Friday, April 18, 2008

George Stephanopoulos Responds To Obama

TPM Election Central blogged In an interview with me moments ago, Stephanopoulos strongly defended his handling of the debate. He dismissed criticism that it had focused too heavily on "gotcha" questions, arguing that they had gone to the heart of the "electability" that, he said, is forefront in the minds of voters evaluating the two Dems.
Precisely, and since the candidates have almost identical positions on all of the "issues", focusing on them would not be a debate, bt just a free campaign ad.
"Overall, the questions were tough, fair, relevant, and appropriate," Stephanopoulos argued. And he rejected the claim by many Obama supporters that the debate had been stacked against him, saying Hillary had faced sharp questioning, too.
She just didn't fold under the questioning.
Today on the campaign trail Obama criticized ABC's handling of the debate, characterizing it as "the roll out of the Republican campaign against me in November."
And Demcrats saw how you were not able to handle that.
Asked to respond, Stephanopoulos said that getting criticized "comes with the territory." "Our job is to ask the questions," he said. "His job is to go out and win votes." Asked to defend the fact that policy didn't come up for the first 40 or so minutes of the debate, Stephanopoulos said:
They do not disagree on "policy"
"We decided to focus at the top on the issues that had been at the center of the debate since the last debate. Everything we brought up in that front section had not come up since the last debate. And they all focused on the same theme -- which candidate would be a stronger Democratic candidate in November." "This is the core question for the campaigns, and a lot of Democratic voters right now. That's why we decided to lead with it."
And it made for a more interesting debate.
Asked why we should presume that electability, rather than issues, was the dominant concern of many Dems right now, Stephanopoulos argued that it was a frequent topic of discussion on the campaign trail. "People also take into candidates handle controversy," he said. "That's what campaigns are about, as well." Asked why the moderators had chosen to spend time on Wright, when Obama has repeatedly responded to questions about him,
If he thinks one speech has put that issue behind him, he is going to be in for a big shock in the fall.
Stephanopoulos defended it by saying that Wright's most incendiary comments had come to light, and Obama's speech in response, had both come after the previous debate. When I asked him whether asking about Obama's derelict approach to his flag lapel pin risked making it look like right-wing frames were dictating the line of questioning, Stephanopoulos said:
Is he not prepared to answer the questions?
"Sure, there's a risk." But he added: "If you look at the fall campaign, there are some clear signals from Senator Obama's opponents that all of these issues are going to be put together in a general argument. They all go back to that same theme."
Which McCain may not hit him on but which the 527s will use to blat him.
Stephanopoulos rejected the contention of many Obama supporters that the debate, with its focus on Wright and William Ayers -- not to mention that flag-pin -- was unduly stacked against Obama. "The first series of questions to Senator Clinton were not questions she wanted to answer," he said.
And didn't answer
"The second series of questions were on credibility and honesty."
And flunked them too.
Asked whether his background as a political operative had resulted in too much of a focus on electability and on the candidates' handling of media "scandals," Stephanopoulos said: "You can't help but be shaped by your experience," but he added: "I don't think it's unique to me. This is a conversation that Democrats and some Republicans are having every single day.
And the Dems are upset that it has come down to two candidates that don't have a chance of winning.
It's not only, who will be the best president, but who has the best chance of winning."

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