"Good Morning America" reporter John Berman turned a Tuesday segment that was supposed to be about Senator John McCain's age, and how much it concerns voters, and instead filled it with clip after clip of comedians mocking the Republican presidential candidate for being "crazy old." Berman featured no less than six snippets of comics such as Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jon Stewart and others mercilessly hammering the senator as too elderly to be president.
In an introduction to the piece, Berman asserted, "...His age is a non-stop punch line for the late night comedians" and then added, "It's safe to say his age may be an issue that McCain will never outgrow." You could argue that one way to make that claim come true is by highlighting comics who mock McCain for something he has no control over. If it some how became politically correct to joke about Barack Obama's race or Hillary Clinton's gender, would "Good Morning America" so gleefully feature the punch lines?
The issue of McCain's age is certainly a legitimate topic for discussion. It could inform a number of debates, including the senator's vice president pick (Berman did briefly mention that point in passing). But endlessly playing jokes about age hardly examines the matter. Towards the end of the segment, Berman did feature an ABC News/Washington Post poll that said that more Americans are bothered by McCain's age than they are Obama's race or Clinton's gender. However, after highlighting an endless number of comedic clips, Berman simply wondered, "But is America laughing?" and led into the segment's close.
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:17am on April 15, follows:
DIANE SAWYER: And there are a lot of potential firsts, as we know, in the race for '08. Could it be the first African American, the first woman or the oldest American ever in the White House? John McCain will be 72 on inauguration day. And his age is a non-stop punch line for the late night comedians. How do you feel about that? How does he feel about it? John Berman is here with more. John?
JOHN BERMAN: Good morning, Diane. Well, John McCain would be three years older than Ronald Reagan was when he was first sworn in. That's seven years older than the average retirement age in the U.S. It's safe to say his age may be an issue that McCain will never outgrow.
["Daily Show" clip]
JOHN STEWART: You're saying he's old?
SAMANTHA BEE: No, no, no, John. Absolutely not. I'm saying that he has a proud record of service, which included giving water to Lincoln.
BERMAN: For legions of late night comics, it seems the old jokes never get old.
[Clip of Stephen Colbert on "The Larry King Show"]
STEPHEN COLBERT: He's old! He's old, Larry. That's what I'm trying to tell you, not as old as you are, but very, very old.
SNL ACTOR: John McCain is crazy old.
JAY LENO: He's now crisscrossing the United States campaigning, or as they're calling it, antique road show.
BERMAN: This was the latest question from a reporter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE AP REPORTER: Voters may reject you because they feel you're too old to be president.
[McCain doesn't move for a second, pretending to be asleep.]
VOICE FROM OFF-CAMERA: Wake up, sir.
BERMAN: McCain is clearly trying to get in on the joke.
KEN DUBERSTEIN (Former Chief of Staff, Reagan White House): The only way to defuse it is A, stay healthy. And B, make-- poke fun of yourself. America loves self deprecation.
["Late Show with David Letterman" clip]
JOHN MCCAIN: You think that stuff is pretty funny, don't you?
BERMAN: But is America laughing? In a recent ABC News Washington Post poll, a small percentage admitted that Senator Obama's race and Senator Clinton's gender turned them off, but a much bigger margin said McCain's age dampened their enthusiasm. McCain says he will prove the naysayers wrong with his energy, his experience and--
MCCAIN: If anyone has any further doubts come and meet my 96-year-old mother.
BERMAN: But even that draw a wise crack.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE JOHN MCCAIN IMPERSONATOR: She's 95 and she's fit as a fiddle.
SNL "REPORTER:" Fit as a fiddle? Is that another one of those senior expressions?
BERMAN: The McCain campaign is planning to release all of the senator's medical records next month. And they will be very carefully scrutinized. And of course, McCain has acknowledged that because of his age, his vice presidential choice may be seen more important than ever. Diane?