ABC on '08: Will 'Brilliant' Bill Damage 'Independent' Hillary?

It's probably not surprising to learn that when ABC correspondent Claire Shipman convened a panel of women voters to discuss Bill Clinton defending his candidate wife, the ladies mostly gushed over the political couple. Shipman, who reported on the segment for Tuesday's "Good Morning America," found one voter who lauded, "As a strong woman, like, there's a part of her that appeals to me, even though I don't agree...even though I'm, I'm a Republican." Not one of the females selected by ABC harshly criticized the '08 contender.

Shipman also spun Bill Clinton's comments in the wake of the last presidential debate, in which he accused fellow Democrats of swift boating Hillary, in the most generous terms. The GMA reporter fretted that "[Bill Clinton's] support could muddle her so far successful image of independent strength." Shipman recited the usual talking points that Bill Clinton is "obviously" a "brilliant strategist for her campaign." (The media always ignore pesky facts that would contradict the notion of Bill Clinton's brilliance, such as the fact that he never received 50 percent of the popular vote or that he was impeached.)

Shipman and co-host Diane Sawyer also credulously accepted Clinton spin. Sawyer seriously wondered if Bill and Hillary Clinton weren't coordinating with each other on strategy. Shipman asked if the ex-Commander in Chief coming to the defense of his wife was strategy or "just the chivalry of a former president and spouse who can't help himself?" GMA viewers shouldn't be shocked, however, at Shipman's effusive praise of the Clintons. After all, this is the same correspondent who once raved that one of the New York senator's strong points is her "hot factor."

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:13am on November 13, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: And now, we're going to switch topics and turn to the race to '08. About seven weeks now until the first vote of the primary. Senator Clinton remaining the Democratic front-runner, amid the debate about her fellow candidates pressing the advantage against her and her playing somewhat of a gender card. In fact, her own husband made a statement about Hillary versus "the boys." Is that good strategy? What's the reaction? Who knows better than senior national correspondent Claire Shipman in Washington. Claire?

CLAIRE SHIPMAN: Good morning, Diane. And good strategy or not, it's a great question. It's extraordinary, really, that for so long Bill Clinton kept a low profile in his wife's campaign. But with the vote so close, it was inevitable, really, that the Bill factor would come into play. Is it a new strategy, or just the chivalry of a former president and spouse who can't help himself?

BILL CLINTON: It's a great time to be a Democrat. Even though those boys have been getting kind of tough on her lately, she can handle it.

SHIPMAN: She did poke fun at it on her website.

[Clip: Montage of Democratic opponents saying Senator Clinton's name]

SHIPMAN: But last week, her husband was criticized for comparing that barrage to the swift-boat attack ads on John Kerry.

SWIFT BOAT AD: How can the man who renounced his country's symbols now be trusted?

BILL CLINTON: I had the feeling at the end of the last debate, we were about to get into cutesy land again.

SHIPMAN: Her campaign says the rushes to her defense are welcome but not requested. Privately, some campaign aides think they might backfire. We sat down with a bipartisan group of voters critical to the Clinton campaign, women. Will it work for him to come to her defense or is that a bad move? Does she need him to defend her?

WOMAN #1: No.

WOMAN #2: She doesn't, but Lynne Cheney comes to the defense of Dick Cheney at times.

JULIE JANECKO (REGISTERED VOTER): It depends how you feel about Bill Clinton.

WOMAN #4: Absolutely.

JANECKO: If you have a favorable opinion about him, then you're all about him coming to Hillary's defense. But, if you aren't a Bill Clinton fan, then I think it undermines her campaign.

SHIPMAN: Her husband's support could muddle her so far successful image of independent strength.

SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: I don't think they're piling on because I'm a woman. I think they're piling on because I'm winning.

ABENAA ADDEI: (Registered voter): You have to be strong. She has to -- a man is automatically looked at as strong, so Hillary has to definitely show the whole world how she can be a stronger woman.

HOPE GALLEY (REGISTERED VOTER): As a strong woman, like, there's a part of her that appeals to me, even though I don't agree, you know, even though I'm, I'm a Republican.

SHIPMAN: So help or hurt, our focus group probably got it right, depends on what you think of Bill Clinton. I know the campaign does not think it's helpful for Bill Clinton to suggest that her rivals are not playing fair. But the latest comments were different. They were light, they were playful and suggested Hillary could handle it herself.

SAWYER: You implied in the piece, Claire, they're welcome but not coordinated. Do you mean the two campaigns really don't know what the other's going to do? I mean, her husband and Senator Clinton.

SHIPMAN: Well, look, there's a lot of coordination at the very top obviously between the Clintons. And the Clinton campaign does talk with his office all the time. And obviously, he is a, he's a brilliant strategist for her campaign. But everybody knows that Bill Clinton can't always be scripted. And so I think we may see more of this, Diane.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org