ABC's 'Nightline' Pauses Its Obama Gushing; Jake Tapper Challenges Candidate

On Monday's "Nightline," ABC reporter Jake Tapper challenged Barack Obama over the fact that "there has not been a terrorist attack within the U.S. since 9/11." He pointedly asked Obama to provide an example of when he has actually reached across the aisle to break from Democratic orthodoxy and generally proved that it is possible for the Obama-friendly program to ask tough questions of the Democratic candidate.

After bringing up the Supreme Court's ruling last week that gave legal benefits to enemy combatants, Tapper reminded Obama that there has been no terrorist attack since 9/11. He then quizzed, "...And [the Bush White House says] the reason that is, is because of the domestic programs, many of which you oppose. How do you know that they're wrong?" Tapper also mentioned examples of Senator McCain bucking his own party and challenged, "Have you ever worked across the aisle in such a way that entailed a political risk for yourself?" In contrast, frequent "Nightline" contributor David Wright has previously rhapsodized that Obama rallies are like "Springsteen concerts."

On April 25, 2008, Wright made an appearance on "Good Morning America" to laud Obama's former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright (no relation), as a "soft-spoken man" who, in a interview, "couldn't seem more different from that fire-brand preacher we've all seen in those sound bites." Remember, this is the same pastor who urged God to damn America.

David Wright has not been the only "Nightline" alum guilty of extolling the virtues of the senator from Illinois. On November 6, 2006, "Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran provided one of the most effusive, gushing descriptions of Obama:

TERRY MORAN: "You can see it in the crowds. The thrill, the hope. How they surge toward him. You're looking at an American political phenomenon. In state after state, in the furious final days of this crucial campaign, Illinois Senator Barack Obama has been the Democrat's not-so-secret get-out-the-vote weapon. He inspires the party faithful and many others, like no one else on the scene today...And the question you can sense on everyone's mind, as they listen so intently to him, is he the one? Is Barack Obama the man, the black man, who could lead the Democrats back to the White House and maybe even unite the country?"

Again, to contrast, Tapper, who appeared on Tuesday's "Good Morning America" with more of his Obama interview, actually challenged the candidate as to why he (thus far) seems incapable of sustaining a lead over Republican John McCain: "You and Senator McCain right now are pretty much tied. Why aren't you doing better? Why didn't you get a bounce?"

So, perhaps viewers of "Nightline" should hope for more Jake Tapper-style queries and less fawning questions from David Wright and Terry Moran.

A partial transcript from Tapper's "Good Morning America" interview on June 17, and the complete transcript of the June 16, "Nightline" segment with Obama, follow:

7:02am

ROBIN ROBERTS: But first, the race to '08 and we'll have more on those new poll numbers in a moment. But we begin on a big name endorsement for Senator Obama in Michigan last night. Our senior political correspondent Jake Tapper was there in Detroit and he's still there this morning for us. Good morning, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER: Good morning, Robin. Well, Senator Barack Obama is trying to make up for lost time here in Michigan, a state the Democrats did not have an official primary contest in. A few weeks ago, you might remember, Obama came in, got a big splashy endorsement from former Senator John Edwards. Last night he came in, got a big splashy endorsement from Al Gore. Last night in Detroit, the Gore-acle bestowed 'the one' with his blessing.

AL GORE: We have such a nominee. We have such a leader. Yes, we can. Ladies and gentlemen, the next president of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

TAPPER: Senator Obama talked more about the race in our exclusive network interview. You and Senator McCain right now are pretty much tied. Why aren't you doing better? Why didn't you get a bounce?

SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: Well, you know, my understanding is the current polls show me up, despite the fact that we went through an extraordinary primary. I mean, we went through a long, long contest and Senator Clinton was a formidable and terrific candidate. And so, while we were doing that, John McCain was basically getting a pass, both from the media, from you guys, as well as from other opponents.

6/16/08

11:35

MARTIN BASHIR: Having swept aside Hillary Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination, tonight, Barack Obama swept up one of the biggest endorsements. That of former vice president, Al Gore. Mr. Gore said that in 2002, he warned against invading Iraq and few elected officials supported him. But I remember, he said, that an eloquent legislator named Barack Obama stood up boldly and clearly. So, how will Senator Obama benefit from Mr. Gore's standing up for him? Here's our senior political correspondent, Jake Tapper.

JAKE TAPPER: His was a long desired endorsement throughout the never-ending Democratic primaries. But the Gore-acle resisted.

AL GORE Yes, we can. Ladies and gentleman-

TAPPER: Until tonight.

GORE: -of the United States of America, Barack Obama.

SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: And when I am president, I will be counting on Al Gore to help me lead the fight for a clean energy future here in America and around the globe.

GORE: After eight years of the worst, most serious foreign policy mistakes in the entire history of our nation, we need change.

TAPPER: Obama's campaign is counting on an infusion of fresh blood to help out in their big battle against the Republicans. Today, the campaign announced Patty Solis Doyle, Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager who was fired during the height of the Clinton/Obama battle, is coming on board to be chief of staff for the vice presidential nominee, whoever he or she might be. One more ambassador to those former Clinton supporters who have threatened to vote for John McCain, who is brazenly wooing them.

MCCAIN: I respect the campaign that Senator Clinton ran. I congratulate her on motivating millions of people to join her campaign.

TAPPER: That was one of the subjects Obama and I discussed in our exclusive network interview today. John McCain is aggressively going after women's vote, especially former supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton.

OBAMA: I think John McCain is gonna have trouble making the case when on almost every single issue that's important to women he has been on the wrong side. He has opposed efforts to protect women against, you know, some of the discrimination that they experience in the workplace. He is in favor of judges who would overturn Roe vs. Wade.

TAPPER: That the Supreme Court is on the ballot is an argument Obama makes as he campaigns throughout the country.

OBAMA: John McCain thinks the Supreme Court was wrong. I think the Supreme Court was right.

TAPPER: In Pennsylvania over the weekend, Obama praised the Supreme Court for granting legal rights to enemy combatants being held in US custody. The Bush administration says no matter what people think about other programs, other policies they have initiated, there has not been a terrorist attack within the U.S. since 9/11 and they say the reason that is, is because of the domestic programs, many of which you oppose. How do you know that they're wrong?

OBAMA: It is my firm belief that we can track terrorists, we can crack down on threats against the United States. But we can do so within the constraints of our Constitution. Let's take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that in previous terrorist attacks, for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons incapacitated.

TAPPER: The stark philosophical divide between McCain and Obama guarantee this match-up will make the Democratic primaries look like spring break in Jamaica. McCain's campaign thinks Obama is glib and all talk.

TAPPER: It's not difficult to look at Senator McCain's record and see examples of times when he reached across the partisan divide at great political risk to himself. Have you ever worked across the aisle in such a way that entailed a political risk for yourself?

OBAMA: Well, look, when I was doing ethics reform legislation, for example, that wasn't popular with Democrats or Republicans. So any time that you actually try to get - something done in Washington it entails some political risks.

TAPPER: Tomorrow, Senator Obama flies to Washington, D.C. for some meetings includes some about his vice presidential prospects. The stakes keep getting higher. This is Jake Tapper for "Nightline" with the Obama campaign in Detroit, Michigan.

BASHIR: Our thanks to Jake Tapper.

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