On Friday's "Good Morning America," George Stephanopoulos turned a statement that Barack Obama made about corrupt Islamic dictatorships and made it into a metaphor on congressional Republican opposition to the President's stimulus bill. Speaking of the difficulty Obama has had with passing his multi-billion dollar spending bill, Stephanopoulos instructed, "And to borrow a metaphor from the President's inaugural address, he might have to replace his open hand with a clenched fist." [audio excerpt available here]
In comparison, during the President's inaugural address on January 20, Obama spoke to the Muslim world and asserted, "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." GMA news anchor Chris Cuomo seemed to understand Stephanopoulos' linkage. He complained, "Who knew that the clenched fist would be about Congress? We thought he was talking about foreign people, foreign countries, then."
Earlier in the segment, Cuomo introduced the discussion of the stalled stimulus bill and Republican opposition by fretting, "So, simply put, where is the love? This was supposed to be about bipartisanship. Seems more bitter than ever down there."
This past week, the MRC has repeatedly covered the story, first broken by Politico, that Stephanopoulos has been having daily conference calls with Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel. See an MRC press release for more.
A transcript of the February 6 segment, which aired at 7:16am, follows:
CHRIS CUOMO: Congress met late into the night, arguing over that economic stimulus bill. A much bigger and more bitter battle than President Obama ever expected. So, let's bring in ABC's chief Washington correspondent, and, of course, host of "This Week," Mr. George Stephanopoulos, with the bottom line." Good morning, George. How are you?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Hey, Chris. Good, thanks.
CUOMO: So, simply put, where is the love? This was supposed to be about bipartisanship. Seems more bitter than ever down there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It sure is, Chris. We've seen nothing but partly-line votes so far in both the House and the Senate. But as you said, the Senate was working late into the night last night. And there's a bipartisan group, led by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, Democratic Senator, Ben Nelson, of Nebraska. They worked into the night. They're going to meet again this morning. And White House and Senate sources from both parties that I talked to, just this morning, are holding out some hope that this group is going to come together with an agreement today, to cut about $100 billion or so out of the President's package. Bring it to about $800 billion. If they reach that agreement, you will see the bill pass with bipartisan support some time later today. If not, we are going to be in for much more pitch battles.
CUOMO: So, and the question is, it does seem to be so fundamentally about ideology. The Republicans don't want to spend this kind of money. The Democrats seem totally insistent on it. Can President Obama go to the people? Can he use that as his trump card here?
STEPHANOPOULOS: It might be what he has to do, Chris. You're starting to see elements of that just in the last couple days. The President's gotten much tougher in his speeches. Now, the President's package has actually been losing public support. But the President remains very popular. And to borrow a metaphor from the President's inaugural address, he might have to replace his open hand with a clenched fist. If this bipartisan agreement doesn't come today, you'll see the President making more public pitches, going out after these unemployment numbers come today. And he's also planning primetime a press conference on Monday night. And you can expect a tough pitch, if this bipartisan deal doesn't come together today.
CUOMO: Who knew that the clenched fist would be about Congress? We thought he was talking about foreign people, foreign countries, then. Let me ask you, any chance that the 13th, you say that this weekend is very important- do you think they can get it done by February 13, which is what Boehner said to us on the show.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, it's what the President is hoping for. He wants to sign the bill on President's Day, February 16. It all depends on this deal today. If they come together today, then the bill will likely go to a conference between the House and the Senate next week. And they likely can come together by the 16. If not, it's going to be very, very difficult.
CUOMO: President says crisis could turn to catastrophe. George, thank you very much for the bottom line. Appreciate it.