ABC correspondent John Berman used a report on Tuesday's "Good Morning America" to whine about the fact that Barack Obama has had to defend himself against serious charges. He opened the segment by commenting on a series of speeches the Democrat is giving that tout patriotism and lamented, "Well, you would think a man elected to the U.S. Senate, who is the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, would not feel a need to defend his love for America."
Berman's colleague, GMA co-host Robin Roberts, interviewed Obama surrogate General Wesley Clark and actually grilled him about his assertion that John McCain's Vietnam-era military service isn't a credential to be president. However, she credulously accepted the attempts by the Democratic nominee to disavow himself from the attack, saying, "...The McCain and Obama camps are divided on most things but they have agreed on one, that the comment by retired General Wesley Clark was out of line..."
On June 24, however, Roberts discussed remarks made by Charlie Black, an aide to Senator McCain, in which Mr. Black claimed that a terrorist attack would help the presumptive GOP presidential nominee. In this instance, she was far more cynical. Roberts speculated, "Almost immediately, we had apologies from McCain and Charlie Black, but is this the kind of thing that a campaign puts out there on purpose and then retracts?"
Reporter Berman also completely accepted the fact that Obama had nothing to do with the attacks by his surrogate. The correspondent parroted, "...The Obama campaign has completely disavowed Clark's comments." So, apparently, cynicism is only warranted when a Republican plays the political game of "good cop/bad cop."
And as far as Berman's shock that Obama has to face such tough questions, has the reporter forgotten that this is the same candidate who admitted to being "friendly" with a former member of a domestic terrorist group? Or that Obama's ex-pastor is a man who raged against the U.S. and urged God to "damn" America? Isn't it reasonable for Americans, especially given the limited amount of time voters have had to get to know the Illinois senator, to force the presidential contender to answer these hardball queries?
During his piece, Berman repeated talking points from Obama's speech on patriotism. The ABC reporter helpfully recounted that "Barack Obama wants you to know three things: One, he loves America." He then touted the fact that Obama "doesn't want to fight about [patriotism]," but "...He will fight about it if he has to."
ABC's graphic continued the "Obama as victim" theme. It read: "Patriot Games: Love of Country in Question."
A transcript of the John Berman piece, which aired at 7:02am, follows. A partial transcript of Roberts questions to Clark are also included:
DIANE SAWYER: But, let's begin right now. It is the race for '08 and the big debate about patriotism, history and credentials to be president. ABC's John Berman is here and has got more. John?
ABC graphic: Patriot Games: Love of Country in Question
JOHN BERMAN: Good morning, Diane. Well, you would think a man elected to the U.S. Senate, who is the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, would not feel a need to defend his love for America. But Barack Obama has devoted this week to what his campaign calls enduring American values, patriotism and later today, faith. Barack Obama wants you to know three things: One, he loves America.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Patriotism starts as a gut instinct, a loyalty and love for country that's rooted in some of my earliest memories. For me, patriotism is always more than just loyalty to a place on a map or a certain kind of people. Instead, it's also loyalty to America's ideals, ideals for which anyone can sacrifice or defend. Or give their last full measure of devotion.
BERMAN: Two, he doesn't want to fight about it.
OBAMA: I will never question the patriotism of others in this campaign.
BERMAN: Three, he will fight about it if he has to.
OBAMA: And I will not stand idly by when I hear others question mine.
BERMAN: The Obama campaign is on the offense against the false internet rumors that say he's a Muslim or the false claim that he refuses to say the pledge. They even have a section on their website called "fight the smears." Still, the creator of ExposeObama.com is unimpressed.
FLOYD BROWN (President, Expose Obama website): On the Fourth of July, it's only appropriate to go around and say you're patriotic but I say look at the record.
BERMAN: Today Obama shifts his political offensive from patriotism to faith. It is an issue Democrats have shied away from. But not Obama.
JOHN GREEN (Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life): One of the ironies of the 2008 campaign is Senator Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, is much more comfortable talking about his faith and about values than the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain.
BERMAN: But in the Obama campaign's zeal for offense, some surrogates might be taking things too far, as evidenced by the controversial comments made by General Wesley Clark about John McCain's war record.
GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in the armed forces as a prisoner of war. I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.
BERMAN: McCain was a prisoner of war for five and a half years after he was shot down and the Obama campaign has completely disavowed Clark's comments. If Obama wants to put the patriotism issue in the past another issue he might like see fade away? Bill Clinton. The two men finally spoke by telephone for 20 minutes. The Obama camp says it's excited to have Clinton campaign for them and there are reports they might even have dinner soon. Diane, Robin?
ROBIN ROBERTS: And as you know, the McCain and Obama camps are divided on most things but they have agreed on one, that the comment by retired General Wesley Clark was out of line, a comment he is not backing down from. General Clark joins us now live from Little Rock, Arkansas, for a morning exclusive. General, thank you very much for joining us.
ROBERTS: Understand what you're saying, general, but someone who's had the experience that Senator McCain has had, if you're commander in chief and you're sending soldiers into war, having that kind of experience, isn't it better than having no experience at all in the military?
ROBERTS: General Clark, do you feel like you owe Senator McCain an apology?
ROBERTS: General, you have thought to be on the short list to be Senator Obama's running mate. Do you feel that you deserve to still be on that list?