Stephanopoulos Rationalizes Obama’s Economic Failures: ‘It’s Bigger than Washington’

Imagine a major news network anchor, in 1985, telling President Reagan that five years into his presidency rising income inequality wasn’t his fault. Ludicrous, given how the media used the term Reaganomics to denigrate his policies, policies far more successful than President Obama’s in turning around an inherited poor economy. 

Yet in a sit-down with Barack Obama for ABC’s This Week, George Stephanopoulos compliantly excused Obama’s failure: “Do you look at that four and a half years in and say, maybe a President can’t stop this accelerating inequality?”

Obama blamed companies which “have eliminated entire occupations because they’re now robotized. We don’t have travel agents, we don’t have bank tellers.” Stephanopoulos jumped in: “It’s bigger than Washington.” Obama affirmed: “Right.”

There aren’t bank tellers any more?

Audio from the September 15 segment: MP3 clip

> A week ago: “Stephanopoulos Misquotes Obama, Leaves Off ‘Just’ in Claim Congressional Approval Not ‘a Political Ploy’”

> In a late August interview for the PBS NewsHour, when Obama fretted “we have increasing inequality in this society,” Judy Woodruff buttered up Obama by first hailing how “you’ve been able to do -- help the country in many ways.” See: “PBS NewsHour Paints Obama as Victim of ‘Racial Gridlock,’ Hails: ‘You’ve Been Able to Help the Country in Many Ways’”


Obama forwarded what he’s done to lessen inequality: “That’s why we made sure that we had a tax system that was a little bit fairer by asking people to pay more at the top. That’s what the Affordable Care Act health care reform is about...”

Responding to that answer, Stephanopoulos rationalized:

Okay, but you do all these things and still 95 percent of the gains go to the top one percent. Do you look at that four and a half years in and say, maybe a President can’t stop this accelerating inequality?

Obama disagreed, then offered excuses:

No, I think a President can stop it. The problem is that there continues to be a major debate in Washington. And that is, how do we respond to the underlying trends? If you look at the data, a couple of things are creating these trends. Number one, globalization. Right? Capital, companies, they can move businesses and jobs anywhere they want. And so they’re looking for the lowest wages. That squeezes workers here in the United States even if corporations are profitable. Technology. If you go to a lot of companies now, they’ve have eliminated entire occupations because they’re now robotized. We don’t have travel agents, we don’t have bank tellers.

Stephanopoulos interjected: “It’s bigger than Washington.”

Obama endorsed Stephanopoulos’s take: “Right,” and proceeded to contend “we need new ports and a smarter electricity grid.”

The ex-Clinton operative later pleaded with Obama to step up his game to better implement liberal policies:

You were re-elected a little more than a year ago. 332 electoral votes, 51 percent of the vote – the first President since Eisenhower to do it twice. You put gun control at the top of the agenda, immigration reform, climate change. All of it stalled or reversing. How do you answer the argument that, beyond the deficit, this has been a lost year and how do you save it?

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