George Stephanopoulos Lectures Pawlenty on How Obama Kept His Promises, Ignores Gitmo

Interviewing presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty on Friday, George Stephanopoulos lectured the Republican that Barack Obama can say I've "kept my promises" for the war on terror. The Good Morning America anchor ignored examples such as the failure to close Guantanamo Bay.

Stephanopoulos added, "Our troops are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. And a weakened al Qaeda has not succeeded on a major attack on our homeland. When President Obama makes the case that America is safer on his watch, how will you respond?"

(That comment would also skip the Fort Hood shooting in 2009.) The morning show anchor began by touting White House talking points: "So, I wonder what you say in a debate with President Obama when he comes out and says when it comes to protecting America, I've kept my promises."

When Pawlenty appeared on GMA on June 11, 2010, Stephanopoulos pushed the former governor to denounce Tea Party conservatives: "Are you concerned that some of your new candidates, especially those who have been backed by the Tea Party, may make it harder to win those seats in November?"

This pattern was also in evidence for Pawlenty's March 23, 2010 appearance where co-host Robin Roberts lobbied the Republican to denounce the "tone" of some Tea Party protests.

On Friday, Stephanopoulos attempted to portray the GOP field as weak, noting,  "Our last poll showed that only 43 percent of Republicans were satisfied with the presidential field. Only five of you showed up last night. What do you say to that?"

Of course, the 2008 Democratic field also included Representative Dennis Kucinich and Senator Evan Bayh, not exactly dynamic. Journalists weren't eager to portray them as a sign of problems.

A transcript of the May 06 segment, which aired at 7:10am EDT, follows:


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: As we just saw in Jake's piece, the first Republican presidential debate was held in South Carolina last night. Only five of the contenders showed up, which meant that our next guest drew a lot of the fire. And Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, joins us now from Greenville, South Carolina. Thanks for coming on this morning, governor.

TIM PAWLENTY: Delighted to be with you, George.
                           
STEPHANOPOULOS: In that debate last night, you said that the first order of business for the United States federal government is to protect this country and the American people. So, I wonder what you say in a debate with President Obama when he comes out and says when it comes to protecting America, I've kept my promises. Osama is gone. Our troops are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. And a weakened al Qaeda has not succeeded on a major attack on our homeland. When President Obama makes the case that America is safer on his watch, how will you respond?

TIM PAWLENTY: Well, a number of things. First, I do congratulate him, George, for the fine job he did in finding and killing Osama bin Laden. I tip my cap to him and we should congratulate him for that. But there's a number of other, security and foreign policy questions, that I think he's answered in the wrong way. For example, when he said that he was going to surge the troops in Afghanistan, which I think was the correct call, I didn't think he should have simultaneously announced the withdrawal date and sent the message that we're really not committed there to finish the job. So, that's one example of the kind of things he'll have to account for.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, on Afghanistan, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Dick Lugar, says right now in the wake of the Osama bin Laden killing, about 100 al Qaeda in Afghanistan, he says that it's exceedingly difficult to conclude that our vast expenditures in Afghanistan represent a rational strategy. Do you agree?

PAWLENTY: Well, I've been to Afghanistan three times, as recently as last fall. It's not just al Qaeda. Of course, there's other terrorist groups, concerning groups, including the Akhani network and the Taliban and others. But our interest in Afghanistan, in terms of our security is to make sure that we have the capability, either in Afghanistan or nearby, to identify and eliminate any threats to the security interest and safety of the United States or our interest in that region. It's not to rebuild their whole country. But we hope, in the near term that they can stand up their security forces to help establish and take over that goal. And General Petraeus, when I met with him last fall, said we're making good progress in that regard. So, I believe we can withdraw or draw down our troops. But it should be determined by  conditions on the ground and our goals not some arbitrary date on the calendar.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you say- Let's turn to the economy right now. We are all waiting on jobs numbers this morning. But there has been fairly strong job growth over the last couple of months. Of course, Americans still unsatisfied right now. But if the economy starts to improve, what will be your line of attack against President Obama?

PAWLENTY: Well, the economy, if it's improving at all, is only doing very slowly, and not by very big margins. And so, we had a president who said, George, that he was going to cut the deficit in half, if he got elected president. He didn't keep that promise. Our federal spending is out of control. I think Americans realize we can't be a debtor nation and that's ruining our country. He said he was going to fix the health care system, with focus on costs and affordability. He broke that promise. He didn't do it with Republicans, like he said. He said initially he opposed the individual mandate. And now, he's in favor of it. And I think the health care crisis is going to continue. He didn't solve the problem. And, of course, we have these other issue. Like he said don't raise the debt ceiling when he was a candidate or a senator, because that's an example of quote/unquote, "failed leadership." And now he wants to raise the debt ceiling. So, the list goes on and on and on. He made all these promises. And he broke most of them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Quickly, we only have ten seconds left. Our last poll showed that only 43 percent of Republicans were satisfied with the presidential field. Only five of you showed up last night. What do you say to that?

PAWLENTY: Well, I'm not well-known across the country. I'm just getting introduced. I think as I get better-known, and I have a chance to introduce my record of leadership in Minnesota on taxes and spending, on real reform on education and health care, we're getting real support and good momentum. I don't think the election will be decided now. It will be decided over the next year and a half. And we look forward to doing well.

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