Gibson Cues Up Obama Refutation on Ayers But Demands McCain Justify Topic

For ABC's World News on Wednesday and Thursday, Charles Gibson conducted interviews with Barack Obama and John McCain aboard the ABC News bus, but on McCain's “line of attack” against Obama he shared Obama's annoyance (“Are you going to have to address that again?”) while he pushed McCain to justify the criticism: “You're comfortable that this should be a focus in the last days of the campaign?”

With Obama in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Gibson noted how “John McCain has unloaded on you in the last 72, 96 hours, as has Sarah Palin” about how “we don't know who Barack Obama is,” but “were you surprised that he didn't bring it up last night at the debate and use that line of attack?” Gibson next cued up Obama, as if it's an unfair burden for Obama to “again” have to address Ayers: “Sarah Palin has come at you because of the Bill Ayers connection. Are you going to have to address that again?”

Talking to McCain on Thursday in Milwaukee, Gibson raised the obvious (“Does this almost monolithic focus on the economy, in the news, and in people's minds in recent weeks, hurt your campaign?”) before then treating McCain's efforts to change the subject as odd: “Why...have you focused so in what you've had to say on Senator Obama's character?” When McCain brought up Obama's level of “knowledge and judgment,” a befuddled Gibson pressed: “You don't think he's been thoroughly vetted, having gone through all the primaries he did, all the campaigning, running for President as long as you have -- two years?” As for Ayers, Gibson pushed McCain to show his own better judgment, posing the question cited above about being “comfortable” with making Obama's character an issue.

As for Obama's being “thoroughly vetted,” two Media Research Center studies released in August proved otherwise:

Editing Reverend Wright’s Wrongs: How the Networks Censored and Manipulated Jeremiah Wright Soundbites and Glorified Barack Obama’s Race Speech”

Obama’s Margin of Victory: The Media; How Barack Obama Could Not Have Won the Democratic Nomination Without ABC, CBS and NBC,” determined:

Barack Obama had a crucial advantage over his rivals this year: the support of the national media, especially the three broadcast networks. At every step of his national political career, network reporters showered the Illinois Senator with glowing media coverage, building him up as a political celebrity and exhibiting little interest in investigating his past associations or exploring the controversies that could have threatened his campaign.
Gibson's first questions to set up the two segments weren't exactly equal as Gibson prompted Obama to expound, but pressed McCain to explain a supposed failure:

For Obama:
And we asked him about what we've been hearing on this trip.

For McCain:

And, we asked Senator McCain why at the debate the other night, there weren't more new ideas about how to solve the current economic crisis.

An example of similar questions to both:

To Obama: “Somebody said to us, where is the passion in these guys? Where is the anger? People have lost trillions of dollars in their stock accounts, in their pension plans, in their 401 (k) s. You said out there to this rally, fear and panic cannot pervade us. And yet, fear does right now. And people look to leaders to turn that around or to counter that.”

To Mccain: “We've talked to a lot of folks as we've taken this bus around the battleground states in the Midwest, and somebody said to us: 'I don't see the passion and I don't see the anger in either one of these guys.'”

Gibson's queries to Obama, from their interview on the ABC News bus parked in Indianapolis, as aired on the Wednesday, October 8 World News:

CHARLES GIBSON: All along our Midwest bus tour, the economy has been the first topic of conversation with people we've been meeting along the way. After two days in Ohio, we drove through an early fall rainstorm this morning across the border to Indiana and the Indiana State Fairgrounds here in Indianapolis. Barack Obama held a rally here where he focused on the economy, and he focused on people's fears. Those were the primary topics of our conversation with the Senator as he came on board to visit. And we asked him about what we've been hearing on this trip.

CHARLES GIBSON: Somebody said to us, where is the passion in these guys? Where is the anger? People have lost trillions of dollars in their stock accounts, in their pension plans, in their 401 (k) s. You said out there to this rally, fear and panic cannot pervade us. And yet, fear does right now. And people look to leaders to turn that around or to counter that.

[OBAMA]

GIBSON: You also said to this rally, we need new direction, we need new leadership in Washington. But what would you be doing right now that's any different than what the Bush administration has done or is doing?

[OBAMA]

GIBSON: But that puts you in a position -- that puts you in a position of essentially saying, trust me. I'm a 47-year-old guy with one term in the Senate, and you got to put your faith in me.

[OBAMA]

GIBSON: We passed a $700 billion rescue package, the market went down. The Fed said we'll be the primary lenders to banks and to businesses. The market tanked. We now have a worldwide rate cut to try to increase liquidity. The market is yawning at that today. It almost seems -- and the credit markets remain frozen. It almost seems as if rationality is out the window.

[OBAMA]

GIBSON: A group of kids at Bowling Green, I watched the debate with them last night. They don't believe the money's going to be there to pay for their loans to get them through four years of college. And then on top of that, I said to them, well, if you don't have faith in that, how many of you believe Social Security will be there when you get to be 65? 21 kids, 3 held up their hands. That again is a breakdown of faith in the system.

.....

GIBSON: In recent days, John McCain at his rallies has been talking a lot about Barack Obama the man, saying America doesn't really know Obama. So we asked Barack Obama about that in our conversation today.

