Gibson's Reminiscing Humanizes Obama & Biden as He Re-Runs Whacks at Reagan & Palin

Beginning his last week as anchor of ABC's World News before retiring on Friday, Charles Gibson ended his final Monday newscast by reminiscing about the political stories he's covered over his career. But he displayed distinct favoritism toward liberals over conservatives.

Gibson hailed Jimmy Carter as “always gracious in an interview” and humanized Barack Obama and Joe Biden by commiserating with their tribulations while re-playing archive clips demanding Ronald Reagan address Iran-Contra, George H.W. Bush accept he was “out of touch” and Sarah Palin explain “what insight into Russian actions...does the proximity of the state give you?” -- all before Gibson heralded Tip O'Neill as “the most memorable character” he's ever covered. (Gibson covered Capitol Hill during the late 1970s and into the 1980s.)

Gibson highlighted this question he posed to Reagan: “Once and for all, were you trading arms for hostages?” And Gibson to Bush: “There is a feeling in people's hearts that you, George Bush, are in any way out of touch?” After those questions from the archive, Gibson pulled out more favorable ones to show the “personal side” of Obama and Biden. “One of the great gifts that my mother gave to me was a positive impression of my father,” Obama maintained, prompting Gibson to empathize: “He didn't care enough to stay. How did you internalize that?” Gibson recalled Biden was “moving when he talked about the tragic death of his young daughter and first wife.”

Between Biden and Palin, Gibson saw “a majestic moment” in his success in getting all the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates on stage at once before the 2008 New Hampshire primary.

From the Monday, December 14 World News with Charles Gibson:

CHARLES GIBSON: People always ask about interviewing Presidents or ex-Presidents. I started with Richard Nixon so long ago, we couldn't find the tape. Gerry Ford, I had the chance  to watch him in his hotel suite at the Republican convention in 1976 as he watched himself be nominated for President. I was 33 years old and couldn't believe my good fortune. Then talking to him after his defeat.
GERALD FORD: The press gave me a very hard time about hitting spectators on the golf course.

GIBSON: Jimmy Carter, always gracious in an interview. Ronald Reagan.

GIBSON TO REAGAN: Once and for all, were you trading arms for hostages?

RONALD REAGAN: No, in no way.

GIBSON: Bush 41.

GIBSON TO BUSH: There is a feeling in people's hearts that you, George Bush, are in any way out of touch?

BUSH: I get that from the media, because you pick it up from the Democrats.

GIBSON: It can be imposing when you realize the President has gotten angry with your question.

BILL CLINTON: You want to have an honest conversation? Let's have an honest conversation.

GIBSON: Bush 43 and, of course, the current President, though just as interesting can be talking to someone before he is President, getting to the personal side.

BARACK OBAMA: One of the great gifts that my mother gave to me was a positive impression of my father.

GIBSON TO OBAMA: He didn't care enough to stay. How did you internalize that?

OBAMA: My conclusion is that some of my drive comes from wanting to prove that he should have stuck around.

GIBSON: Or the Vice President, Joe Biden, moving when he talked about the tragic death of his young daughter and first wife.

GIBSON TO BIDEN: You say despair leads people to cash it in and you say suicide wasn't just an option but a rational option.

JOE BIDEN: If you're really -- if the love was as great and profound as you believed it to be, why would you still want to live?

GIBSON: There's been a chance to moderate a presidential debate and candidate debates. ABC had the Republican and Democratic candidates all in one night last year before the New Hampshire primary. The one thing I wanted was to get them all on stage at once to show that everyone is in this together. It was, to me, a majestic moment.

And then there's the interviews you do that people remember.

GIBSON TO SARAH PALIN: What insight into Russian actions, particularly in the last couple weeks, does the proximity of the state give you?

PALIN: You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska.

GIBSON: But when people ask the most memorable character you've covered, I don't have the to think about it?

GIBSON TO TIP O'NEILL: What are you are going to do on opening day?

O'NEILL: I'm going to stay away from here as I possibly can.

GIBSON: For six years I covered House Speaker Tip O'Neill, an old-time politician who didn't worry very much about political correctness, but whose instincts for politics were flawless. [video of O'Neill singing]
He talked to me about when he was young, seeing signs on Boston buildings, NINA: No Irish Need Apply. But now I'm inside the Capitol, I'm Speaker of the House, he said. Isn't this a great country? It is, Mr. Speaker. And I'm just as grateful for having had the chance to cover it and see it from the inside just a little.

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center