ABC's Diane Sawyer Gushes: Can Hillary Win by Losing?

"Good Morning America" host Diane Sawyer found an astoundingly gentle way to ask Hillary Clinton about the possibility of not being the Democratic nominee. On Friday's program, the ABC journalist wondered if such a victory was even necessary. She soothingly suggested, "The question is, are you in a new place about winning? Have you decided that you can accomplish what you want to accomplish, even if you don't win the presidency?"

Sawyer's question, in reference to a comment made at the debate in which Clinton claimed she would be "fine," whatever happens in the election, led to more softballs. The GMA host lauded the Democratic presidential contender for something as simple as having her daughter at the debate. "...We noticed that Chelsea came up and immediately slipped your hand into yours, last night. What was that about? What was going on between the two of you?"

Now, although Sawyer found time to air a question about holding hands with Chelsea (the segment was pre-taped), there was no time for a query about Clinton's thoughts on Thursday's New York Times article insinuating that Senator John McCain may have had an affair. During the segment's close, Sawyer explained, "And, by the way, I did ask about Senator John McCain and the stories that ran yesterday. She wouldn't comment on the substance, but said when asked if she felt for him personally, given the somewhat shared history of news of that kind, she said he is her friend."

For some reason, that question didn't make it into the piece. Over on NBC's "Today," however, co-host Meredith Vieira did feature the query in her interview with Clinton:

MEREDITH VIEIRA: Senator Clinton, before I let you go, at one moment during the debate last night, you alluded to a very personal crisis in your own life involving infidelity. So I want to ask you your opinion of what Senator McCain is going through now. This New York Times article where he's been accused of a romantic relationship with a lobbyist. He's denied it, his wife, the lobbyist have all denied it. Do you think that article is fair? And is that the kind of attack that should be part of a campaign?

SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: Well, I'm not going to comment on that. You know, Senator McCain is a friend of mine. I respect his service to our country, which is, you know, obviously extraordinary. And I wish the campaign were about what we want to do for America. I have big differences with Senator McCain. You know, he says he wants to leave troops in Iraq for 100 years. I want to get them out starting within 60 days. He says he doesn't know much about the economy. I have an economic blueprint. You can go to HillaryClinton.com and get a copy of it. And basically, you know, his policies are more of the same when it comes to President Bush's failed policies. That's what we should be talking about.

Vieira pressed the point and followed up by asking, "So if you become the nominee, that will be off limits?" (Clinton declined to answer.) On "The Early Show," Harry Smith also skipped the subject of the New York Times piece.

A transcript of the GMA segment, which aired at 7:07am on February 22, follows:

DIANE SAWYER: And, in fact, it is the moment we started a conversation with Hillary Clinton about. And Senator Clinton and I just spoke and she was in Austin, Texas. Senator Clinton, good morning to you.

SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: Good morning, Diane.

SAWYER: I want to go back to last night's debate and the last thing you said. Because, everyone is talking this morning about the tribute you paid to Senator Obama. And then saying, whatever happens, we'll both be fine. The question is, are you in a new place about winning? Have you decided that you can accomplish what you want to accomplish, even if you don't win the presidency?

CLINTON: Well, I intend to win. Obviously, I'm working very hard. And Ohio and Texas are critical states. But what I was referring to is that, you know, no matter what happens in this campaign, Senator Obama and I have so many resources. We're blessed by all kinds of, you know, wonderful support systems with family and friends. And, you know, for us, it's not so much did about what happens to each of us individually, but it's what happens to the people that I see every day. You know, who come up and grab my arm and say I've got to have healthcare, I don't have it, or I don't know what I'm going to do because I'm losing my home to foreclosure. You know, running for office, especially nationally, gives you such an intimate look with what's going on in people's lives. And it just gets me up every morning and motivates me to try to figure out what I'm going to do to, you know, help people who are trying as hard as they can. I just get so overwhelmed by, you know, the stories that I was told. And that's really what I was referring to. You know, there are-- Well, you and I, Diane, I mean, we've had so many advantages and blessings in life. And I just think it's time that, you know, we pulled together as a country and made sure everybody had the same opportunities that certainly I was given.

SAWYER: A couple of quick questions about the news, though. President Clinton, famous political pro had this to say out on the campaign trail. I'm going to play it.

BILL CLINTON: If she wins in Texas and Ohio, I think she'll be the nominee.

SAWYER: Is his analysis right? Because he goes on to say, if you don't win, that he doesn't think you can do it.

CLINTON: Well, I think that Ohio and Texas and the other states that are coming up are obviously critical. You know, this race is very close. It's very contested. I've won some. He's won some. Each of us has to get to 2025 delegates. So, of course, every single race is important. And I feel good about my campaigns in both Texas and Ohio. I have a long history in Texas. You know, my first political job was here in 1972, registering Hispanic voters and I feel, you know, very familiar with the problems in Ohio. Because what I've worked on in upstate New York to revive the economy and give people, you know, a sense that the future can be better is what I hear about all throughout my visits in Ohio.

SAWYER: But was President Clinton right or wrong? Is it make or break, or was he wrong?

CLINTON: You know, I don't make predictions. And I'm just going to wait and see what happens. After all, we have to give the voters a chance to be heard.

SAWYER: Two quick questions, have you heard from Senator Edwards since you met with him? Have you been in constant contact?

CLINTON: Well, you know, I've known John for a very long time. And we occasionally talk. And obviously, I think a lot of what he did in his campaign is important. I said last night his criticism of Senator Obama's healthcare plan is exactly mine. Because Senator Edwards and I have plans that would cover everyone and Senator Obama does not. And it would be as though Franklin Roosevelt said, well, let's make Social Security voluntary or President Johnson said let's make Medicare voluntary. That can't work. And Senator Edwards and I both know that.

SAWYER: So you have been in touch since you met with him? More conversations?

CLINTON: We've had conversations, yes.

SAWYER: One last question. We've counted. It's now 398 days on the campaign trail, you've announced. 398. Why is--

CLINTON: [Laughs] Oh, who's counting?

SAWYER: I was going to say, why is she laughing? But last night we look up there--

CLINTON: You have to laugh to keep from crying.

SAWYER: We looked up on the stage and Senator Obama alone was greeting people and we noticed that Chelsea came up and immediately slipped your hand into yours, last night. What was that about? What was going on between the two of you?

CLINTON: You know, I'm just so happy that she's with me. She was sitting where I could see her last night, and, you know, I looked at her often. And, you know, it just really gives me a lot of personal joy to have her with me. And I was just thrilled that she was there, and, obviously, giving me that support, which means everything to me.

SAWYER: Well, thank you again, Senator Clinton and happy 399th day.

CLINTON: [Laughs] Thank you, Diane.

SAWYER: And, by the way, I did ask about Senator John McCain and the stories that ran yesterday. She wouldn't comment on the substance, but said when asked if she felt for him personally, given the somewhat shared history of news of that kind, she said he is her friend.

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