ABC Gives Obama Twice the Time, Scolds McCain & Admits Obama Driving the Campaign 'Narrative'

Matching CBS/Katie Couric on Tuesday night, on Wednesday evening ABC's World News followed its exclusive Barack Obama session of the day with a shorter interview segment with John McCain as anchor Charles Gibson teased: “Barack Obama, here in Israel, holding meetings at breakneck speed on the Middle East conflict.” Obama got a full five minutes with anchor Charles Gibson in Israel, not counting a glowing minute-long introduction -- Obama's “schedule here in Israel looked like a Middle East shuttle mission” -- while ABC allocated two-and-a-half minutes to David Wright with McCain. Gibson did press Obama on his foreign policy “inexperience” and Obama's declaration that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel,” wondering if that was “a rookie mistake?”

Wright began by scolding McCain for his “extraordinary statement” that “Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.” Wright demanded: “Do you really think he's that craven?” Wright also lectured: “But what you seem to be saying there is that it's all about personal ambition for him and not about what he honestly thinks is right for the country.” Bizarrely, as if the media's decisions are not primarily responsible, Wright told McCain the fact that “the narrative of this campaign is being driven by whatever Senator Obama does” shows a McCain campaign failure:
You've been touring here in the states, had the domestic stage all to yourself. And yet, we're talking an awful lot about foreign policy. It seems like the narrative of this campaign is being driven by whatever Senator Obama does and that you're left to kind of react to that.
Gibson's tease, from Jerusalem, at the top of the Wednesday, July 23 World News on ABC:
Mideast shuttle: Barack Obama, here in Israel, holding meetings at breakneck speed on the Middle East conflict. We'll ask him how he plans to bring peace to the region. Counterpunch. John McCain goes on the defensive, saying Obama's policies will mean defeat in Iraq and won't solve te energy crisis at home.
Gibson introduced his Obama interview (ABC led with Hurricane Dolly):
We turn next to the flurry of events for Senator Barack Obama, whose schedule here in Israel looked like a Middle East shuttle mission. We caught up with him in Jerusalem, between meetings and photo ops, with among others, Israeli President Perez, and Defense Minister Barak. And then it was on the West Bank city of Ramallah to meet with Palestinian President Abbas.

We talked with him again in the Israeli town of Sderot, which has been the frequent target of Palestinian rocket fire. The most solemn moment came as he laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem, the memorial of the six million victims of the holocaust. When you're hitting seven countries in eight days, the schedule gets a bit hectic. This trip to Israel presented a number of pitfalls for Obama for he has promised to make the search for a Middle East peace a top priority. But how to do that? How to balance Israeli and Palestinian interests? How to deal with Iran's nuclear threat? We talked about all of that with the Senator today.
The questions to Obama from Gibson, aired on the Wednesday, July 23 World News, with both sitting together in Israel:
- Senator, let's talk about the trip as a whole. The polls indicate that a considerably larger percentage of the people of the United States think that John McCain would make a good Commander-in-Chief than you. So, is the trip principally designed to narrow that gap?

- If people have a reservation about you, it is that you are young, that you're inexperienced and that you're very new to the international stage.

- Do you sense that there's a considerable portion of Israelis, and even American Jewry, who are very reserved and even distrusting of your commitment to Israel?
- Obama recently caused a great deal of controversy here, when he said in a speech:
[Obama: Let me be clear. Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is nonnegotiable. And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.]

To Palestinians, that is flat out unacceptable. When you said that, did you not realize the significance that that has for so many people in this region?

[Obama: Well, look, number one, the fact is that Jerusalem is Israel's capital. So, I was simply stating a fact.With respect to-]

You said must remain undivided. Those are code words.

[Obama: Well, the issue of it being undivided, I have said and I said immediately after the speech, that that word was poorly chosen. That what I was referring to is making sure that we're not setting up barbed wire across Israel.]

Senator, it's a very simple declarative statement. And you started the paragraph by saying, “let me be clear.”

[Obama: Charlie, if the day after or the day of making the speech I concede that the wording is poor, and it's immediately corrected, then-

Rookie mistake?

[Obama: I wouldn't say rookie mistake. I think that veterans make mistakes, as well.]

In the two states, what do you envision is the capital of Palestine?

[Obama: You know, I'm going to let the parties sort that out. And I don't think that it's the United States' job to make that decision.]

Would you move the U.S. embassy -- if you were President, would you move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem?

[Obama: Charlie, you know, I think that we're going to work through this process before we make these kinds of decisions.]

- Aren't these things that you thought through in your head?
- Let me turn to Iran. John McCain has said the only thing worse than war with Iran would be a nuclear Iran. John Abizaid was one of the top military leaders in the United States, has said, well, we may have to live with a nuclear Iran. I know it's a choice you don't want to make. Who's right?

- So, what if Israel decides, in the name of its own security, that it needs to make strikes on Iran?
Gibson set up the subsequent segment with John McCain:
Barack Obama may be out of the country, but he's not been out of range by attracts by John McCain. Day after day, the Republican candidate has challenged Obama's domestic policies, and been quick to point out his inexperience in foreign affairs. ABC's David Wright covers John McCain and talked with the Arizona Senator today.
Wright's questions:
- Senator, I want to start by asking you about an extraordinary statement you just made in that town hall meeting.

[JOHN McCAIN: So, apparently, Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.]

That's pretty strong language. Do you really think he's that craven?
[McCAIN: I think that it's very clear that Senator Obama has refused to recognize that the strategy in Iraq called the surge has succeeded.]

But what you seem to be saying there is that it's all about personal ambition for him and not about what he honestly thinks is right for the country.
- But it sometimes seems, as an outside observer, that both of you guys sometimes get stuck in the past. Senator Obama's kind of stuck in 2003 and whether the war was a good idea in the first place. And you kind of seem stuck, sometimes, in 2007, whether the surge was the right strategy. Shouldn't this debate really be about the future and where we go from here?

- Charlie Gibson sat down today with Senator Obama in Jerusalem. And as you can imagine, they talked a lot about the Middle East peace process. How would that initiative look different in a McCain administration than it would in an Obama administration?

- You've been touring here in the states, had the domestic stage all to yourself. And yet, we're talking an awful lot about foreign policy. It seems like the narrative of this campaign is being driven by whatever Senator Obama does and that you're left to kind of react to that.

[McCAIN: It may seem like that to you. It doesn't seem like that to me. We're getting very good crowds. We're doing well in the polls. So, I'm very happy with where we are.]

ABCNews.com's page for World News features several articles about, and some video clips of, the Obama and McCain interviews.

Next up on the Obamathon interview parade: Obama with NBC's Brian Williams on Thursday's NBC Nightly News. Wednesday night Williams, who hasn't anchored for a week-and-a-half, showed up to anchor from Germany.

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