Good Morning America offered another typical softball session with Bill Clinton on Monday to promote his latest Global Initiative meeting, but since using George Stephanopoulos might seem too obvious, they sent normally aggressive Jake Tapper to lob the softballs. Oddly, the questions that might actually be defined as news were edited out of the ABC program and left to a much smaller audience of political junkies on Tapper's Political Punch blog.
Instead of the program featuring queries about Travon Martin or the Supreme Court, Tapper highlighted the "long, bruising" Republican presidential primary and compared it to Clinton's 1992 campaign: "You turned it around. Can [Romney]?" An ABC graphic trumpeted, "Bill Clinton: Romney Can't Win." Clinton piously asserted that his presidential campaign endured "one long character attack." Tapper had no follow-up or query about Clinton's actual character issues. [See video below. See MP3 audio here.]
The only question that could possibly be construed as tough would be when Tapper highlighted Clinton's 1996 reelection. The reporter noted that the then-President was able to convince people they were better off. Tapper added, "President Obama is not going to be able to put that question to the people. How does he get reelected?"
Of course, considering the high unemployment and gas prices, that's simply stating the obvious.
Much of the rest of the interview focused on hyping the Clinton Global Initiative's projects.
Tapper helpfully pitched, "At a time when people are so skeptical and distrustful of government, corporations, how do you convince young people that public service can be effective?"
He blandly followed-up: "How do you get them to leave their computer and come and actually get their hands dirty?"
However, Tapper's questions there weren't much tougher.
Rather than focus directly on the Obama administration's poorly received defense of the health care law, the journalist only gently noted that "the administration spent much of the last week defending it's health care law in the Supreme Court. As a lawyer and a politician, what argument did you not hear being made about the constitutionality of the law?"
Tapper followed up, "Do you think the Supreme Court's too political?"
Last week, ABC mostly ignored the court's hearings on Obamacare.
It should also be pointed out that during the 2008 campaign, GMA devoted 64 minutes to a series of "town hall" interviews for Democrats. Zero for Republicans. They have yet to do a town hall for the 2012 GOP contenders.
A transcript of the April 2 interview, which aired at 7:12am EDT, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's get to the race for president now and our exclusive interview with former President Bill Clinton. With top Republicans closing ranks behind Mitt Romney ahead of tomorrow's Wisconsin primary, Clinton gave ABC's Jake Tapper a blunt assessment of Romney's prospect and Hillary Clinton's future. It's a special your voice, your vote and, Jake, you caught up with the President yesterday at this fifth annual Clinton Global Initiative University.
ABC GRAPHIC: Bill Clinton: Romney Can't Win
JAKE TAPPER: That's right, George. But first, hi, Katie.
KATIE COURIC: Hi, Jake! Nice to see you!
JAKE TAPPER: So, George, I don't have to remind you, George, 20 years ago, President Clinton faced a very similar dynamic to the one currently being experienced by Mitt Romney, that is a long bruising primary driving up his unfavorable ratings. So, I asked him about it. You turned it around. Can he?
BILL CLINTON: I doubt it. Mr. Romney has a different challenge than I did. Mine was just one long character attack. But, we never had to change what we were saying from the primary to the general.
ANN ROMNEY [At a speech]: We're going let this guy do it.
CLINTON: The problem that Governor Romney has is his character attack was, you don't know what he believes. He did this, he says that. And the poor man who got in trouble for the Etch-a-Sketch remark, that's like saying there is nothing more damaging in politics than telling the truth. I mean, the truth is that's what he's got to do.
TAPPER: We caught up with the former president at the annual Clinton Global Initiative University with more than 1000 students coming together to discuss community service projects. At a time when people are so skeptical and distrustful of government, corporations, how do you convince young people that public service can be effective?
CLINTON: There are young people who are always idealistic and always have good ideas. And then there are the young people who are disillusioned with government or the private sector who think, "Okay. I want to take things into their own hands." And we have both types of people here." It was very interesting.
TAPPER: How do you get them to leave their computer and come and actually get their hands dirty?
CLINTON: That's why we do this. One of the lessons of the Arab Spring in Tahrir Square- I remember when those young people came out there through the social media and demonstrations they could bring down a government. But they couldn't build one. So, who won the elections? The Muslim Brotherhood. Why? Because they have been working for on organizing and building things up on the grass roots level.
TAPPER: In '96, you were able to say, "Are you better off than you were four years ago?' and the answer was yes. And you got re-elected. President Obama is not going to be able to put that question to the people. How does he get reelected?
CLINTON: I'm not sure that is true. But, if it is true, it is only because the financial collapse occurred in September of 2008, just a couple of months before he became president. I think that his argument will be we put a floor under a recession and kept it from becoming a depression. We've begun to dig our way out. I think that he's going to win handily and I have for a long time.
TAPPER: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won't stay in her post for a second Obama term. But what about a presidential run in 2016? Do you think that there's still a possibility she'll run?
CLINTON: I don't know. It's entirely up to her. I'm glad she's coming home. I miss her. We have fun together. She wants to come home and decompress and relax. And I believe that she's been honest when she says she doesn't thing she'll go back to politics. But, if she comes home and we do this foundation stuff for the rest of our lives, I'll be happy. If he changes her mind and decides to run, I'll be happy. But I don't think- that's light years away.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, Jake, I think the Secretary of State has said about three dozen times that she's retiring from politics next year. But, he opened the door again.
TAPPER: I think he wants her to run. I mean, I said, what do you want? And I said, [doing Clinton impersonation] "I want whatever she wants."
STEPHANOPOULOS: He's got that one down. Right?
TAPPER: But I have to say, I think that there's part of him that really wants her to run.
COURIC: Do you think that she wants it- or he wants it more than she wants it?
TAPPER: At this point, I think so. I think she's exhausted. She's been in public service now for more than 20 years.
COURIC: And her schedule has been insane as Secretary of State.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah. I take her at her word when she says she doesn't want to run. But, yeah, it is a long ways away. No one has any idea what the world is going to look like then.
COURIC: That's true. I mean, it's a long way from April to November, too. We should point out, too.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely. I was surprised he went directly at Mitt Romney as well.
TAPPER: Well, I think he misses politics in that sense. And he has been pretty restrained so far.