Former top Democratic aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday applauded Barack Obama's address to Congress, lauding it for making "a start at inspiring hope out in the country." The "This Week" host appeared on "Good Morning America" and affirmed co-host Robin Roberts' question about whether Obama "hit his marks last night."
Stephanopoulos asserted that the President needed to show that he had a strong plan to fix the economy. He then complimented, "And I think he made a good start last night." He singled out the section of Obama's speech on bailing out the banks and cooed, "And I think that was the single-most effective passage in the speech." And while Stephanopoulos noted that this plan will cost "billions of more dollars," at no time did he discuss how the country would pay for all the programs and reforms the President wants to enact.
Co-host Roberts, on the other hand, should be commended for actually raising that question when she interviewed Joe Biden in a separate segment. Speaking of those who bought houses they couldn't afford, she pressed the Vice President: "And now, billions of dollars are going to help both. Isn't that rewarding bad behavior? Folks are still outraged about this."
In a follow up question, she challenged again, wondering, "Quite ambitious. Is there a danger of promising too much?"
As for Stephanopoulos, he actually seemed, comparatively, somewhat restrained. In addition to GMA, the ABC host also appeared on the Tuesday edition of "Nightline" to give a post-speech report card. In a previous edition of the grading segment, after the February 9 primetime press conference, he gave Obama A and B grades.
On Tuesday, however, the "report card" graphic appeared onscreen, but Stephanopoulos offered no letter grades, instead complimenting Obama for more generic things such as "reminding people of the popular parts" of stimulus package that has already passed. He also allowed that the President's "unfamiliarity" with the form of the address showed.
A transcript of the February 25 "Good Morning America" segment, which aired at 7:05am, follows:
ROBERTS: But, now, to the President's speech last night. It was his first address to Congress. And at a moment you could see him scanning the crowd for first lady Michelle Obama, when he introduced her before he began his speech. The state of the U.S. economy, of course, front and center. And here are some of the key moments from last night.
BARACK OBAMA: I know for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so. The impact of this recession is real. And it is everywhere. This time, CEOs won't be able to use taxpayer money to pad their paychecks or buy fancy drapes or disappear on a private jet. Those days a over. I also know that every American who is sitting here tonight loves this country and wants it to succeed. If we confront without fear, the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday, years from now, our children can tell their children, this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, something worthy to be remembered.
ROBERTS: So, how did the President do last night? We turn, now, to our chief Washington correspondent, and host of "This Week," George Stephanopoulos. And the bottom line, what did the President need to achieve? And did he hit his marks last night, George?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I think he did, Robin. Number one, he had to show the country that he gets it, that he understands what they're going through in this very, very tough economy. And that he has a plan to fix it. And then, he had to move to buy some time and build support for that plan. And I think he made a good start last night. Now, it was interesting. It didn't seem like he moved every one in the hall. The hall was still pretty split between Democrats and Republicans. But, what will be interesting to see is did the President did a good job of convincing doubters back home, including Republicans, that his plan should have a shot to work?
ROBERTS: Yeah. The hall did respond when he talked about the debt. That's the one time they all seemed to be in agreement. But the President, when it comes to bailing out the banks, he knows that there is much resistance. And he talked about that, addressed that last night.
OBAMA: So, I know how unpopular it is to be seen as helping banks right now, especially when everyone is suffering, in part, from their bad decisions. I promise you. I get it. That's what this is about. It's not about helping banks. It's about helping people.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That is the single-most important challenge the President faced last night, to try to build support for this plan to bail out the banks, to ease the credit crisis. It's going to cost billions of more dollars. And I think that was the single-most effective passage in the speech. When the president said two things: Number one, I get it. I understand how angry you are about this. And number two, he said, it's not about helping banks. It's about helping people. The administration is going to have to drive home that message again and again and again, to try to ease the anger over this bank plan.
ROBERTS: The anger. And also, there was a lot of talk about his tone prior to this speech, that it was too grim. Did he do anything to change that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Came right out of the box and said, make no mistake about it. We are going to recover. That's the most important thing he wanted the country to hear last night. He began on hope. He ended on hope. Now, in between, there's a lot of hard things to be done. And the President did not engage in any kind of happy-talk. But I think he made a start at inspiring hope out in the country.
ROBERTS: As always, George, thanks for the bottom line. Have a good day there in D.C. Thanks so much.