ABC's McFadden on 'Rock Star' Hillary and 'Real People'

"Nightline" correspondent Cynthia McFadden filed another fawning profile on "rock star" Hillary Clinton for Thursday's program. The journalist, who has developed a long history of gushing over the former first lady, recited lines that read like Clinton press releases. Discussing the presidential candidate's Ohio campaign, she asserted, "...Clinton relishes the chance to talk concretely about the real problems in real people's lives."

Describing Clinton's appearance at a fast food diner, McFadden enthused, "Clinton is greeted like a rock star by patrons at the Bob Evans restaurant." During the interview, the ABC journalist asked penetrating questions such as inquiring, "So, how are you?" In an attempt to gingerly address Clinton's string of 11 straight primary losses to Senator Barack Obama, McFadden seemed to echo a famous Beatles song. "Can you really let go of yesterday," she queried.

Much of the segment featured McFadden spinning events for the senator. "Unlike the stadium events where Barack Obama thrives, Clinton seems to prefer smaller, more intimate settings where her voice is softer and her message more personal," she claimed in regards to Clinton's front-runner opponent. Describing a visit to an Ohio Head Start classroom, McFadden opined, "Senator Clinton was in her element, comfortable, she says, as head of the class, but not head of the pack." (This last comment related to a Clinton assertion that she hated being a front-runner.)

Finally, towards the end of the piece, McFadden spoke dismissively of Obama's supporters. As though mystified, she asked, "What do you think it is that they don't know? Are they ill-informed? Are they deluded? What is it they're not seeing?" This was too much even for Clinton. She replied, "Well I wouldn't put it that way."

The February 28 segment followed previous softball interviews by McFadden. In February, she wondered, "When you lie awake at night...what worries you?" And back in December, McFadden queried to Clinton, "There's never a night when you go back to whatever hotel room, whatever city you're in that night, and crawl in a ball and say, 'I just, this just hurts too much?"

A partial transcript of the February 28 segment, which aired at 11:46pm, follows:

MARTIN BASHIR: We turn now to presidential politics, and it's just five days until the two crucial Democratic primaries that everyone agrees Hillary Clinton must win to keep going. And it couldn't be much closer. Just a few months ago, Senator Clinton was up more than 20 points in Ohio. Now, she has just a single-digit lead. And my co-anchor Cynthia McFadden has spent the day with her. She has this "Nightline" exclusive from Ironton, Ohio.

CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: Good evening, Martin. Well it's doubtful that the Clinton roadmap to the presidency involved a pit stop in Meigs County, Ohio as it did earlier today. Locals tell us that Meigs County only has 2,500 registered Democratic voters total. And yet it wasn't supposed to come down to Ohio and Texas, but it has and every vote here counts. A bit of a crowd turned out to welcome Hillary Clinton to Pomeroy, Ohio, 50 people perhaps. But then in Pomeroy, 50 is a quite turnout, nestled in the Appalachian foothills, where poverty blankets the air at one and a half times the national average. Ohio is a big state. Why are we here?

CLINTON: Because I really want to draw attention to a lot of the problems in southern Ohio.

MCFADDEN: With so much at stake, Clinton will spend most of the morning at Brian Holman's trailer.

CLINTON: You're awfully kind to have us come.

BRIAN HOLMAN (CLINTON SUPPORTER): We're honored to have you here.

MCFADDEN: Three generations of the Holman family welcomed Clinton, daughter Chelsea and Ohio's popular governor, Ted Strickland. It was a full house. Only a couple of possible votes inside, but Clinton relishes the chance to talk concretely about the real problems in real people's lives.

CLINTON: I wanted to have a chance just to hear directly from some of you about what you think your biggest challenges are.

MCFADDEN: Health insurance, gas prices and jobs are very much on their mind.

HOLMAN: A lot of unemployment here. People struggle. And working a minimum wage job it's hard to afford the health insurance.

MCFADDEN: About 45 minutes down the road in Gallia County--

CLINTON SUPPORTER (FEMALE): Can I tell you something non-political real quick? I love your highlights.

CLINTON: Thank you.

MCFADDEN: Clinton is greeted like a rock star by patrons at the Bob Evans restaurant.

CLINTON: I was gonna' take a few orders. In case this other endeavor I'm involved in doesn't work, I know I can come back to Bob Evans.

MCFADDEN: So, how are you?

