ABC’s Terry Moran Hyperventilates: The Ghost of Ted Kennedy Appeared in Congress

ABC’s Terry Moran on Wednesday hyperbolically spun Barack Obama’s congressional speech as a "bold call to action" and theatrically visualized, "There was another ghost in the chamber tonight, the spirit of Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought for decades for universal care."

Earlier in the Nightline segment, which recapped the President’s health care address, the co-anchor introduced his political revision of A Christmas Carol: "Yes, there were ghosts in that chamber tonight. The other Presidents who tried to reform the health care system and failed."

After discussing the outburst by South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson, who accused the President of being a liar, Moran declared, "The President simply moved on. Focusing on his message. Trying to take the high road. Leaving Wilson and others behind."

The President tried to take the high road? Although it’s only partially in Moran’s segment, Obama made this comment clearly aimed at Sarah Palin: "-That we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple." So, Representative Wilson calling the President a liar is in poor taste? But, Obama doing the same thing to Palin is the "high road?"

Moran’s tone was constant throughout the piece. He opened the segment by trumpeting, "President Obama delivers a bold call to action on health care, challenging his Republican opponents to stop what he calls the scare tactics and telling lawmakers the time to act is now." He later declared the speech was a "urgent call to action, one that bluntly even emotionally challenged what he called the scare tactics of some of his Republican opponents."

Repeating White House talking points, Moran parroted, "The plan itself, the President claimed, will deliver what polls show Americans want- security and stability in health care, the end of those nightmares [extreme difficulties dealing with insurance companies]." Of course, the anchor could have cited polls, such as Rasmussen, that now show 53 percent of Americans oppose Obama’s proposal for government-run health care.

A transcript of the September 9 segment, which aired at 11:47pm EDT, follows:

[Show open tease]

TERRY MORAN: Make or break. President Obama delivers a bold call to action on health care, challenging his Republican opponents to stop what he calls the scare tactics and telling lawmakers the time to act is now. Political showdown. So, did the President win the support of a divided Congress and an increasingly skeptical American public?

11:47

TERRY MORAN: And we begin tonight with President Obama's major speech on health care reform. It was an urgent call to action, one that bluntly even emotionally challenged what he called the scare tactics of some of his Republican opponents. When the President admitted that some of the tough details of his plan still need to be ironed out, lawmakers from both parties laughed out loud. And at one point, a Republican member of Congress actually heckled the president, yelling at him, "You lie!" Well, the deep divide reflects just how entrenched this healthcare fight has become. It was another high pressure moment for President Obama.

SARGENT AT ARMS: Madam Speaker, the President of the United States.

MORAN: He has lived on the political high wire, it seems, from the campaign, through the financial crisis, and the stimulus battle and now health care.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I'm not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.

MORAN: Yes, there were ghosts in that chamber tonight. The other Presidents who tried to reform the health care system and failed. From Teddy Roosevelt, to Harry Truman, to Bill Clinton who came to Congress 16 years ago this month with his plan.

PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON [file footage]: There's still a lot of people who say it would be an outright miracle if we passed health care reform. But my fellow Americans, in a time of change you have to have miracles. And miracles do happen.

MORAN: Not that year. Year Clinton and the Democrats got hammered politically. This time, President Obama declared, it will be different, because, he argued, it has to be.

OBAMA: Our collective failure to meet this challenge, year after year, decade after decade, has led us to the breaking point.

MORAN: So the stakes were high, again. And the Congress President Obama addressed was bitterly divided, again. Not just the Republicans, his own party. He had his work cut out for him, and he went at it with relish.

OBAMA: We know we must reform this system. The question is how.

MORAN: First, the problem. The President sought to remind Americans of what they disliked, even fear the most, in the system by offering emotional examples of all too familiar health care nightmares.

OBAMA: It happens every day. One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn't reported gallstones that he didn't even know about. They delayed his treatment. And he died because of it. That is heartbreaking. It is wrong and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America.

MORAN: But how to fix the system? That is the question that bedeviled so many presidents. And that has ignited the divisive battle in the media and on the internet and in town hall meetings across the country.

OBAMA: The time for bickering is over. The time for game has passed. Now it's a season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together. And show the American people that we can still do what we were sent here to do. Now is the time to deliver on health care.

MORAN: This was not some safe, predictable healthcare policy speech. President Obama was going all in rhetorically and the atmosphere thickened. It exploded when he tried to answer the most inflammatory charges against his plan, like that idea of death panels that would deny care to the old and sick.

OBAMA: Now, such a charge would be laughable if it weren't so cynical and irresponsible.

MORAN: And then he tried to answer another accusation and listen to what happened.

OBAMA: There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would ensure illegal immigrants. This too is false. The reforms- the reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.

REPRESENTATIVE JOE WILSON: You lie!

MORAN: That was Republican Congressman Joe Wilson shouting, "You lie," at the President, a rarely used word in the House chamber, explicitly prohibited by the rules. He later apologized.

OBAMA: It’s not true.

MORAN: The President simply moved on. Focusing on his message. Trying to take the high road. Leaving Wilson and others behind.

OBAMA: If you come to me with a serious set of proposals, I will be there to listen. My door is always open. But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than to improve it.

MORAN: The plan itself, the President claimed, will deliver what polls show Americans want- security and stability in health care, the end of those nightmares.

OBAMA: Under this plan it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it the most.

MORAN: The President also called for a mandate that all Americans have health insurance, a new insurance exchange where small businesses and individuals could buy low-cost coverage, and most controversially, a so-called public option, a government insurance program.

OBAMA: It could provide a good deal for consumers. And it would keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better.

MORAN: There was another ghost in the chamber tonight, the spirit of Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought for decades for universal care. And with his family watching from the gallery, President Obama invoked his legacy and read from a letter Kennedy wrote him in May.

OBAMA: "What we face," he wrote, "is above all a moral issue. At stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country."

MORAN: And at the end, President Obama sought to draw on the grand rhetorical tradition of President Kennedy and others, trying to summon the country to a great and necessary endeavor.

MORAN: We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act, even when it's hard.

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