On ABC’s Good Morning America on Saturday, co-anchor Bill Weir bristled with hostility during an interview with a McCain campaign spokesman about the choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as the Republican vice presidential candidate, suggesting she was unqualified and too conservative. At one point, Weir even suggested that by running for Vice President, the Governor would be jeopardizing her four-month old daughter, who has Down’s Syndrome.
Weir confronted McCain political director Mike DuHaime: “Adding to the brutality of a national campaign, the Palin family also has an infant with special needs. What leads you, the Senator, and the Governor to believe that one won't affect the other in the next couple of months?” When DuHaime offered a general answer about Palin’s “incredible life story,” an obviously irritated Weir jumped in, exclaiming “She has an infant -- she has an infant with special needs. Will that affect her campaigning?”
Just a few moments later, that line of questioning was quickly criticized by ABC’s Cokie Roberts as sexist. Without mentioning Weir, Roberts said questions “about who’s taking care of the children...traditionally has very much angered women voters when women candidates are asked those questions and male candidates never are.”
Earlier, reporter David Wright sarcastically noted that McCain and Palin campaigning “looked a little like father and daughter out for an ice cream.” Wright, Weir and co-host Kate Snow all found ways to tag Palin as conservative, with Snow calling her “quite conservative,” but a week earlier, nobody on the same program thought it worth mentioning that Democratic VP candidate Joe Biden was liberal.
Weir’s approach was the most obviously contemptuous of Palin, as he suggested the Governor was only picked because she was a woman; was too conservative for doubting that global warming is manmade; and finally was skipping out on her Down’s syndrome daughter. Here are all of the questions he posed to DuHaime:
# Now joining us from Minneapolis, the political director for the McCain campaign, Mike DuHaime. Mike, good morning....Uh, how many hours did John McCain spend with Governor Palin before he chose her?
# If a man had this exact resume as the Governor, would he be the running mate this morning?
[DUHAIME: I believe so.... ]
# Governor Palin, on the record, opposes abortion. She opposes gun control, the theory of evolution, uh, being taught in schools. Also, she disagrees with the belief that global warming is manmade. That, all of that, may thrill Christian conservatives, but why would a feminist Hillary Clinton supporter vote for that ticket?
[DUHAIME: Well, I think really Hillary Clinton supporters, or anybody, are going to be making a choice between Senator McCain and Senator Obama, and what you've got there is Senator McCain with somebody who has the judgment, who has the experience, who has the life story of somebody who is ready right now to be President. Senator Obama clearly doesn’t.]
WEIR, INTERRUPTING: But you don’t hope that this choice -- you don't hope this choice lures some female voters?
[DUHAIME: Well, I certainly hope -- I think we had a great opportunity for female voters before. I think we've got that now....]
# And, and, must ask, adding to the brutality of a national campaign, the Palin family also has an infant with special needs. What leads you, the Senator, and the Governor to believe that one won't affect the other in the next couple of months?
DUHAIME, PUZZLED: In terms of her personal life? You know, I think, you know, the extent that people want to look at her, she's got an incredible life story with five children, with a son going into the military. She’s got-
WEIR, INTERRUPTING: She has an infant -- she has an infant with special needs. Will that affect her campaigning?
DUHAIME: I don't believe it will affect her campaigning. I don't believe it will affect it at all.
WEIR: Okay. Appreciate your time this morning. Mike DuHaime.
DUHAIME: Sure thing, Bill. Thanks.
Moments later, as she analyzed the Palin pick with co-host Kate Snow, ABC’s Cokie Roberts scolded such questioning as a reflecting a double standard that only women candidates face:
KATE SNOW: Well, how will the nomination play out there particularly with women voters? Let's turn to Cokie Roberts, ABC News longtime contributor who joins us now from Washington. Good morning, Cokie....Let me ask you about Gail Collins this morning, a columnist in the New York Times, has written a scathing column this morning talking about the choice and basically suggesting that the only reason the Governor was chosen was because she is a woman, and let me quote from Gail Collins, she says, ‘the idea that women are going to race off to vote for any candidate with the same internal plumbing is both offensive and historically wrong.’ What do you think?
COKIE ROBERTS: That's correct, that women do not necessarily vote for women. However, if you get a lot of questions about who's taking care of the children, it might make people angry enough to vote for her, because that is something that traditionally has very much angered women voters when women candidates are asked those questions and male candidates never are.
But, look, the people she's going to appeal to among the Hillary Clinton voters are not feminist suburban independent or Republican women necessarily. It's going to be much more the blue-collar Democrats who we've come to call Reagan Democrats who have not settled on Barack Obama. Women have settled on Barack Obama. His entire lead in the polls going into the Democratic convention was among women. So it is other voters, other than women, that Sarah Palin is really aimed at.
SNOW: So you're saying it's men that she might attract.
ROBERTS: It's men.
SNOW: She is quite conservative, right? I mean she's, as Bill pointed out, she’s anti-abortion, she’s for gun rights. She's got quite a conservative record.
ROBERTS: Well, and on some -- on a lot of those issues you've had a lot of Democrats who have been economic Democrats and social Republicans. But, look, it's not just issues that make the difference here. It's an out of Washington, breath of fresh air, definitely a reformer -- and once Obama picked Biden as the ultimate Washington insider and expert and grown-up, McCain started looking someplace else and the frontrunner for a while was Tim Pawlenty, the governor of Minnesota, and the same criticisms would have been there of Tim Pawlenty as are there of Sarah Palin: No foreign policy experience, very little governmental experience, period. So as long as he was going to face those kinds of objections, why not go for a woman? Why not make some history?