CLINTON: I am good. I am great. I'm having a terrific time. I mean, from the outside, campaigns look as hectic and grueling as they are, but on the inside it's really - it's a really intimate experience in a lot of ways. You feel like you're invited into people's lives in a way that is very precious to me.

MCFADDEN: And yet, less than three months ago, ABC News had you 30 points ahead of Barack Obama. Now, it's neck and neck.

CLINTON: Right. Right.

MCFADDEN: At least in Texas and in Ohio. It's hard for people to believe that you really feel so upbeat.

CLINTON: Well I never believed those polls. You see, I don't pay attention to polls. I mean I try very hard to stay focused on what I'm touching I'm feeling and I'm learning. Because I have found over many years that that gives me a better sense. [From speech] You know a lot of their ideas in the Republican administration--

MCFADDEN: But 2:00 this afternoon, we arrived in Hanging Rock, Ohio. Unlike the stadium events where Barack Obama thrives, Clinton seems to prefer smaller, more intimate settings where her voice is softer and her message more personal.

CHILD (MALE): Are you Hillary Clinton?

CLINTON: I am Hillary Clinton:

MCFADDEN: After talking to the grown-ups, she handed out snacks to the kids in the head start classroom. Senator Clinton was in her element, comfortable, she says, as head of the class, but not head of the pack. You also said I hate being the front-runner. Now, that one I have to tell you, you lost me on that. You hate being the front-runner?

CLINTON: Because you are the big target. You know, for - I'm still being treated like that, in terms of, you know, coming after me when, you know, this is a close contest.

MCFADDEN: When you look back and I know you say you don't look back--.

CLINTON: Not yet. I can't look back. I've got to keep looking forward.

MCFADDEN: So you'll look back at some point?

CLINTON: At some point, right, at some point. But I just have learned that it's really important to keep your concentration where it needs to be. I get up every day and think I think what do I have to try to do to advance my campaign?

MCFADDEN: Can you really let go of yesterday?

CLINTON: Absolutely.

MCFADDEN: So if you feel you blew it at a moment in the debate, you don't--

CLINTON: No, I am so tired by the time I finally get to bed. By the time my head hits the pillow it's lights out.

MCFADDEN: I want to tell you, I've talked to women around the country, many who are ardent supporters of yours, some who are not, some women who haven't made up their minds yet. Every single one of them has said the same thing to me in the last week or so. I feel sorry for Hillary Clinton right now. What do you think that means?

CLINTON: Well-- You know, I think a lot of women project their own feelings and their lives on to me, and they to see how hard this is. It's hard. It's hard being a woman out there. It is obviously challenging with some of things that are said, that are not even personal to me so much as they are about women. And I think women just sort of shake their heads. My friends do. They say, "Oh, my gosh, this is so hard." Well, it's supposed to be hard. I'm running for the hardest job in the world. No one has ever done this. No woman has ever won a presidential primary before I won New Hampshire. This is hard. Now, every so often, I just wish it were more of an even playing field, but you know, I play on whatever field is out there. And now increasingly, Cynthia, everywhere I go, people say to me, don't give up. Don't give up. I'm with you, stay in this.

MCFADDEN: When we come back, what Hillary Clinton has to say about her rival, Barack Obama.


MCFADDEN: But whether she'll get to implement any of her ideas as president is far from clear. After losing 11 contests in a row, there have been a growing number of Democratic voices making her task even harder. Yesterday, it was John Lewis, a highly respected civil rights leader, super delegate and long-time friend of the Clintons, who announced he would switch his support to Obama.

REP JOHN LEWIS: I will be casting my vote for Barack Obama.

CLINTON: I understand the pressure he's under. It's been very intense and I respect him. I consider him a friend. I told him that when I spoke with him.

MCFADDEN: When he talks about Barack Obama as this sort of phenomenon, what do you think it - obviously, a lot of voters agree. What do you think it is that they don't know? Are they ill-informed? Are they deluded? What is it they're not seeing?

CLINTON: Well I wouldn't put it that way. You know, I think the best description actually is in Barack's own book, the last book he wrote "Audacity of Hope" where he said that he's a blank screen. And people of widely differing views project what they want to believe onto him. And then he went on to say, I am bound to disappoint some if not all of them. He just hasn't been around long enough. I'm a full-fledged canvas. You know, some people love me, some people a little less, but you know where I stand. You know the fights I've taken on. You know that you can count on me to do what I say I will do.

Campaigns & Elections 2008 Presidential ABC Nightline Cynthia McFadden
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