George Stephanopoulos: Obama Cabinet Unparalleled in 'Brain Power'

Various "Good Morning America" anchors and guests on Monday gushed at the sheer brilliance of Barack Obama's incoming cabinet, including his "team of economic gladiators." Former top Bill Clinton aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos rhapsodized, "We have not seen this kind of combination of star power and brain power and political muscle this early in a cabinet in our lifetimes." (What does that say about Stephanopoulos' friends in the Clinton administration?) [audio clip available here]

Co-host Robin Roberts was equally enthusiastic. Speaking with Stephanopoulos, she cooed, "Some would say it's a team of rivals, a la President Lincoln, or is a better comparison a team of geniuses as FDR did?" Continuing the fawning, Stephanopoulos readily agreed: "Well, one Obama advisor told me what they like is a combination of 'Team of Rivals' and 'the Best and the Brightest,' which was the David Halberstam book about the incoming Kennedy administration. I think there are parallels to all three." (This is somewhat of an odd comparison. Halberstam's 1972 book explores the origins of the Vietnam War and the mistakes made leading up to it.)

As though the ABC journalists were attempting to see who could top the other, co-host Diane Sawyer introduced a separate segment by effusively announcing, "And we're going to turn now to President-elect Obama and his new team of economic gladiators."

A transcript of the November 24 Stephanopoulos segment, which aired at 7:07am, follows:

ROBIN ROBERTS: And now for the bottom line, we turn to our chief Washington correspondent and host of "This Week" George Stephanopoulos. And, George, as we heard, the President-elect, a lot of pressure on him to take action now, even before he's sworn in. So can he afford to wait until January 20th and if not, what can he do right now?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, Robin, he's already doing more than any incoming president has ever done this quickly. As Jake reported, his advisers are working behind the scenes to try to have a package ready on January 20th. If they get anywhere close to that date, it would be remarkable. And they are looking at a stimulus package in the five to $700 billion range. That is huge. Number two, he is appointing- After today, he will have appointed more key economic advisers more quickly than any president-elect ever before. And then finally, he's intimately involved through his advisers in this economic rescue package right now. Tim Geithner, the incoming Treasury Secretary, as president of the New York Federal Reserve was working all weekend long on this rescue of Citigroup. The President-elect himself has been in regular contact with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson on the bailout. So, he is acting now.

ROBERTS: Can you give us a better idea of what we can expect to hear from him later today, and do you think it will calm the markets?

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's certainly what the President-elect's advisers are hoping for. He will signal, as his advisors did over the weekend, that this economic stimulus package is going to be big, far bigger than anything we saw during the campaign. He is also likely to signal, although their not saying so directly, that his repeal of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy is much more likely to come when they naturally expire at the end of 2010 than through any aggressive action before then. Those are the two big things I think you're likely to see in his talk today. He will probably also send a signal to other world leaders that he would like every big country to move together on stimulus packages.

ROBERTS: Let's talk for a moment about his cabinet. It seems to be coming together. It is expected that we're going to see some familiar faces such as Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson. Some would say it's a team of rivals, a la President Lincoln, or is a better comparison a team of geniuses as FDR did?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, one Obama advisor told me what they like is a combination of "Team of Rivals" and "The Best and the Brightest," which was the David Halberstam book about the incoming Kennedy administration. I think there are parallels to all three. But, again, when you look at this range of people that the President-elect is considering, a former first lady, former rival, a former Secretary of Energy, governor, U.N. ambassador like Bill Richardson, the former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle coming in as the secretary of Health and Human Services. We have not seen this kind of combination of star power and brain power and political muscle this early in a cabinet in our lifetimes.

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