GIBSON TO OBAMA: John McCain has unloaded on you in the last 72, 96 hours, as has Sarah Palin. McCain saying essentially we don't know who Barack Obama is, where he came from. I'm an open book. He's not. Were you surprised that he didn't bring it up last night at the debate and use that line of attack?

OBAMA: Well I am surprised that we've been seeing some pretty over the top attacks coming out of the McCain campaign over the last several days, that he wasn't willing to say it to my face. The notion that people don't know who I am is a little hard to swallow. I've been running for President for the last two years. I've campaigned in 49 states. Millions of people have heard me speak at length on every topic under the sun. And I've written two books which everybody who reads them will say are about as honest a set of reflections by at least a politician as are out there.

GIBSON: Finally, she's come at you; Sarah Palin has come at you because of the Bill Ayers connection. Are you going to have to address that again?

SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Why don't we clear it up right now? I'll repeat again what I've said many times. This is a guy who engaged in some despicable acts 40 years ago when I was eight years old. By the time I met him 10 or 15 years ago, he was a college professor of education at the University of Illinois. And we served on a school reform board together. A board, by the way, that was funded by Walter Annenberg, who had been an ambassador and close friend of Ronald Reagan's. So I have talked to him about school reform issues, and the notion that somehow he has been involved in my campaign, that he is an adviser of mine, that I palled around with a terrorist, all these statements are made simply to try to score cheap political points. You know, look, I can handle these attacks for the remaining four weeks, but it's certainly not serving our democracy right now. We need to be having a debate about how we're going to yank ourselves out of a very difficult situation, and that's what I'm going to spend my time talking about.


Gibson's question to McCain on the ABC News bus parked in Milwaukee, as aired on the Thursday, October 9 World News:

CHARLES GIBSON: The economy continues to dominate the conversations on our tour of the Midwest battleground states. We traveled 620 miles so far, and our first stop this morning was Milwaukee to see Senator John McCain. That's actually his bus parked there. We talked to him about his recent attacks on Barack Obama, concerning the Illinois Senator's relationship with Bill Ayers, a radical from the 1960s. And, we asked Senator McCain why at the debate the other night, there weren't more new ideas about how to solve the current economic crisis.

[McCAIN]

GIBSON: Let me talk about that plan. $300 billion. New money? Or part of the $700 billion?

[McCAIN]

GIBSON: Some of the reaction to your plan, though, $300 billion to buy up mortgages: People say, “Look, I'm paying my mortgage. I didn't overspend, I didn't take a house that I couldn't afford. I'm paying my mortgage. Why are you going to help them and do nothing for me?”

[McCAIN]

GIBSON: We've talked to a lot of folks as we've taken this bus around the battleground states in the Midwest, and somebody said to us: “I don't see the passion and I don't see the anger in either one of these guys.”

[McCAIN]

GIBSON: One of the women the other night asking questions said, why should we trust either one of you guys with our money? Simple question, but I thought it was rather profound in that it expresses a basic lack of faith in any institution in this country.     

[McCAIN]

GIBSON: Does this almost monolithic focus on the economy, in the news, and in people's minds in recent weeks, hurt your campaign?             

[McCAIN]

GIBSON You were sort of humming along there in the polls for a while, and then this issue sort of pervaded everything, and it's not, it seems to-

McCAIN: Look, I'm not going to complain about the hand I'm dealt, my friend. We're coming up with solutions, trying to give the vision and leadership for the American people, and I'll accept their judgment.

GIBSON: Why, then, in recent days, have you focused so in what you've had to say on Senator Obama's character? Talked about the fact that we don't know him, that he's come out of no where, that's he's not an open book, et cetera.

McCAIN: Well, I'm not sure that's character. What I think it is, does he have the experience and knowledge and judgment, and has he made the right decisions, and has he been candid with the American people. And I think that's important.

GIBSON: You don't think he's been thoroughly vetted, having gone through all the primaries he did, all the campaigning, running for President as long as you have -- two years.

McCAIN: No, actually, I don't. In fact, Senator Clinton, in their debates, said the American people didn't know enough about him, including his relationship with Mr. Ayers. That's what she said and I agree with that. He launched his political career in his living room, in Mr. Ayers' living room. And I don't care about two washed up old terrorists that are unrepentant about trying to destroy America. But I do care, and Americans should care, about his relationship with him, and whether he's been truthful and candid about it.

GIBSON: Do you think his character or lack of candor disqualifies him to be President of the United States?

McCAIN: I'll leave that up to the American people. But I have every right to insist that he be candid and truthful with the American people. And he needs to be asked about it and he needs to be forthcoming.

GIBSON: You didn't raise that, this line of argument in the debate the other night. And I asked Senator Obama about that yesterday. He said, yeah, I'm surprised that John didn't say that to my face.

McCAIN: Oh, I'll be glad to -- again, two things I've never been accused of lacking. And one is passion, and the other is courage. I can accept a lot of the other criticisms. It didn't come up in the flow of conversation.

GIBSON: And you're comfortable that this should be a focus in the last days of the campaign?

McCAIN: Oh I think it's something that needs to be examined, just as Senator Clinton said it should be examined during their primary and never was.

GIBSON: Senator John McCain on our bus today.

 

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