Stephanopoulos Misquotes Obama, Leaves Off ‘Just’ in Claim Congressional Approval Not ‘a Political Ploy’

Friday in Russia, President Obama let slip that putting Congress on the hook, or in a political bind, was part of his calculus in asking for their approval for an attack on Syria, but twice on Sunday morning ABC’s George Stephanopoulos misquoted Obama’s admission. Obama maintained: “I did not put this before Congress, you know, just as a political ploy or as symbolism.”

Yet on Sunday’s Good Morning America, Stephanopoulos quoted Obama: “Listen to what he said Friday night in Russia: ‘I did not put this’ – this resolution – ‘before Congress as a political ploy or symbolism.’” Later, on This Week, he again left off the very relevant “just” as he mis-characterized Obama back to White House Chief-of-Staff Denis McDonough: “He said his call to Congress was not a political ploy or symbolism.”

Audio: MP3 clip

As James Taranto noted in his Friday “Best of the Web Today” for the Wall Street Journal.com: “President Obama has confirmed the suspicion that his decision to ask Congress for authorization before using force in Syria was a political ploy.” Taranto asserted the “‘just’ is the tell.”

It’s not as if ABC viewers haven’s seen what Obama actually said. Jeff Zeleny, on Saturday’s Good Morning America, without any critical judgment included the soundbite (“I did not put this before Congress, you know, just as a political ploy or as symbolism”).

See the accompanying video for that clip as well as the two of Stephanopoulos on Sunday which shows how, on GMA, he was looking down as he quoted Obama, as if reading it.

Not that Obama’s admission of crass political motives has interested the Washington press corps. In fact, over on NBC’s Meet the Press, Chuck Todd ignored the Obama quote and instead attributed political motives to those in Congress while hailing, as “patriotic,” an Obama argument:

I think the most effective thing he did on Friday at the press conference that I was at in Russia, is when he made it about, he made an interesting, I thought, patriotic pitch which is, you know what? We’re America, we’re stuck. I’m sorry we have to be the world’s policemen. I don’t like it. It was sort of this reluctant, like we have no other choice. No one else will act. No one else is going to punish him. It’s terrible that we’re in this position, but we’re -- that’s -- you know, we’re stuck doing it. I actually thought it was effective. The first message I heard out of the administration that was potentially effective.

NBC’s chief White House correspondent later assessed the political motivation of House and Senate members, naturally seeing the Republicans as more influenced ny crass political reasons:

This is the problem. To me -- and I’m as cynical as anybody when it comes to political motivation. And I think about half of the Republican opposition here is a political opposition. But I think a good 50 percent of it is not. I think about 75 percent of the opposition of the Democratic Party is rational and principled and maybe about 25 percent of it is politics. I don’t think it’s as political as you think on this.

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