a little gray, but other than that, you just interviewed him last week-
SMITH: It was on Friday. He came bounding into the interview area full of energy. That is the most telling thing, is - he really is grayer, without question, grayer, but in terms of energy and sort of lines on the face or any of that other kind of stuff, we've seen over the years what being in the White House can do to a president.
HILL: What it does.
SMITH: And he looks like he's-
HILL: Even his face?
SMITH: -at least overtly, looks like he's still got it together.
HILL: He doesn't look tired or drawn or stressed?
SMITH: No, no. Nope, he was - well, he was probably very happy to see me-
JEFF GLOR: Of course, of course.
SMITH: Because Lord knows, everybody likes it when they see the old-
PRICE: But keep in mind, you really never notice it until you see those pictures one, two - I mean, look at Carter. You know, the only one who really came out looking just like he did was Reagan. He went into the office, you know, being relatively senior, and left the same. And left looking great.
SMITH: And you know,
GLOR: Of course not.
HILL: I have no comment.
GLOR: Reagan always looked great.
HILL: Hey, have a great day, everyone. If it's your birthday, happy birthday to you as well. Stay tuned, your local news is next.
Here is a full transcript of the Good Morning America segment:
ROBIN ROBERTS [singing] They say it's your birthday! Around the water cooler this morning, nine days before Sam celebrates his birthday, the President of the United States is celebrating his 49th birthday today.
ABC GRAPHIC: Happy Birthday, Mr. President: Has White House Aged Obama?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Sam's only going to be 34.
SAM CHAMPION: No, we're oddly the same age. But, I do love you for that, George.
ROBERTS: See how close you were to becoming the President of the United States. But, he's on his own, Barack Obama is, today. He's in Chicago, because Malia is at sleep away camp. Michelle is with Ms. Obama on vacation in-
ROBERTS: in Spain. And, so, he'll have a celebratory dinner we're the boys, with his friends in Chicago tonight. Yunji de Nies decided to take a look, because this is his second birthday in office, to see how the two years have treated him.
YUNJI DE NIES: It's the President's birthday. And apparently, he's been feeling his age.
BARACK OBAMA [montage]: I have a lot more gray hair than I did last year. I don't have as much gray hair in that clip. [At a Subway] I want everybody to know when I was 20, I could order a 12-inch. I'm turning 49 next week, which means I need just the half.
DE NIES: It was just 18 months ago that the vibrant 47-year-old took the oath.
OBAMA: So, help me, God.
DE NIES: As months grow, so do the grays. [At a press conference.] Does he feel like the weight of the presidency is, perhaps, accelerating his aging?
ROBERT GIBBS: I can't imagine that the weight of the job doesn't take a toll. It will just require that he get more frequent hair cuts.
DE NIES: This president isn't unique. Bill Clinton entered a fresh-faced baby-boomer and emerged mature. Eight years weren't easy an George W. Bush, either. And take a look at Abraham Lincoln. No matter the century, the Oval Office takes its toll.
DR. MICHAEL ROIZEN (Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic): We looked at all the presidents and the typical one ages two years for every year they're in office.
DE NIES: Using Aprilage Facial Progression Software, we got a glimpse of what the President might look like after one term in office. And then, after two. What's the best advice on his birthday? How can he stay young?
ROIZEN: Keep playing basketball. And make sure he makes time for family time.
DE NIES: For Good Morning America, Yunji de Nies, ABC News, the White House.
ROBERTS: I think our stage manager, Angie, said it's all the secrets they know as president. You think you know what's going on in the world. But, once you become president and you open up the docket and you go-
STEPHANOPOULOS: oh, my god.
JUJU CHANG: I have to settle that now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Our gift will be, we'll send him a case of Grecian Formula 16.
-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.