ABC Champions ‘Star Power’ of ‘Megawatt Political Giants’ First Lady, Bill Clinton and, Sort of, Palin

“Star power: Three megawatt political giants hit the campaign trail,” Diane Sawyer touted at the top of Tuesday’s World News, focusing on “First Lady Michelle Obama now joining former President Bill Clinton and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as the power hitters on the campaign trail.” Yet, ABC advanced the hope Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton offer Democratic election prospects, while treating Sarah Palin as an after-thought and painting her as just a self-promoter, all before a giddy Sawyer turned to George Stephanopoulos to expound on Bill Clinton’s brilliance: “Let's talk about former President Clinton's advice to President Obama – is he going to take it?”

Jonathan Karl relayed “we learn on a day that the White House also announced that the First Lady is about to hit the campaign trail. The White House calls her the ‘Closer.’ And with time running out for congressional Democrats, they're sending her in.” Plus, “former President Bill Clinton is out on the campaign trail, too, and now he's offering the President some free advice” to ask voters to give Democrats two more years and only vote them out in 2012 if they fail to deliver.

He moved on to Palin, who “upped the ante today, putting out a slick new Web video that portrays her as a national leader of the Tea Party movement. The video shows her cheered on by enthusiastic Tea Partiers,” but “it could be argued the video does more to promote Palin than the Republican party. In fact, it includes 28 shots of Palin, but never once mentions the word ‘Republican.’”

Bringing the incestuous relationship full circle, Sawyer cued up Stephanopoulos to expound on the insight he had elicited from his former boss on that morning’s Good Morning America about how President Obama can best help Democrats win:
SAWYER: Let's talk about former President Clinton's advice to President Obama – is he going to take it?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he may. I mean, first of all, White House aides say that the President has already taken a piece of that advice, to go out on the campaign trail and really talk about the choice between Republican and Democratic politics. Now, it is true that President Clinton and the First Lady are more popular than the President, but what White House aides say is that President Obama is more popular than Republicans, which is why they want to talk about the choice. And, I have to say, they were intrigued by that last piece of advice from President Clinton – basically, give people permission to vote no in two years, just stay the course now.
Tuesday’s GMA: “George Stephanopoulos Strategizes with Old Boss Bill Clinton: How Can Obama Regain His 'Gut Connection?'”

The MRC’s Brad Wilmouth provided this transcript of the story which led the Tuesday, September 21 ABC World News:
DIANE SAWYER: Good evening. Think of it as a one, two, three political punch. Exactly six weeks to go until the November election, and three of the most famous names in America are heading out to fight for their candidates. First Lady Michelle Obama now joining former President Bill Clinton and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as the power hitters on the campaign trail. And the President, well, today, we learned that, as the elections loom, he is going to shake up and rebuild his economic team. More on that in a minute. But we'll begin with our senior political correspondent Jon Karl. Jon?

JONATHAN KARL: Diane, today we learned that the President's top economic advisor, Larry Summers, will leave after the midterm elections. This is the third member of the President's economic team to go. And this we learn on a day that the White House also announced that the First Lady is about to hit the campaign trail. The White House calls her the "Closer." And with time running out for congressional Democrats, they're sending her in. The First Lady's political travel schedule reads like a who's who of endangered Democrats. She'll stump in Wisconsin for Russ Feingold, Illinois for Alexi Giannoulias, who is running for the President's old Senate seat, Colorado for Michael Bennet, Washington state for Patty Murray and California for Barbara Boxer.

ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think she will go out and make a forceful and positive case for what this administration has done.

KARL: And former President Bill Clinton is out on the campaign trail, too, and now he's offering the President some free advice.

FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: I would say, "I know a lot of people are mad and a lot of people are tired, apathetic, and I respect that because we're not yet out of the hole we got in-"

KARL: Clinton told George Stephanopolous the President should say this to disgruntled voters.

CLINTON: I'd like to see him do something I didn't do. I'd like to see him say, "Here's what I think this election is about. The only thing that matters is, what are we going to do now? Give us two years. Don't go back to the policies that dug the hole. But if we don't do better," this is the last thing, "if we don't do better, you can vote against us all, and I'll be on the ballot, too. Vote against us all if it's not better."

KARL: Clinton and Mrs. Obama have this in common – both are more popular than the President. In a recent ap poll, 68 percent viewed Mrs. Obama favorably, followed closely by Mr. Clinton with 65 percent. In contrast, in that poll, only 57 percent view the President favorably. On the other side, Sarah Palin upped the ante today, putting out a slick new Web video that portrays her as a national leader of the Tea Party movement. The video shows her cheered on by enthusiastic Tea Partiers.

FORMER GOVERNOR SARAH PALIN (R-AK): This party that we call the Tea Party is the future of politics, and I am proud to get to be here today.

KARL: But it could be argued the video does more to promote Palin than the Republican party. In fact, it includes 28 shots of Palin, but never once mentions the word "Republican." The new Palin video combined with her recent trip to Iowa has many Republicans speculating that she may be thinking more about the next election – for President in 2012 – than she is about this one. Diane?

SAWYER: An exciting time already out there on the campaign trail. Thank you, Jon. Going to turn now to George Stephanopoulos. Let's go back to this decision about the economic team. What's behind this? And what does it mean for all of us?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: This was not unexpected. Larry Summers had two years from leaving Harvard to get back and hold onto his tenure. He had told the President last year that he was likely to leave at the end of this year.

SAWYER: But he's a big player.

STEPHANOPOULOS: He is a very big player. And he's the third big player on the economic team. Peter Orszag, head of the Office of Management and Budget; Christina Romer, the head on the Council of Economic Advisors; now Larry Summers have all gone. White House officials tell me Summers' position will not be filled until after the election. But this is not the only change in the White House. Very possible –  maybe even likely – that Rahm Emanuel, the chief of staff, will run for mayor of Chicago. There is likely to be changes in the communications and political team as the re-election approaches, so I think you would expect a significant reorganization after the election. Now, that is not all that uncommon.

SAWYER: But not easy to do, to replace all of those people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not easy to do at all, absolutely.

SAWYER: Let's talk about former President Clinton's advice to President Obama – is he going to take it?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he may. I mean, first of all, White House aides say that the President has already taken a piece of that advice, to go out on the campaign trail and really talk about the choice between Republican and Democratic politics. Now, it is true that President Clinton and the First Lady are more popular than the President, but what White House aides say is that President Obama is more popular than Republicans, which is why they want to talk about the choice. And, I have to say, they were intrigued by that last piece of advice from President Clinton – basically, give people permission to vote no in two years, just stay the course now.

SAWYER: It's kind of, call the bluff and go ahead.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely, and another thing they all agree on, go out and fight for the next six weeks.
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