George Stephanopoulos Lobbies GOP to 'Cooperate' With Dems, Wonders if Defeat Could be a 'Blessing' for Obama
Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday once again pushed Republicans who win on Election Day to "cooperate" with Barack Obama and also wondered if a defeat could be a "blessing" for the President.
Talking to Republican adviser Nicolle Wallace, the morning show host lobbied, "But [Republicans] have to make a choice, as well. Do they choose to cooperate with President Obama and stand firm on principle, which is going to guarantee gridlock?"
Questioning former Obama aide Anita Dunn, he wondered if "having more Republicans in Washington is a blessing to him because it means that he must reach out to these independent voters, especially?"
The ex-Clinton operative turned journalist has been pushing this line of questioning for weeks. On October 19, Stephanopoulos complained to Senator John McCain: "A majority of Americans, believe that President Obama is more interested in cooperation. Tea Party advocates more interested in division. How do you prove them wrong?"
On November 1, the host cited a quote by Jeb Bush as proof that Tuesday's results won't "validate" the GOP.
A transcript of the November 2 segment, which aired at 7:10am EDT, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So, after the election returns are in, what happens next? Take a look at how three, recent presidents handled midterm defeats the morning-after.
GEORGE W. BUSH: It was a thumping. But nevertheless, the people expect us to work together.
BILL CLINTON: They demanded that a more equally-divided Congress work more closely together with the President for the interest of all the American people.
RONALD REAGAN: We will work with them in a bipartisan fashion. In an attempt to solve these problems.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And joining me now are two women who have worked in the White House through victories and defeats. Former adviser to President Obama, Anita Dunn. And Nicolle Wallace, she was an adviser to George W. Bush, also the author of the book, 18 Acres. And, Anita, let me begin with you. You saw Reagan there. You saw Bush there. You saw Clinton there. Who will President Obama sound most like tomorrow?
ANITA DUNN: I think President Obama will sound like President Obama. He will stretch out his hand to work with both parties, as he did after his inauguration. Listen, the American people are sending a message to Washington. And they're sending a message to what they see as a Congress that hadn't looked after their interest of middle-class families. And they're saying, listen to us. And I think both political parties are going to have to listen to this message. And that the President will be working with both political parties to move this country forward, regardless of the outcome of the election.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, the rhetoric will be what we expect. How about on substance? Do you expect any major substantive policy shifts?
DUNN: George, this was always going to be a time when after the, you know, after the crisis, that existed when the President took office, and after he averted, really, a great depression, and after working to get this country back on the slow road of economic growth, that we were going to see faster economic growth in a consolidation of these policies. But, let's take a step back and look. First of all, the voters get a say today. And the voters are going to say we want people in Washington to listen to us, put middle-class families first, to work together. And to get to work on building this economy again. And the President's done that for two years. And he's looking forward to working with the next Congress. And we think it will be a lot of Democrats.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A lot of Democrats. But Nicolle Wallace, many more Republicans tomorrow than there are today. And I wonder what you think their, the message they're taking from this election and from past Republican experience dealing with Democrats. You look at the presidents right there. Every, single one of those presidents won re-election, although the 2006, came after President Bush's re-election.
WALLACE: Yeah, look, I think President Obama has a great opportunity to do something Wednesday morning that he didn't do after his inauguration. And that's to walk into the Rose Garden and say, I hear you. It's something he actually could have done and maybe averted what looks like disaster tomorrow morning and after Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts. To say, I hear you. The voters have never been satisfied that Barack Obama has sufficiently focused on growing the economy and adding jobs. Whether on the substance he's done the right thing, has almost become irrelevant in the minds of voters. Because voters feel like there's not a lot of times in American politics when they have a single, urgent need from their president. And they had a single, urgent need from their President over the last few years and they don't feel like he delivered.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn't that same message being delivered, though, to the new Republican leaders coming that are going to be coming in, as well? I think they know, from talking to them, that they have to focus on jobs. But they have to make a choice, as well. Do they choose to cooperate with President Obama and stand firm on principle, which is going to guarantee gridlock?
WALLACE: Well, look, you know better than I do that's what deep in these polls, for a lot of voters, it is sufficient to make them refer Republicans, just the idea of someone being in washington to stop Obama's agenda. His agenda is unpopular enough that for a lot of Republican candidates and districts around the country, just stopping Obama's agenda is enough. But, of course, they have to get to Washington and not misread their mandate. They're not being sent to Washington to remake it in their own image. The Republicans who win tonight are being sent to Washington to try to rein in what many voters, including those independents who helped deliver Obama's victory just two years ago, are so worried of the expanding role of the federal government in American life. Its size, its cost, and its power, that they want Republicans there as a check and a break on Obama's agenda.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Anita, you get the last word here. I wonder what you make of the argument that because these independents are so in play and because the President needs to get them back, that actually having more Republicans in Washington is a blessing to him because it means that he must reach out to these independent voters, especially?
DUNN: George, he's going to reach out to independent voters, as he has. I want to take a little issue with something Nicolle said. Which is, you know, the Republicans that win are not coming with a mandate. Their political party has a lower approval rating than the Democratic Party, far lower than President Obama's. They're basically coming here because people are frustrated, they're angry, and they want people to work together. For two years, the Republican Party has said no. Refused to work with the White House. I think they'll have to undergo an attitude change, as well. Or in two years, we'll have a very different conversation.