Producer's Perspective: Barack Obama

Has Barack Obama Changed Since 60 Minutes First Met Him In 2007? Producer Frank Devine Shares His Unique Insight

Written by 60 Minutes producer Frank Devine.

As we waited outside the security checkpoint at the White House' northwest gate late Friday afternoon, it was hard not to flash back on the first time we waited to be admitted into an Obama home.

On Friday, seven of us submitted our ID's and waited for the uniformed Secret Service officer to verify us against his computer list. It was a long time waiting before Steve Kroft, Executive Producer Jeff Fager, Executive Editor Bill Owens, Senior Producer Michael Radutzky, associate producer Anya Bourg, a Washington make-up artist and I were invited into the guard house for a stroll through the metal detectors. Our three video crews, a camera jib operator and associate producer Jen MacDonald were awaiting us inside the grounds.

On Super Bowl Sunday morning, 2007, a much smaller group of us pulled up at the Obama home in Chicago's Hyde Park. We waited in the cars on the sub-zero morning until the stroke of ten. We walked through the front gate, up the stairs and rang the bell. Sasha Obama, then five, opened the door to let us in. Her big sister, Malia was standing behind her.

We spent most of the day with the then-Senator, his wife and daughters. We taped a drive through the South Side, did a sit-down interview in the family living room, and watched as Senator Obama made tuna salad in the kitchen (I recall he added pickle juice to the mayonnaise). David Axelrod was the only political staffer at the house that day. By the end of the day, the senator seemed ready to let us leave so he could go watch the game with some friends.

I doubt if one of us that day thought we were sitting with the next president of the United States. Everyone knew it was Hillary Clinton's year. One of Steve's questions probed about the possibility that the junior senator from Illinois was really running for vice president.

That standard 12-minute 60 Minutes piece included two other interviews with the then-senator that Steve did with producer Tom Anderson, one in Washington, and a second one on the eve of his formal announcement for the presidency in Springfield, Ill.

Things have changed in the two years we've covered the Obamas. With each successive interview we did, it seemed the staff grew larger, schedules grew tighter and the security grew more wary. After the November election, even we changed; the camera and sound crew began wearing jackets and ties, for the interviews.

What hasn't seemed to change is Barack Obama. His manner has remained the same. He seemed as relaxed and confident with Steve last Friday at the White House as he had two years ago at his own house. He still has a way of engaging you while simultaneously observing the scene as if from afar. It's a kind of detachment that is common among writers.

Even in hard times and with new responsibilities, he still enjoys the give-and-take, the opportunity to take questions and wrestle with them, before giving often long, often detailed answers. He genuinely seems to enjoy sparring with Steve. He has no idea what's coming next and seems intellectually engaged by the more challenging questions.

All the pundit talk about the president's reliance on a teleprompter is a mystery to me. He's always seemed perfectly comfortable speaking spontaneously with Steve, often taking some very pointed questions.

On Friday night, after nearly 90 minutes of being probed about everything from Afghanistan to AIG bonuses, to budget deficits, he was once again pleased to see 60 Minutes go.

It was nearly eight-thirty and, as on that Super Bowl Sunday, he had someplace else to be. This time it was back in the residence. He still hadn't had his dinner.

Watch part one of Sunday's interview with President Obama:



Part two:




Written by Frank Devine
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