ABC's Diane Sawyer Hits Obama From Left: Still Pulling Out of Iraq?

On Wednesday's "Good Morning America," co-host Diane Sawyer interviewed Barack Obama and seemed most concerned with whether or not the senator was hedging on his promise to pull U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months. Approaching from the left, she wondered, "This is the question this morning: You have said previously, we will be out-- we will be out of Iraq in 16 months. Are you now saying it's your goal or that you might refine that or do you still repeat, we will be out in 16 months?"

And although Sawyer did ask Obama about the breaking news of Iran test firing missiles and threatening Israel, she didn't press him and mostly stuck to safe topics such as who his VP would be or discussing the appearance of the Obama children on "Access Hollywood" (which GMA gushingly replayed on Tuesday). In contrast, when John McCain appeared on GMA on July 2, various hosts and reporters speculated five times that his trip to South America during such tough financial times might indicate a lack of caring about the economic situation of Americans.

During the July 9 segment, Sawyer served up softballs for Obama to hit with campaign talking points. Noting that the Democrat will be doing an economic tour with Senator Hillary Clinton on the financial situation of women, Sawyer regurgitated, "One of the items [to be discussed] is to close the pay gap, which is now women earning 78 cents on the dollar for men. And yet it's only been closing for about two cents a year over the past decade. How are you going to close that gap?" At no time did the GMA host question this Democratic thesis or mention factors such as the time women leaving the workforce to have children.

Finally, although all three morning shows, "Good Morning America," "Today" and "Early Show," featured Senator Obama on Wednesday, only GMA interviewed McCain last week during his trip to Colombia and Mexico.

A transcript of the July 9 segment, which aired at 7:06am, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: All right, Jake. Thanks to you. And just minutes ago I had a chance to talk to Senator Barack Obama and I started with the news from Iran this morning. Senator Obama, good morning again.

SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Good morning, Diane.

SAWYER: Word just in this morning, as you know, that Iran has test-fired nine missiles including one of them the Shahab-3 that has a 1,250-mile range. They say it could reach Israel. What should the U.S. do in response?

OBAMA: Well, what we should have been doing from the start, and that is instead of engaging in over-the- top rhetoric, what we should be doing is gathering our allies together in a serious effort to apply sanctions to Iran and encourage them to change their behavior. You know, we also had a report that exports from the United States to Iran have actually increased during the Bush years and it's that kind of mixed signal that I think has led to the kind of situation that we're in right now.

SAWYER: But if Israel --

OBAMA: Iran is a grave-- Iran is a grave threat. We have to make sure that we are working with our allies to apply tightening pressure economically on Iran, at the same time as we start engaging in the kind of direct diplomacy that can lead them to standing down on issues like nuclear weapons.

SAWYER: If Israel decides that because of this, among other things, that they for their own security must strike pre-emptive against sites inside Iran, would you endorse it? What would you do?

OBAMA: You know, Diane, I'm not going to engage in hypotheticals in that situation. Obviously Iran always has the right -- Israel always has the right to protect itself from serious threats and Iran is a serious threat. Right now what is most important is make sure that they stand down on the development of nuclear weapons, that they stop funding Hamas and Hezbollah. The United States has to gather up others in the region as well as internationally to apply pressure on Iran, but it's very difficult for us to do so when we haven't shown a willingness to engage in the sort of direct negotiations with Iran that would give them carrots and sticks for a change in behavior. And the last thing I'd point out is that our occupation in Iraq is part of what has strengthened Iran's hand and it's very important for us to stabilize the situation in Iran, in Iraq, in order for us to be able to be more effective dealing with the Iranian threat.

SAWYER: On the question of Iraq, as you know, some of your core supporters have been saying that they sense you are shifting positions and you've gotten quite a drubbing in a couple of fronts. This is the question this morning, you have said previously we will be out-- we will be out of Iraq in 16 months. Are you now saying it's your goal or that you might refine that or do you still repeat, we will be out in 16 months?

OBAMA: Diane, I have been as crystal clear now as I was a year ago as I was six months ago, that we will get out of Iraq carefully, deliberately at a pace that is safe for our troops, every estimate is that we can have our troops out in one to two -- at the pace of one to two brigades per month. At that pace we would have our combat troops out in 16 months. My position has not changed at all and what I have also repeatedly said is that as commander in chief, obviously I'd be listening to recommendations of generals on the ground, but it is my job as commander in chief to set up a strategy. It's their job to execute tactics.

SAWYER: You are heading out to talk about an economic agenda for women and Senator Clinton is going to be going out with you. One of the items on that is to close the pay gap, which is now women earning 78 cents on the dollar for men. And yet it's only been closing for about two cents a year over the past decade. How are you going to close that gap?

OBAMA: Well, we've got to use all the power at our disposal to make sure that women are treated equally. The idea of equal pay for equal work is something that I think is fundamental to the American ideal. I'll just give you one specific example. Congress right now could reverse a Supreme Court ruling that came down recently that said that you cannot sue for discrimination even though you didn't know that you were being discriminated against if a certain amount of time has elapsed. I voted to reverse that ruling. John McCain agreed with the Supreme Court that women couldn't get redress in the courts. That is a very specific thing that we should be doing right now.

SAWYER: Two quick questions, vice presidency: What have you decided about the kind of person it has to be and when you're going to announce?

OBAMA: Well, it's going to be somebody with integrity. Somebody who is competent and can serve as president. Somebody who is independent and can offer unvarnished advice to me. But beyond that I haven't spoken about the vice presidency--

SAWYER: Strong military background?

OBAMA: Beyond that, I haven't talked about our vice presidential process and I'm not going to until we actually select my choice as vice presidential nominee.

SAWYER: Going to do it before the Olympics?

OBAMA: I'll let you know when we introduce the nominee, Diane.

SAWYER: Alright and one final thing. We saw you with your children in the last couple of days, the whole family sitting and talking. Is this the future?

OBAMA: No. You know, it was an exception. It was Malia's birthday. We were in Montana. Everybody was having a good time and I think we got carried away a little bit. Generally what makes them so charming is the fact that they're not spending a lot of time worrying about TV cameras or politics and we want to keep it that way.

SAWYER: Sorry you did it?

OBAMA: A little bit of pause, Michelle and I. Particularly had given the way that it sort of went around the cable stations. I don't think it's healthy and it's something that we'll be avoiding in the future.

SAWYER: All right. Well, Senator Obama, thank you again for being with us this morning.

OBAMA: Thank you.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's site.