Playing the role of negotiator for the Democrats, Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday pressed Senator John McCain to "move the President's way" on extending the Bush tax cuts. He also oddly spun such a continuation as a "tax cut" for millionaires.
The ABC anchor lobbied McCain, asserting, "[Obama] moved your way on this freeze of all pay for federal workers. Are you prepared to move the President's way for any items on his agenda?"
Stephanopoulos then forced the Arizona senator to listen to a clip of Democrat Claire McCaskill arguing against extending tax cuts for the wealthy. "What's the answer to that," the host goaded. The former Democratic operative turned journalist complained, "But, do Americans making more than $1 million need a tax cut right now?" He didn't explain how it's cutting taxes to keep current tax rates in place.
On November 16, 2010, Stephanopoulos hit Congresswoman Michele Bachmann with the same Democratic talking points: "But, why is it okay for the wealthiest Americans, earning over $250,000 a year– And remember, the President has called for extending all tax cuts for those under $250,000."
On November 15, he talked to Erskine Bowles, the co-chair of a commission on debt reduction. Sounding a similar theme, Stephanopoulos worried, "Couldn't some of this be avoided by keeping the tax rates where they are? I mean, by letting them go back to where they were in 1998 when you were White House chief of staff?"
More examples of Stephanopoulos' arguing for tax increases can be found in the MRC's Profile in Bias page.
A transcript of the November 30 segment, which aired at 7:12am EST, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And for more on this we're now joined by Senator John McCain in Washington. Thank you for joining us this morning, Senator. And we just heard Jake go through the agenda. The President made an opening bid yesterday. He moved your way on this freeze of all pay for federal workers. Are you prepared to move the President's way for any items on his agenda?
JOHN MCCAIN: Well, what I hope that we could do is agree to the extension of the tax cuts at all levels. And also, reach some agreement on moving forward with the START treaty, as well. I think that that is a serious result that could end- could ensue from the meeting today. And I would point out that the election was about tax cuts, the economy, and jobs. That's what it was about. It wasn't about the Dream Act. It wasn't about Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It was about the tax cuts, give some confidence to businesses, large and small, that they will have some surety and confidence about what their financial situation will be in the coming year. And hopefully, we can move forward on that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk about the tax cuts. Because the Democrats seem to be prepared to compromise at least a bit. Before, they were saying extend the tax cuts for Americans only under $250,000. Now, they're saying, many of them are saying, they are willing to move that ceiling up to $1 million, that the tax cuts would expire only for Americans who make more than $1 million a year. Here's Senator Claire McCaskill on that.
CLAIRE MCCASKILL: Well, I think we should draw the line in the sand for millionaires. Honestly, with all of the talk and righteous indignation about the deficit, are we really going to hold up tax cuts for all of America just for the millionaires?
STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the answer to that?
MCCAIN: The answer to that is, let's give everybody confidence in the future, that they can invest, they can hire. Understandably, the amount of money that corporations and businesses are sitting on is at an all-time high. They- We want to give them confidence that there will not be any tax increase.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But, do Americans making more than $1 million need a tax cut right now?
MCCAIN: [Sarcastically] Or a billion dollars, or a billion dollars or ten billion dollars. What we're doing here is trying to find some level where the populism will take over. The fact is that we don't want to raise anybody's taxes in a time of economic recession that we're in. And that's the fundamental principle that we're adhering to. And we believe that's the message that the American people sent, to get some confidence into businesses, large and small, as to what their future will be, so they can invest and hire.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you wanted to see action on this START treaty. It's your colleague from Arizona, Senator Jon Kyl, who says he's not prepared to vote on it this year. But as you know, many even Republican former Secretaries of State and Defense, have said this is vital to America's national security. Can a compromise be reached before the end of this year?
MCCAIN: I hope so. I have some concerns about missile defense. In fact, I'm a little disturbed about the news this morning that tactical nuclear weapons have been moved closer to Europe than- by the Russians. But that is not directly related to the START treaty. But certainly is an indication for the need to have verification. I believe that we could move forward with a START treaty and satisfy Senator Kyl's concerns and mine about missile defense and others and I hope that we could do that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This year?
MCCAIN: I would hope so. I would hope so. But Senator Kyl's concerns are very legitimate. And I think they are- the attempts are being made to address them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir, on WikiLeaks. I know you think that leak is deplorable. But, I'm wondering is there anything that can be done about it?
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, let's go back to the principle of need to know. Why would a private first class have access to all of this information?
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's a very good question.
MCCAIN: Somebody is responsible for that. And it isn't just the private first class. They should be held accountable and responsible for a change. We should make sure that we have the fixes in, that we have confidence that that information will not be disseminated, except for those who need to know. And, frankly, I'm worried about the additional information that WikiLeaks apparently has and how much damage that will do to America's national security. Let's fix the problem, hold people responsible, and make sure this kind of thing never happens again.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. Senator McCain, thanks very much for your time this morning.
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.