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CNN Donates 42 Minutes to Puff Obama Interview: Hypes New Dog, But Not IRS Scandal

CNN's Chris Cuomo scored an exclusive interview with Barack Obama on Friday and donated a whopping 42 minutes of his three hour New Day program to playing (and replaying) the discussion with the President. Despite all that time, the host never brought up the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups or the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi. Cuomo did mention Syria crossing Obama's publicly declared "red line," but only briefly.

What did Cuomo highlight? Daughters Malia and Sasha growing up to be teenagers, the President's new dog, including jokes about Sunny defecating on the White House rug. Perhaps the friendly tone isn't surprising as Obama spent Thursday hanging out with Chris Cuomo's brother, the Democratic Governor of New York. In addition to relaxing with Andrew Cuomo, he also met up with his teen daughters Cara Cuomo, Mariah Cuomo and Michaela Cuomo. On Friday, Chris Cuomo joked to the Commander in Chief: "What is more daunting to you, the prospects of protecting the free world or dealing with a teenager and a near teen?" [MP3 audio here.]

He added, "What gives you more pause for concern?" After Obama insisted that he and the First Lady were already dreading the daughters going off to college, Cuomo sympathized, "Is that what the dog is about? The new dog?"

The President joked about Sunny, the puppy, having "accidents" in the White House. The anchor laughed, "Is that, like, a federal violation?

Co-anchor Kate Bolduan teased the dog section as the part of the interview "everyone wants to hear."

Again, no mention of the IRS scandal or the debacle in Benghazi. Cuomo made time for a brief discussion about Syria's apparent chemical attack, what Obama, a year ago, said would be a "red line." The host wondered, "The red line comment you made was about a year ago this week. We know there are things that should qualify for crossing that red line."

He recited a critique from Senator John McCain on Syria, but only timidly asked, "Do you think that's fair criticism?"

On the issue of deadlock with the Republican Congress, the anchor did press, "How much of the lack of action in Washington do you put on yourself in terms of blame?" He also noted that the NSA scandal "shakes" the confidence of Americans.

But much more common were sympathetic questions where Cuomo seemed to the left of even Obama. On the subject of the cost of education, the anchor derided universities: "How do you make them stop when they hold all the cards?"

Cuomo then proceeded to lecture the President for not doing enough:

CUOMO: You then tie it to the Treasury rate. You make sure that students are going to borrow at a rate at a rate much higher than banks get, right? Because our government is effectively allowing banks to loan money to whomever they want and borrow themselves at about zero percent. Why not make this the new home mortgage, treat it like that? Get the rates lower so that the students don't pay the most? More than banks or homeowners?

CNN played and replayed various parts of the interview a total of six times over 42 minutes and five seconds. The whole show is three hours long.

Perhaps it was the easy questions, or the fact that Obama spent the day with Cuomo's family, but the President condescended to the host about how Congress works:

BARACK OBAMA: There is a very simple way of doing this, which is the Senate passed a budget and the House passed a budget, and, you know, maybe you're not old enough to remember "Schoolhouse Rock," but....Remember how the bill gets passed?

Cuomo didn't seem to mind the ribbing.

A partial transcript of the August 23 New Day segment is below:

6am tease

CHRIS CUOMO: We covered what the U.S. will do in Syria and Egypt, how worried Americans should be about the NSA invading their privacy and, of course, we get his first comments on his new dog, Sunny.

KATE BOLDUAN: [Laughs] Which everyone wants to hear.

CUOMO: It's true. That will be the highest interest.

6:01

CUOMO: Up first though, the exclusive interview. the commander in chief has a lot on his plate these days. We caught up with him in Syracuse, New York Thursday. We started with his college affordability plan, but he addressed major challenges abroad as well. We're going to bring in a distinguished panel of CNN correspondents to break down what the president tell us in the interview. But first let's start with our conversation with President Barack Obama.

CUOMO: Let's begin why you are here in Syracuse? Why are you doing this particular bus tour, what do you believe you can do to help lower the costs of college and give families who are struggling a chance to afford an education?

BARACK OBAMA: So, couple things we're going to do. Number one, we want to create a new system of ratings for colleges so that parents and students know what schools graduate kids on time, good value for the money, lead to good jobs. The second thing we want to do is work with colleges who are doing some interesting things to figure out how do you reduce costs? Can you help young people graduate a little faster? And the third thing we want to do is to build on something we've already done which is to try to help students manage their debt. We've got a program right now where you never have to pay more than ten percent of your income.

CUOMO: There's no question that the key to it is cost. The numbers, income 16 percent, college education costs going up by well over 200 percent, how do you make them stop when they hold all the cards?

OBAMA: Well, when you look at public colleges and universities, part of what's happened is, state legislatures have dropped their support and so the universities, rather than thinking about how do we save money and do more with less, they just pass on automatically those costs to students. And we've got to put, you know, some pressure on state legislatures, if you are serious about training a great workforce in your state then you've got to invest in state universities and colleges and not just invest in prisons, which is part of what we did over a long period of time.

