On day one of "Good Morning America's" five day train trip across America, host Diane Sawyer announced a slate of guests filled almost entirely of liberals. At the top of Monday's program, Sawyer touted a schedule that included Barack Obama on the 15th, Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, John and Cindy McCain together on Wednesday, Joe Biden on Thursday and Michelle Obama on Friday. For those keeping track, that's four liberal guests and one conservative duo. (Notice that Barack and Michelle Obama each get their own day, while the McCains appear jointly.)
The journey on the rails, which GMA has dubbed the "Whistle-Stop Tour '08," began in several towns in Massachusetts. Three segments revolved around Sawyer and fellow co-hosts Chris Cuomo and Robin Roberts talking with either residents or patrons of various restaurants. And while many of the Americans highlighted expressed concerns that no one would disagree, the ABC program also included a number of liberal perspectives and only one that could be called vaguely conservative. (Massachusetts resident Richard Bonito mentioned security and the need for a strong defense.) Resident Frank Algerio called for a "cap" on high gas prices. One Nicky Vaughn hoped the next president would pull troops from Iraq. No anchor or host pointed out the extremely left-wing make-up of the state either.
While there has certainly been a share of bad economic news lately, GMA's Sawyer talked to an older man who remembered FDR. She hyperbolically asserted that he had lived through "another time of economic crisis." On the positive side, co-host Cuomo should be credited for actually conducting a tough interview with Democrat Barack Obama.
For that interview, Cuomo first hit the Illinois senator for not meeting John McCain in a series of town hall meetings: "Why don't you pick up the phone to him and say, what are you doing next week? How about Tuesday?" He then forcefully critiqued the candidate on a new ad which seems to portray McCain as elderly and out of touch. Cuomo complained, "Now, we see these new ads coming out calling McCain an old man. Saying he can't use a computer."
Not getting a clear answer, Cuomo followed up twice. First he pointed out, "But the ad is a negative ad. You paint him as an old man. You say he can't use a computer. He's never sent an e-mail. What does that all mean?" Then, the journalist then queried, "So, no apologies for that ad?" A follow-up interview included questions about whether or not Hillary Clinton would have been a stronger vice presidential candidate for Obama.
Overall, GMA should be commended for using the first day of its road trip to challenge Barack Obama. But, its announced line-up of guests for the week is decidedly liberal. Barack and Michelle Obama on different days? Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden? Couldn't the producers find more GOP representation than just one appearance by John and Cindy McCain? If primary challenger Clinton will be appearing, why not have on Republican Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney?
As noted earlier on NewsBusters, on the same day's program, reporter Claire Shipman filed a fawning segment on Massachusetts and the Kennedy family, America's "political royalty."
A transcript of the September 15 Barack Obama interview, which aired at 7:13am, follows:
DIANE SAWYER: This morning, we bring you Barack Obama. This week, John and Cindy McCain, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and more [Graphic reads: Barack Obama, Monday. Hillary Clinton, Tuesday. John and Cindy McCain, Wednesday. Joe Biden, Thursday. Michelle Obama, Friday.] As we begin our Whistle Stop Tour, 2008.
ROBIN ROBERTS: And you had a chance over the weekend to talk with Barack Obama.
CHRIS CUOMO: One of the men that they want to hear answer them. And there's no question that voters are saying they're focused on the issues now. They're past the personalities of a Barack Obama. Or, now, with Sarah Palin. So we got to sit down with Barack Obama to find out where his head is politically and what he thinks will get him to the finish line.
ABC GRAPHIC: Barack Obama One on One: Criticizes McCain's Economic Policy
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: I think we are in a very serious time right now. We've got Wall Street having all sorts of problems. The housing market has yet to recover. And if you want change, if you think that having record foreclosures and increasing job loss and an education policy that's adrift, then we're going to have to change policies.
CUOMO: You've watched this Palin phenomenon. What's your make on the situation?
OBAMA: My sense is, she's a skilled politician. I think that she wouldn't have gotten to where she was if she wasn't. And what has yet to be determined, and I don't think the interviews, as much as Charlie tried to really pin this down, is her position on issues. My sense is that she agrees with John McCain. And she agrees largely with George Bush in terms of our economic policies, our tax policy, health care policies. If you agree with what's happened on a policy basis over the last eight years, it's pretty hard for you to represent yourself as an agent of change. It's not a matter of just trying to put a new face on these underlying economic theories that really say we're going to give more to the most and hope that it trickles down.
CUOMO: People in the party getting a little nervous. Polls are tightening. A big shift with women.
OBAMA: One of the things about running over 19 months is that you realize this thing just goes in cycles. There are times when you're a genius. There are times when you're an idiot. So, we always anticipated that we'd get a boost from our convention. They'd get a boost from theirs. And that this was going to remain close until pretty close to the end, where people finally get a chance to see McCain and myself debate and have a chance to take a look and say who's the person who can actually bring about the changes that are going to make a difference in our lives.
CUOMO: Early after the race, McCain was after you to get the series of town hall meetings going on. They didn't happen. Now you're saying the issues are all that matter here. Why don't you pick up the phone to him and say, what are you doing next week? How about Tuesday? How about Wednesday? How about Thursday? Let's get out there as much as possible, you and me and talk about what matters most?
OBAMA: This whole thing about town halls I think is a little bit of a gimmick. We've got three debates coming up.
CUOMO: Why not 23? Why not 33?
OBAMA: Listen, I've gone through 22.
CUOMO: But now, this is it.
OBAMA: Nobody's debated more than I have. But, let's face it, the reason we're not talking about the issues doesn't have to do with of the fact that we didn't have town halls. The reason that we're not talking about the issues is because John McCain has shown a lack of interest in talking about the issues, that's how their campaign has been run. If the American people start focusing on who's going to actually help me, the single mom, get health care for myself and my kids, who's actually going to increase my take-home pay so that I can manage higher gas prices, that's not only a debate that is good political strategy for me, that's what the American people need.
CUOMO: But for all his desire to talk issues, Obama's latest ad seems to get very personal.
OBAMA AD: He admits he still doesn't know how to use a computer. Can't send an e-mail.
CUOMO: Now, we see these new ads coming out calling McCain an old man. Saying he can't use a computer.
OBAMA: Oh, wait. Now, Hold on, I didn't say that. What I said was- I mean, let's be fair, Chris. What I said was that John McCain is out of touch. When his health care adviser was recently quoted saying that we don't really have an insured problem because people can go to the emergency room, that has nothing to do with age. That indicates somebody who is not spending time thinking about people are going through day to day. And folks are struggling. .
CUOMO: But the ad is a negative ad. You paint him as an old man. You say he can't use a computer. He's never sent an e-mail. What does that all mean?
OBAMA: What it means is that we have got a 21st century economy and John McCain does not have a vision for how to move that forward. He hasn't talked about it in this campaign. You would be hard pressed to explain to me what John McCain's economic vision is about how he's going to get this economy back on track. That, I believe, is somebody who is out of touch with what should be the central question for that election.
CUOMO: So, no apologies for that ad?
OBAMA: No, if we're going to ask questions about who is promulgating negative ads that are completely unrelated to the issues at hand, I think I win that contest pretty handily. John McCain has not focused on the issues that matter to the American people.
CUOMO: We'll have more Obama in the next half hour. Both campaigns have weighed in on Lehman. Obama saying he doesn't blame John McCain, he blames his economic philosophy. John McCain says he's happy they didn't use tax dollars to bail out Lehman, he's worried about the deposits of regular Americans.