President's Publicity Machine: CBS Devotes Seven Minutes to Obama's 'Scary Powerful' Aide
After devoting 15 minutes to a Barack Obama interview in the last 24 hours, CBS piled on with another seven minutes devoted to a "scary powerful" top aide. Charlie Rose offered a puff piece on Alyssa Mastromonaco, Obama's deputy chief of staff. The CBS This Morning co-anchor on Thursday offered no tough questions and instead repeatedly underlined just how important she is. Rose marveled, "You know what somebody called you? Scary powerful."
The co-host narrated, "We recently spoke to her about her low profile, high power role. Every time I read a piece about you, it talks about power." Rose highlighted Obama's alleged feeling about her departure, quoting the President: "I'm not going to let you go...unless you promise me you will be there for me not only during the presidency but in the post-presidency." He followed up with Mastromonaco, saying of her post-White House days: "Is the most exciting time of your life behind you?" [MP3 audio here.]
Other penetrating questions include wondering, "Why do you think the President of the United States trusts you so well?"
After Mastromonaco told Rose that she likes to keep an air of mystery, the journalist responded, "because it gives you power."
On Wednesday night and Thursday morning, CBS devoted 15 minutes to an interview with Barack Obama that avoided the IRS scandal, Benghazi and any mention of health care.
That's a grand total of 22 minutes. Is this CBS News or the Obama publicity machine?
A partial transcript of the April 17 segment is below:
CHARLIE ROSE: She's often described as one of the most powerful people in Washington that you have never heard of. Alyssa Mastromonaco is the White House's deputy chief of staff of operation. If you want to see President Obama, you'd better go through her. She's been serving the President since he was a senator. But next month she will leave her job and the White House behind. We recently spoke to her about her low profile, high power role. Every time I read a piece about you, it talks about power. Tell me what you do.
ALYSSA MASTROMONACO: I'm the person that everyone comes to. I have the answer for everything and I think –
ROSE: We've been looking for you.
MASTROMONACO: I think the reason people thing I'm so powerful is 'cause they don't know what I do. And that mystery, which I have kept for good reason over the years, just really intrigued people.
ROSE: Because it gives you power.
ROSE: Alyssa Mastromonaco's unassuming power has a bold impact. At 38, her most important role is managing President Obama's time. She decides who gets access. But her job is much broader. She runs a White House campusm which includes 17,000 employees and she's behind the president's cabinet selections.
ROSE: You know what somebody called you? Scary powerful.
MASTROMONACO: That was probably a friend.
ROSE: Now, what did the President say about this? He said at one point as soon as they see you, all of your power will go.
MASTROMONACO: That is so -- this is true. I'm a very internal person. I don't do a lot of public speaking. This is the first interview I've done in eight years. But when I'm on the phone, I think I sound like the booming voice of Oz. When people see me in person someone said I look like Sally Field in the Flying Nun and I should stay behind the curtain if I want people to be scared of me.
ROSE: From Senate office, to presidential campaign to the White House. She's one of the last remaining members of the original team. Why do you think the President of the United States trusts you so well?
MASTROMONACO: I think over the years of decision-making and navigating some tough times, you know, your mettle is really tested and I think I proved to him that his success was my number one priority, that my hard work on his behalf wasn't self-interested and that, you know, I had good judgment.
ROSE: Well, there you go. That's what it's about.
MASTROMONACO: My judgment is good judgment for him. I think that it's also -- I mean, I think in life I have good judgment but in life, between the two of us, we understand each other and I understand what he's trying to do and how to get there.
ROSE: In November, Supreme Court justice Elena Kagan married Mastromonaco and David Krone. He is chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. So, what about pillow talk?
MASTROMONACO: I'm not going to lie. When we come home at the end of the day, there's a lot of work talk sometimes.
ROSE: Oh, really. Pillow talk is about politics.
MASTROMONACO: Yeah. It's more who did what to who.
ROSE: [Laughs.] Who screwed who today?
MASTROMONACO: I'm not going to put it that bluntly, but --
ROSE: You wonder why they're scared of you? After nine years of juggling elections, wars, national tragedies, and a President's schedule, she's now ready for some down time. When you go in to the president and you say, you know, this is the time.
MASTROMONACO: It's time.
ROSE: Did he try to talk you out of it?
MASTROMONACO: Of course. Of course. I think he knew that for me to actually get to the point where I said, "you know what? It's time," that he understood.
ROSE: He says an interesting thing: "I'm not going to let you go."
ROSE: "Unless you promise me you will be there for me not only during the presidency but in the post-presidency."
ROSE: I mean that's an ultimate act of respect.
MASTROMONACO: We've been through a great adventure, and what he said was, "you can go and you can take some time off, but, you know, we're together forever and I need you -- I need you around." And he's like, "you have to tell me that that's -- that's the deal." I said, "of course."
ROSE: Is the most exciting time of your life behind you?
MASTROMONACO: It might be. But that's okay. If you look at the things that have made everything so exciting, one, that pace of life is sort of unsustainable. So that's one -- that's one sort of running off of adrenaline every day, that's exciting. The actual experiences, you know, part of me thought I had met the queen, I'd met the Pope, I was at Nelson Mandela's funeral, I've been on Charlie Rose. What is there left?
— Scott Whitlock is Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Scott Whitlock on Twitter.