Ex-Democratic Aide Stephanopoulos Chats With Democratic Buddy Carville on ABC

Former Democratic operative turned journalist George Stephanopoulos chatted with current Democratic operative, and good friend, James Carville on Thursday’s Good Morning America. This was Carville’s third appearance on the show in nine days. As noted on NewsBusters yesterday, new host Stephanopoulos has conducted all but one of the policy and political interviews since joining the program on December 14.

Wouldn’t Thursday have been the perfect day for ABC to award the segment, which also included Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace, to the other co-host, Robin Roberts? Carville and Stephanopoulos have a long friendship and it certainly sounds like a conflict of interest. On Monday, Carville was featured to welcome Stephanopoulos to the show. He enthused, "I once said, 'If you converted [Stephanopoulos’] IQ to Fahrenheit, you could boil water.'"

Stephanopoulos did ask Carville some tough questions on Thursday. On the issue of national security and the attempted Christmas bombing of a plane, he quizzed, "The President coming out, James, again today with the report they're going to release an unclassified version as we learned overnight that border officials had some suspicions about the flight while it was taking place. Has the President done enough to insulate himself from the political fallout here?"

At one point, Wallace referenced President Bush’s handling of Hurricane Katrina: "And sometimes, after Katrina, the Bush administration responded adequately to the subsequent hurricanes of 2005. It didn’t matter." Stephanopoulos speculated, "So, this is Katrina for President Obama?" (Carville also appeared on the December 29, 2009 GMA and was interviewed by guest host Elizabeth Vargas.)

Stephanopoulos has now done 12 shows since his debut on December 14. Before the arrival of the new host, Roberts conducted many of the policy/political interviews. Whether she’s allowed to talk to James Carville in the future, or whether only Stephanopoulos conducts such segments, remains to be seen.

A transcript of the January 7 segment, which aired at 7:11am EST, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: For more on this, we're now joined by Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace. And James [Carville is laughing for some reason.] What are you laughing about, James? And our GMA contributor, James Carville.

NICOLLE WALLACE: It’s a tone setter.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, we can stop the laughter. We just saw Jon Karl there.

JAMES CARVILLE: All right. I did.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we saw the retirements yesterday of Byron Dorgan and Chris Dodd. Democrats left Washington after Christmas, confident that health care is going to pass. You see these senators reading the tea leaves for November. But, does this imperil the bill?

CARVILLE: I don't think so. I mean, there’s a lot of things, as Jonathan pointed out, between here and there. And I think the appropriate thing here, is Franklin’s dictum, that we better hang together or, surely, we’ll hang separately. And I don’t think-I think still the sense is, if this fails, it would be worse for them politically than if it passes. And I think that's a calculation across the Democratic Party. Having said that, there's enough things that could potentially trip this up. Of course, there are. But my sense is it’s still pass at some point.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Nicolle, Democrats convinced that if it does pass, this is going to put them back on the path to political recovery.

WALLACE: Yeah, look, the problems with that analysis is the problems with the health care bill that used to exist only on the right, are now affecting the thoughts of the independent voters, who, before the holiday, were parting ways with Obama and the Democrats. And now, I think we have to wait and watch what his impact his slow response, it’s widely perceived to have been a slow response to the terror attack, has on that group of voters. I think that, you know, a lot of trouble signs there.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to get to that to in a second. But, do you agree with James? Is this going to pass?

WALLACE: I think it will probably pass. But I think they will do something that's even uglier than limping across the finish line.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's get to this national security scare. The President coming out, James, again today with the report they’re going to release an unclassified version as we learned overnight that border officials had some suspicions about the flight while it was taking place. Has the President done enough to insulate himself from the political fallout here?

CARVILLE: Well, look, it's two weeks. And look how much we know in this instance, compared to most of these things. He was really ticked off. He wanted to get to the bottom of this. And we're finding things out now. And now we're putting agents on every flight. I mean, I think his reaction has been pretty determined. And I think it's been pretty good. I’m kind of laughing. I kind of laugh I said, I’m like George Clooney. I'm up in the air all the time. And I was curious about this thing, too. I got to say, as an air traveler, I'm pretty satisfied with the quickness and the depth of the response that we had with this. I'm pretty shaken, that after all of this, this guy gets on a plane, after we closed the plane doors and he’s over the Atlantic and somebody goes, "Oh. Wow." I'm curious why they didn't call the pilot. You know what I mean?

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's exactly my question this morning.

CARVILLE: I don't know, I, as much as any American citizen, want to know what happened here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The President done enough?

WALLACE: Well, I think in the last three days, he has. But I think that, you know, certainly, I learned in the Bush years, you guys have plenty of experience inside the White House. I think that impressions are made in the early hours. And in the early hours after the failed terror attack, he took in about six more rounds of golf and a movie with the kids. Now, I don't think we exactly know what damage was done in the early days. But you never get those moments back. And I think that first impression was that he was slow. That his surrogates were out there saying the system worked. And I think those things do irreparable harm. And sometimes, after Katrina, the Bush administration responded adequately to the subsequent hurricanes of 2005. It didn’t matter.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, this is Katrina for President Obama?

WALLACE: I don't think so. I don’t think so. I just think that the analogy is that the first impression was of Obama in a golf shirt, taking in, you know, another half round of golf games and not rushing back to Washington to ride hard on the federal bureaucracy, which he did to great effect this week.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Should the President have suspended his vacation?

CARVILLE: No. I- I- I dissent. I think it was three days later that he came out. And one thing about him, is he likes to have the facts before he steps out. It was, it would have been better, had he not been on vacation. But, Presidents take vacations. I mean, that's hardly what it is. I'm actually pretty satisfied with the response so far.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Congressman Peter King was on the show yesterday, Republican, saying he thinks that the Republicans will take control of the House in November. Is he right?

CARVILLE: I don't think he's right. But, you know, if we pass health care and if the Republicans are in with a big bet in a the economy is not going to do well. And there's some evidence that the economy is improving. If we see as much improvement in the economy in the next nine months that we've seen in the previous nine months, then we're not going to lose very many seats at all.

WALLACE: Republicans are betting against the economy. But they're pretty certain that the steps Obama has taken, the massive government spending, the stimulus bill, the greater role of the federal government in the delivery of health care, are going to be giant losers in the fall for Democrats.

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