The Associated Press finally unveiled its big interview with President Obama. The best parts of the conversation came when Obama criticized two of the most controversial people in Washington: one who works in politics, and one who owns a football team.
Obama talked plenty of things with the AP's Julie Pace: people frustrated with Obamacare sign ups ("Well, they definitely shouldn't give up"); how close Iran is to building a nuclear bomb ("a year or more away"); and possibly keeping some troops in Afghanistan beyond the planned 2014 pull out ("if... we can get an agreement that makes sure that U.S. troops are protected, makes sure that we can operate in a way that is good for our national security, then I'll certainly consider that"). But the juiciest quotes were saved for two of Washington's most controversial figures.
The President's first target: first year Republican rep. Ted Cruz. Obama never mentions Cruz by name, but it's clear to who his comments are directed. Pace asked Obama for his thoughts on Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio: three young lawmakers making waves in Washington. "Well, if you recall, when I came into the Senate, my attitude was I should just keep a pretty low profile in the Senate and just do the work," Obama said initially. Pace pointed out that media didn't let him keep a low profile, really. And then Obama unleashed a scathing criticism of, well, it's fairly obvious:
The media may not have, but I didn't go around courting the media, and I certainly didn't go around trying to shut down the government. And so I recognize that in today's media age, being controversial, taking controversial positions, rallying the most extreme parts of your base -- whether it's left or right -- is a lot of times the fastest way to get attention or raise money, but it's not good for government. It's not good for the people we're supposed to be serving.
Cruz has never shied away from media opportunities. He's never met an invitation to Sunday talk show he didn't like. He's also credited with leading the Republican effort to shutdown the government. "You really have to call Cruz, I’m not even joking," Republican Representative Devin Nunes said recently when asked about the party's plan going forward. It's not hard to figure out who the President is talking about.
The other target of the President's subliminal criticism was Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder. Over the last year, there has been an overwhelming rise in calls for the Redskins to finally change their team name. Snyder refuses to budge on the issue. The President, though, thinks it's perhaps a good idea for the team to consider rebranding. "I've got to say that if I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team -- even if it had a storied history -- that was offending a sizeable group of people, I'd think about changing it," Obama said. The feelings of Native Americans who find your team name offensive should trump your decades long sports franchise, the President said. "I don't know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real, legitimate concerns that people have about these things."
But Obama acknowledged he doesn't own a sports team so it's not his biggest concern. Maybe one day, after this fiscal battle, after he finally moves out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. "I'd probably look at a basketball team before I looked at a football team," though, the President said.