Anyone holding their breath waiting for Katie Couric to emerge as a hard-hitting reporter — or at least one who doesn’t dumb down a good story to bubbly morning-show levels — should exhale immediately. While Chris Wallace’s Sunday night interview with Bill Clinton continues to delight, enrage and entertain, Couric’s big sit-down with Secretary of State Condi Rice on CBS’ 60 Minutes has been getting the short end of the stick all day. And judging from the content of the interview, that might be the best thing to happen to Couric since her switch to CBS.
Consider the incisive nature of these Couric inquiries: “Do you ever lose it? Do you ever lose your temper and get really mad?” “Do you ever cuss like a sailor?” “Do you consider yourself an emotional person?”
Rice handled it all reasonably well, but the questions seemed more appropriate for someone like, say, Scarlett Johansson, rather than someone intimately involved in shaping our foreign policy in the wake of 9/11, and who has served in the upper reaches of government through two wars that have yet to reach their conclusion.
After looking at some photos of Rice’s parents and retracing the story we’ve heard repeatedly during the last six years — Rice plays classical piano, she grew up in pre-Civil Rights Birmingham, etc. — Couric finally sidled up to politics, asking, “Do you ever draw parallels between bigoted bombers in Birmingham and suicide bombers in the Middle East?”
That’s more like it, Katie!
To be fair, Couric did ask some substantive questions, like, “You used your credibility to rally the American people behind this. Now it turns out there were no weapons of mass destruction. Do you regret using that?”
Rice parried: “I don’t regret at all overthrowing Saddam Hussein.”
“But that’s not the question,” Couric shot back, forcing Rice to actually think on her feet for a moment — but only just, and never enough to make anyone uncomfortable.
There was little in the way of follow up, and even less that appeared unscripted. Too many heavy questions could make anyone a little sleepy, after all, and Couric, never wanting to be a party pooper, needed to get down to brass tacks. What Katie wanted to really know — and who doesn’t? — is whether Condi has a crush on a boy. “How does one go about asking the secretary of state out on a date?” she cooed.
Rice again skirted the question (this time to her credit), but the interview as a whole was borderline offensive in the childish — and even vaguely sexist — way that Couric went about it.
We weren’t looking for Couric to hammer Madame Secretary, but we did have an expectation of seriousness that Couric so far has almost totally failed to deliver. Case in point is Couric’s CBS News blog, where, in writing about her interview with Rice, says that the Secretary is “a woman who is “scary smart” - so intelligent, it’s scary,” and is “much warmer, more “girly” and fun than the disciplined, controlled stateswoman you see on the world stage.” To the head honchos at CBS News, we have one thing to say: Good night, and good luck.