Good Morning America co-host George Stephanopoulos on Monday did not go easy on his friend and former colleague James Carville. Discussing the Massachusetts Senate election, he quoted Carville’s words from his 2009 book 40 More Years: "Republicans have no hope of making serious inroads into democratic advantages in 2010 or likely 2012 or 2014 and so on. It's time to call T.O.D., time of death, on the GOP."
Stephanopoulos then challenged, "Care to revise that opinion?" On May 5, 2009, the day before 40 More Years was released, GMA brought Carville on and gave him generous amounts of time to promote his book. So, ABC should be commended for calling the author out on his wildly inaccurate prediction.
The ABC journalist noted the cloudy forecast for Democrats in the 2010 midterms and pressed, "Is the Democratic majority at risk in the House?" Carville bluntly replied, "You have to think unless something is done to change direction, I think everything is at risk." A surprised Stephanopoulos marveled, "Wow!"
The GMA host did spin the Democratic options as fighting versus retreat: "Some Democrats like Harold Ford saying go back to business: Tax cut, scale down health care. Ed Rendell saying fight. Which side are you on?"
However, Stephanopoulos was surprisingly tough on Carville. He even referenced past errors: "When you were wrong in 2002 you dumped a garbage can on your head. When you were wrong in 2004 about John Kerry, you smashed an egg on your face. We want you back after election day if Republicans take control. What will you do?"
Today’s performance doesn’t mitigate the conflict of interest in having one former Democratic operative interview another, current, Democratic operative, and a friend at that. And it doesn’t eliminate the fact that, since Stephanopoulos’ arrival, co-host Robin Roberts has mostly been shut out from political and policy debates.
A transcript of the January 25 segment, which aired at 7:07am EST, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s bring in James Carville. He’s down in New Orleans. He’s our GMA contributor. That’s what he’s smiling about, the Saints, not the Democrats.
JAMES CARVILLE: Right. No. Exactly. It's all Saints right now. What a surprise these Democrats are disagreeing with each other. I've never heard anything like that before in my life.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It sounds like you're a little hoarse from cheering last night. Let’s get to the Democrats right now. You write in the Financial Times that the take away the Democrats have to get from the election is learn the blame game. Learn to blame President Bush and the Republicans. But, Republican Senator Jim DeMint took that on yesterday on This Week. Listen.
SENATOR JIM DEMINT: People are alarmed and angry about the spending, the debt, the government takeovers and I've been amazed to hear Mr. Axelrod and what the President said this week. After three years of controlling both houses of Congress, they're still trying to blame someone else.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Don't you think Americans are more interested in what President Obama is going to do now than what President Bush did then?
CARVILLE: You know, you can't- you have to put things in context, George. If you are looking at what's happening, the President has to explain what he took over and what happened. When you go back and you look at, say, the war in Afghanistan it has to be explained there was a failure to capture bin Laden when they had a chance to. President Reagan, if you go back to 1980 in his original State of the Union address blasted Jimmy Carter and said before you can ever know what you're going to do in the future you have to understand the past. And what I'm merely saying is that the Democrats have to put that in context. That's a very important thing. And, Senator DeMint, amusingly enough, is a man who says we have to kill health care so the President will fail. So- he doesn't care, because he'll say whatever he wants.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's not exactly alone. I mean, you saw this intra-Democratic debate. Harold Ford versus Ed Rendell in Jake’s piece. Some Democrats like Harold Ford saying go back to business: Tax cut, scale down health care. Ed Rendell saying fight. Which side are you on?
CARVILLE: [Laughs] Look, I'm on a side to explain what the President is doing, to explain what it is that he inherited and to put into context what his program is. I think he's done a lot of different things, many of them good, but is not coming across to people that it's a coherent strategy to deal with the economic realities that we are in right now. I think, that, also they're talking about job creation as part of the State of the Union. I mean, I think that would be a good thing in a sense but he's got to give the American people a little bit clearer sense he has a strategy to deal with this. I think that's one of the problems he's having right now. It seems very, very ad hoc.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You talk about context. There are more and more signs since Tuesday that the Democrats are in trouble. Republicans coming out of the woodwork to challenge Democratic House members. Another Democratic House member is retiring today. Last year, you wrote in your book 40 More Years, quote, "Republicans have no hope of making serious inroads into democratic advantages in 2010 or likely 2012 or 2014 and so on. It’s time to call T.O.D., time of death, on the GOP. Care to revise that opinion?
CARVILLE [Chuckles]: I would revise it up a little bit. Look, the general thesis of the book is that the demographic trends are going to favor the Democrats. Look, we’ve won four out of the last five popular votes in the presidential election but right now unless the president is able to change direction we will have a rough 2010. I don't also give hope that there are things we can do between now and November to make it- to lessen that effect.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the Democratic majority at risk in the House?
CARVILLE: You have to think unless something is done to change direction, I think everything is at risk.
CARVILLE: Well, I don't think it'll happen, but you can't look- I think you got to look at this thing in Massachusetts and say here's a real signal here. If you don't deal with it, it's going to get worse. If you deal with it, I think, maybe, bringing Mr. Plouffe in is a sign people want to deal with it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you don’t think it will happen. When you were wrong in 2002 you dumped a garbage can on your head. When you were wrong in 2004 about John Kerry, you smashed an egg on your face. We want you back after election day if Republicans take control. What will you do?
CARVILLE: I don't know. It depends if the Saints win the Super Bowl. [Laughs] I'll have to think of what up in 2010. I hope I'm wrong. I don't think I am wrong. By the way, you know, if there are Republicans and there's not much of a good feeling toward them and I'm sure they'll overplay their hand or do something. I'm counting on them doing something stupid to save my prediction between now and November.