Now, one last element to it: Once we develop the rating systems, part of what we're going to argue to Congress is that we should tie in some way the way federal financial aid flows to schools that are doing really well on this and not so much schools that aren't. So, if a school has a higher default rate than is does a graduation rate, we should give them a chance to improve, but ultimately we don't want kids saddled with debt. We want them to get a degree and a job.

CUOMO: But when we say it's a priority, that's what you're going to say: This matters the most, this is the new reality for our economy is what you know.

OBAMA: Exactly.

CUOMO: You then tie it to the Treasury rate. You make sure that students are going to borrow at a rate at a rate much higher than banks get, right? Because our government is effectively allowing banks to loan money to whomever they want and borrow themselves at about zero percent. Why not make this the new home mortgage, treat it like that? Get the rates lower so that the students don't pay the most? More than banks or homeowners?

OBAMA: Chris, actually right now because of the deal that was cut they're not borrowing at a higher rate than your mortgage. That had happened because Congress hadn't acted.

...

6:35

CUOMO: What is more daunting to you, the prospects of protecting the free world or dealing with a teenager and a near teen? What gives you more pause for concern?

OBAMA: Well, I got to tell you-- and Michelle gets all the credit -- Malia and Sasha are just doing great. They are poised. They're smart. They're funny. But most importantly, they're kind. They're respectful to everybody. You know, I just couldn't be prouder of them.

Now, what I'm discovering is that each year, I get more excited about spending time with them. They get a little less excited, but they love me so they want to pretend like they want to spend time with me. So, they'll come into my office and they'll pat me, you know, and say, "Hey, daddy, I love you," and they'll give me like a 10-minute conversation and say, "OK, daddy, I got to go. I'll be gone all weekend and see you on Sunday night."

CUOMO: Is that what the dog is about? The new dog?

OBAMA: I think there's an element for Michelle and me of -- you know, we see what's coming and we need to make sure that we got somebody who greets us at the door when we get home. But part of it is also Bo. Bo was getting lonely because the two other puppies have grown up and they still have some responsibilities for him but they're not always around between school, sports practice, you know, all that stuff. So, Bo was starting to look a little down in the dumps inside the house. And, Sunny, the new dog, she's only a year old. And the truth is, she's faster than he is. She jumps higher. She's friskier and --

CUOMO: Every man has to learn that, though.

OBAMA: She is trying to keep up and ultimately I think it will be great for him over the long-term. Right now, Michelle is in full parenting mode and really focused on getting Sunny to sit and you know, catch. And, also, there have been a couple accidents.

CUOMO: Oh, no.

OBAMA: Yes, but --

CUOMO: Is that like a federal violation?

OBAMA: Well, it is true, but, you know, we live --

CUOMO: Because that's a national museum.

OBAMA: We live in rental housing. We didn't have to make down a deposit but we are making sure that it gets cleaned up for the next occupant.

7:00

CUOMO: Let's begin this hour though with our exclusive interview with President Obama. There's a reason why the approval rating for Congress is through the floor right now. It's all the gridlock. A lot of talking, not a lot of acting. President Obama says the answer is simple, and he's got some choice words for his Republican colleagues. Here's a look at more of our exclusive interview with the president. When they get back in session, do you believe you know the way to get things done for the American people so that we don't have another shutdown of the government which effectively punishes everybody else except the lawmakers?

OBAMA: There is a very simple way of doing this, which is the Senate passed a budget and the House passed a budget, and, you know, maybe you're not old enough to remember "Schoolhouse Rock," but --

CUOMO: Oh I remember it.

OBAMA: Remember how the bill gets passed? You know, the House and the Senate try to work out their differences, they pass something, they send it to me, and potentially I sign it. We like to make things complicated but this is not that complicated.

Congress doesn't have a whole lot of core responsibilities. One core responsibility is passing a budget, which they have not done yet. The other core responsibility that they've got is to pay the bills that they've already accrued, and if Congress simply does those two things when they get back, then the economy can continue to recover and folks out there who are working hard, who are trying to find a job, will have some sense of stability, and we can start thinking about things like college education and some of the big structural changes that we have to continue to make to ensure that we're competitive.

CUOMO: How much of the lack of action in Washington do you put on yourself in terms of blame?

OBAMA: Ultimately the buck stops with me, and so any time we are not moving forward on things that should be simple, I get frustrated. And I've said before, and I continue to say, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get Congress, and Republicans in Congress in particular, to think less about politics and party and think more about what's good for the country.

And then finally, now what we've got is Republicans talking about the idea that they would shut down the government, bad for the economy, bad for, not just people who work for the government, but the contractors who -- and defense folks, everybody who is impacted by the services that they receive from the federal government, we should shut that down because Republicans, after having taken 40 votes to try to get rid of Obamacare, see this as their last gasp.

Nobody thinks that's good for the middle class, and I've made this argument to my Republican friends privately. And by the way, sometimes they say to me privately, I agree with you, but I'm worried about a primary from, you know, somebody in the Tea Party back in my district or, I'm worried about what Rush Limbaugh is going to say about me on the radio. And so, you've got to understand I'm -- it's really difficult. I can't force these folks to do what's right for the American people, but what I sure as heck can do is stay focused on what I know will be good for the American people.

-- Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.