Stephanopoulos on Clinton: 'Philanthropist Who Happened to Be President'

ABC's George Stephanopoulos put on a sycophantic display in his pre-taped interview on Sunday's This Week with his former boss, ex-President Bill Clinton. Holding up the magazine as the two sat in a room at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting, Stephanopoulos touted “this great story in The Atlantic this month about your philanthropy” which “says you're basically re-inventing philanthropy” and, quoting the author, “'history may remember Bill Clinton as the philanthropist who happened to be President.' You okay with that?” The ever humble Clinton insisted: “I'll have to live a very long time to have as positive an impact on as many people in the United States and around the world in my after life as I did as President.” Next, Stephanopoulos oozed that the 1991 campaign slogan of “buy one, get one free” with Bill and Hillary is now “about as resonant as ever” with Hillary and Bill. As Clinton chuckled, Stephanopoulos wondered: “Is it more true now than it was then?”

In the previous segment, Stephanopoulos was a bit less celebratory about GOP prospects, asking in-studio guest Newt Gingrich: “How much are you worried that, you know, this year, 2008, is shaping up to be another 1964 for the Republican Party?” (Gingrich replied he sees it more like 1976 with the Republican coming close but unable to close the gap with Hillary Clinton.) NBC's Tim Russert, who also ran on Meet the Press a taped segment with Bill Clinton, was nearly as fawning as Stephanopoulos, posing such obsequious questions as: “What would your role be? What would you be called? You're not First Lady, would it be First Man? How does that work?” But, unlike Stephanopoulos, he also gently challenged Clinton about conflicts of interest if his wife were to win: “Shouldn't, to avoid any perception problem, donors to your library or to your foundation, be made public?”

Stephanopoulos failed to identify the author of the fawning article in the October issue of The Atlantic magazine, “'This Is Not Charity'” with the subhead: “How Bill Clinton, Ira Magaziner, and a team of management consultants are creating new markets, reinventing philanthropy -- and trying to save the world.” The piece was written by Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institution.

From the September 30 This Week, some of the questions to Bill Clinton from George Stephanopoulos:
There was this great story in The Atlantic this month about your philanthropy, the CGI [Clinton Global Initiative] and your other activities at the foundation. And the author says you're basically re-inventing philanthropy, or trying to re-invent philanthropy by, as you talked about with the Duke Power example, putting the profit motive into delivering public services. What's the future of that?

[Clinton]

He writes that “as a result of this, history may remember Bill Clinton as the philanthropist who happened to be President.” You okay with that?

CLINTON: I doubt that. I'm okay with it if it happens, but I doubt it. I'll have to live a very long time to have as positive an impact on as many people in the United States and around the world in my after life as I did as President....

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're also back on the campaign trail now, and a phrase from 1991 is about as resonant as ever.

BILL CLINTON IN 1991: I always say that my slogan might well be "buy one, get one free."

CLINTON: chuckles

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it more true now than it was then?

....

STEPHANOPOULOS: If Hillary wins, do you want an office in the West Wing?
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center