Former Dem Aide George Stephanopoulos Spins for White House on Arlen Specter

Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday echoed White House talking points and attempted to prop up the beleaguered campaign of Pennsylvania's Arlen Specter. Talking to Joe Sestak, who is opposing the preferred Senate candidate of the White House, the host said of Obama: "If the top Democrat in the country says he needs Arlen Specter in the Senate, why shouldn't Democratic primary voters listen?"

Stephanopoulos also played a commercial featuring the President and noted that Obama says he "loves" Specter.

Touting the Republican turned Democrat, the journalist enthused, "Voters have said they want politicians to work together across party lines and Specter has a record of doing that, doesn't he?"

Perhaps alluding to Stephanopoulos' previous work as a liberal political operative, Congressman Sestak said of the deal making in Washington, "It's pretty tough down there, George, and you know it."

The ABC anchor challenged Sestak a third time, deriding, "You say this race isn't about Arlen Specter's age or health. But earlier this week, you called him a dead man walking. Isn't that below the belt?"

GMA viewers will remember the January 2009 revelation that reporter Stephanopoulos participated in daily strategy conversations with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. The journalist certainly sounded on message during Tuesday's program.

Stephanopoulos adopted a similar theme on Monday's World News, worrying that voters say "they want the parties to work together, yet they seem to be most against now the Senators, the incumbents, who did work across party lines."

A transcript of the May 18 segment, which aired at 7:07am EDT, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Now, for the candidates. Senator Specter declined to appear here this morning. But here's the case he made to us on the campaign trail yesterday.

ARLEN SPECTER: There is frustration and resentment against incumbents because of the gridlock in Washington. I have crossed party lines. I have fought the partisan gridlock. It doesn't apply to me. And that's why I'm going to win this election.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Congressman Joe Sestak joins us now from Gradyville, Pennsylvania. Good morning, Congressman. You heard Senator Specter right there. And I wonder if you think he has a point? Voters have said they want politicians to work together across party lines and Specter has a record of doing that, doesn't he?

REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA): Well, I don't think there's any doubt that we've got to fix the Hatfield and McCoy situation down in Washington, D.C. It is broken. This election, however, is about something else. They've lost all faith and trust in Washington, D.C., George. And there's no way they feel you have a career politician, like Arlen Specter, who I do respect. But after advancing George Bush's policy and slamming us into recession, all of a sudden, he switched parties. They really do think principle has to matter down in Washington, D.C. And I think regaining that trust is what this election is about. I'm not running for my congressional seat here in my district simultaneously, even though I could. Because, I want to show, it's not about me. It's not about Arlen Specter. It's people who have lost trust in jobs. And we got have to public servants, not politicians.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, Congressman, President Obama is not going to Pennsylvania today but he has appeared in Senator Specter's radio and television ads, saying, "I love Arlen Specter." And he's calling Democratic voters with this message. Listen.

BARACK OBAMA: Vice President Joe Biden and I need Arlen Specter in the Senate fighting alongside us. Please cast your vote on May 18th, for the man who has a proven track record for delivering for Pennsylvanians.

STEPHANOPOULOS: If the top Democrat in the country says he needs Arlen Specter in the Senate, why shouldn't Democratic primary voters listen?

SESTAK: Look, at the end of the day, I don't begrudge the deal that was made with Arlen Specter. It's pretty tough down there, George, and you know it. But, at the end of the day, we are Pennsylvanians. Pretty independent-minded. And we want to make up our own decision. There's no more kings. There's no more king-makers. I honestly do believe that President Obama wants a real Democrat.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, earlier-

SESTAK: One with core beliefs down in Washington, D.C., helping him. I want to be a strong ally, but obviously not a yes man. And I think that's what Pennsylvanians want, someone who will stand up- when John F. Kennedy said once, "Sometimes the party asks too much"- and fight for the families of Pennsylvania.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question, Congressman. You say this race isn't about Arlen Specter's age or health. But earlier this week, you called him a dead man walking. Isn't that below the belt?

SESTAK: You know, it's interesting. I was asked the question who could beat Pat Toomey. Arlen Specter or me? And I pointed out how the polls have him down 12 points against Pat Toomey but literally have me tied. And, literally, how I'll be able to say, I'm an independent-minded person who will stand up, believe in Democratic principles. But he will lose. And so, it was in reference to that that it was said. No, this isn't about health. This isn't about anything except, do you want a career politician, or someone who will be in it for you? And will be willing to lose their job in doing so.

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