"Nightline" co-anchor Cynthia McFadden on Monday used the opportunity of the first dual interview with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton to gush over the two Democrats and offer no challenging questions. Speaking to the senators after a campaign rally in Florida, she fawned, "You looked pretty good up there together." The co-anchor also excitedly tossed this softball to Clinton and Obama: "Are you going to win? Are you going to win down here?"
Fully embracing Democratic talking points that the two once-bitter rivals are now friendly, McFadden fawned, "...Two weeks before the presidential election, they genuinely seemed to have bonded over their singular mission to put a Democrat in the White House." (Is that McFadden's mission too?)
Offering amateur psychology, the ABC host wondered, "How does it feel today? Still a little awkward or have we gotten over the awkward period in the relationship?" McFadden presented no questions about Obama running mate Joe Biden's assertion on Sunday that the Illinois senator would be tested by a major international crisis in the first six months of his potential presidency. In addition, there were no questions about terrorist bomber William Ayers or any other serious issue.
But McFadden did seem to make fun of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's remarks last week that she liked visiting "pro-America" parts of the country. The reporter mockingly asked Obama, "So, are we in the real America? The pro-America part of America here in Florida?"
McFadden's interview was so accepting of Obama spin, that it was left to her co-anchor Martin Bashir to provide some much-needed skepticism. He queried, "Cynthia, these are two mightily ambitious people. He won the nomination, she did not. Are you telling me that their friendliness and their camaraderie was really genuine tonight?"
McFadden covered Clinton during the primaries and developed quite a history of putting forth easy questions to the senator. On December 19, 2007, she sympathetically mused, "There's never a night when you go back to whatever hotel room, whatever city you're in that night, and crawl in a ball and say, 'I just, this just hurts too much?" On January 30, 2008, McFadden returned to the subject and seriously asked, "When you lie awake at night...what worries you?"
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 11:35pm on October 20, follows:
MARTIN BASHIR: There's late news tonight from the presidential campaign trail. Barack Obama's 85-year-old grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, is gravely ill. So ill, that Obama will cancel two days of campaigning from Thursday to return to Hawaii to see her. This has come at a critical moment. There are just two weeks until Election Day. An ABC News poll released today found Obama holding a nine-point advantage among likely voters, over rival John McCain. And today in Florida, the largest battleground state, Barack Obama was joined by his former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. And perhaps surprisingly, they appeared as the best of friends, as my co-anchor, Cynthia McFadden now reports.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: Having followed Hillary Clinton around on the campaign trail for the better part of the last two years it seemed pretty obvious when she lost the nomination to Barack Obama and the two of them appeared on the stage together, well, it had about all the warmth of a shotgun wedding. An unquiet peace had been declared, but it was that, unquiet. We saw something different today here in Orlando, Florida where the two senators agreed for first time to a joint interview. It was a moment many thought would never happen and certainly not in Florida. And it crackled. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama sharing a stage in Orlando as 50,000 enthusiastically united Democrats cheered them on.
PEDESTRIAN (FEMALES): Yes, we can.
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: Hillary Clinton, who not so long ago tried to force the Democratic Party to count her one-sided win here, in Florida's primary.
SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON: Thank you, Orlando.
MCFADDEN: Tonight, those old wounds have been put aside as Clinton stood up and delivered.
CLINTON: We need you to work as hard as you can in the next two weeks. Many of you supported me in the primary and I am very grateful and very appreciative of each and every one of you. Now I am asking you to work as hard for Barack as you worked for me.
MCFADDEN: Obama seized the moment.
SENATOR BARACK OBAMA: The main thing I want to do is I want to thank Hillary Clinton.
Hillary, Hillary. Hillary.
MCFADDEN: And then turned his sights on John McCain.
OBAMA: Misleading mail and TV ads. Careless, outrageous statements, all aimed at keeping us from working together. All aimed at stopping change. I mean, it's getting so bad that Senator McCain's running mate denounced his tactics last night. Now, you have to work really hard to violate Governor Palin's standards on negative campaigning.
MCFADDEN: After the rally, we spoke exclusively with Senator Obama. What can Hillary Clinton do for you in Florida that you can't do for yourself here?
OBAMA: You know, Hillary I think is as effective a spokesperson for the Democratic idea, which is that everybody gets a fair shot. That's what she's been fighting for. You know, there are some passionate supporters of hers that, you know, may still be trying to figure out who to vote for. You know, she's got some great crossover appeal. And so, you know, for her to take the time to come down, and she's been consistent in campaigning down here in Florida for us. I think it's part of the reason why we're doing a little better now than we were just a month ago.
MCFADDEN: You think so?
MCFADDEN: So, are we in the real America? The pro-America part of America here in Florida?
OBAMA: You know, as I said in my speech, I haven't been to a spot yet that's not pro-America. People have differences politically. But everybody is a patriot, and that's one of the things that I hope we get back to in our politics, if I'm elected president.
MCFADDEN: And then Senator Clinton joined him, for their first dual interview ever. Let me ask, let me say, the last time you two appeared on the stage together campaigning was a different time. The raw wound was still a little bit more open in June in New Hampshire. How does it feel today? Still a little awkward or have we gotten over the awkward period in the relationship?
CLINTON: No, we've had a great campaign.
OBAMA [Hugs Clinton]: She's been doing great. And I can't- I was just telling her, I can't thank her enough. And in places like Florida where she's got so much popularity, she can be a more effective messenger for us than just about anybody.
MCFADDEN: Are you going to win? Are you going to win down here?
CLINTON: We're going to win. I mean, we are going to win. This campaign has so much momentum for all the right reasons. Not only are people concluding, I think in their own self-interest, that they need Barack as our president, but external circumstances and the economy have focused everybody's attention on what's gone on for the last eight years. And, you know, what Barack is offering is the kind of change that is needed. It's not just campaign slogan. It is absolutely at the root of everything he stands for. And the more I campaign across the country I'm seeing people really make up their minds that they're voting for themselves by voting for Senator Obama.
MCFADDEN: You looked pretty good up there together. Thank you. [voice over] And that was true. They may not ride off into the sunset together, but tonight, two weeks before the presidential election, they genuinely seemed to have bonded over their singular mission to put a Democrat in the White House. Like 30 other states, Florida has early voting and today was first day of early voting here. Barack Obama would dearly like to have Florida's 27 electoral votes, but John McCain needs them. There is no road to the White House, according to most pundits, except through Florida for John McCain. We'll see what happens in this state. Right now the polls show the men neck in neck with Obama with a slight lead. Martin?
BASHIR: Cynthia, these are two mightily ambitious people. He won the nomination, she did not. Are you telling me that their friendliness and their camaraderie was really genuine tonight?
MCFADDEN: Well, of course I don't know, Martin. And maybe I'm easily persuaded but it did seem that the tension had gone out of the balloon. The two of them seemed to be joking around together, both when the camera was on and when the camera off. I can't tell you they're gonna be best friends forever, but I can tell you that something significant has changed in that relationship in the course of the last four months. At least it seemed so to me. Martin?