Obama on cable: duel of softballs vs. shout-downs

Barack Obama competed against himself Monday with interviews airing simultaneously on two different networks. They might as well have been two different galaxies.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. greets supporters outside Schott Glass in Duryea, Pa., Friday, Sept. 5, 2008. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

NEW YORK (AP) -- Barack Obama competed against himself Monday with interviews airing simultaneously on two different networks. They might as well have been two different galaxies.

The Democrat waded into cable TV's blood feud, between Keith Olbermann of MSNBC and Bill O'Reilly of Fox News Channel, becoming as much a bit player as any even-odds presidential candidate can be.

In one interview Obama had to fight - not always successfully - to keep from being shouted down. In the other he couldn't succeed in keeping a straight face at the ease of the softballs tossed at him.

We'll leave you to guess which is which.

Obama sat down with O'Reilly first last week. The Fox News Channel host aired a portion of the interview last Thursday, and it became the second-highest rated episode of "The O'Reilly Factor" ever. He'll spread the interview out over two more nights this week.

O'Reilly came after the senator for an income tax plan that Obama said would lower tax rates for 95 percent of Americans while increasing rates for the richest citizens to Clinton administration levels.

The Fox host complained that Obama wanted "50 percent of my success." They fought briefly over numbers, and Obama said to O'Reilly, "you can afford that." O'Reilly said Obama's plans would promote class warfare. He called him "Robin Hood Obama" and said his tax plan was a "socialist tenet."

"If I'm sitting pretty and you've got a waitress who is making minimum wage plus tips, and I can afford it and she can't, what's the big deal for me to say I'm going to pay a little more?" Obama said. "That's neighborliness."

O'Reilly said he and others he knew would be be making less stock transfers if the Obama tax plan went through. "It's going to come back and haunt you, senator," O'Reilly said.

It was a much different atmosphere at the MSNBC studio in Rockefeller Center. Olbermann interviewed Obama campaign on Monday and will run it in two parts with the second one on Tuesday.

He criticized a McCain television ad that characterized him and Palin as mavericks who can get things done.

What, he asked Obama, could he do to prevent people from lying about his record? "Why do people hesitate to use the word `lie' about these things?"

Olbermann drew the smile from Obama when he asked whether the candidate should use more "exclamation points" in its statements. "Have you thought of getting angrier?" he asked.

He praised Obama for his use of the word "enough" in his convention acceptance speech and wondered why the Republicans, in his words, were having success muddying the waters of the campaign.

"The Republicans cannot always govern, but they run very smart campaigns," Obama said.

O'Reilly said he had frequently interrupted Obama because he didn't want to let him wander. Olbermann let him wander, lapse into stump speeches, and ducked when Olbermann asked him the most direct question, about whether he believed Sarah Palin had enough experience to be president.

"I'll let Gov. Palin answer that," Obama said with a smile. "I'm sure she'll be appearing on your show."


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