Former Democratic Colleagues Stephanopoulos and Carville Plot Democrat Strategy

After the last two Republican presidential debates, Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos turned to Democrats for reaction. After President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress, the morning show host again featured a Democrat. On Tuesday, Stephanopoulos brought on Democrat James Carville for reaction to the President's tax plan.

The journalist asked his former Clinton White House colleague how the Obama administration would deal with a new book charging incompetence and sexism. But Stephanopoulos seemed interested in extracting the White House from possible danger: "How does that portrait strike you? Does it square with what you've seen? And how would you advise the White House to handle this book?"

Carville responded, in part by asserting that the White House "can't do anything about what's in that book." It's interesting that Stephanopoulos would speculate about such a strategy as he was very aggressive in suppressing Unlimited Access, an anti-Clinton book back when he was a White House staffer.

A March 24, 2004 MRC CyberAlert recounted a past Stephanopoulos' faulty memory regarding his role:

George Stephanopoulos was asked on Tuesday’s Good Morning America, in reference to Dick Clarke’s book, if he’d “ever seen an administration put on a sort of full-court press against one individual as they did yesterday?" Stephanopoulos insisted: "On a book? No, never, it's never happened before.” Hmmm. Wasn’t Stephanopoulos in the Clinton White House in 1996 when the public relations apparatus under Stephanopoulos went full bore to discredit FBI agent Gary Aldrich’s account in his book, Unlimited Access, about what he saw as an agent assigned to the White House?

Stephanopoulos did ask a few tough questions. On the subjct of the Republican rejection of a call for tax increases on the wealthy, the host wondered if the GOP's "class warfare charge might stick and scare off the moderate voters that Obama's going to need next year?"  

Over the span of nearly two weeks, GMA has featured three prominent Democrats to respond to events, often ones where the natural inclination would be to find a Republican. On September 15, Stephanopoulos finally talked to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and grilled him about the "distraction" Sarah Palin had become.

A transcript of the September 20 segment, which aired at 7:07am EDT, follows:


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's bring in Democratic strategist, GMA contributor James Carville for more on all this. And, James, the President's speech was the kind of hard line you and other Democrats were calling for. But are you worried that that class warfare charge might stick and scare off the moderate voters that Obama's going to need next year?

JAMES CARVILLE: Well, moderate voters know this: President Clinton raised taxes on the wealthy and created 22 million jobs. President Bush lowered taxes on the wealthy, created 1 million. I think any moderate voter can do the math. That's what it's about, according to the President. Furthermore, raising these taxes are popular across, not just Democratic voters, but popular among everybody. Gallup pointed out, I think it was 80 percent thought it should be a combination of tax cuts and spending cuts. Our own Democracy Corp polling, George, showed that raising taxes on the wealthy is one of the most popular ways to cut the deficit. So, I'm not very concerned at all. I think moderate voters are going to be behind this.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You irritated the White House last week, by calling on the President to fire his economic and political team. Now, they're taking a new stance, you still standing by that?

CARVILLE: Look, I think he filed his old negotiating philosophy, which was a pretty good start. I think he is going to need some new people. And from everything I hear, there are going to be new people coming in and I think it will be a good thing. I think the combination of the  disastrous debt ceiling deal and the elections in New York and Nevada were a clear signal. And I think that this shows that the White House is responding to this. And this was a good start yesterday. I think he's got to go through and make some other good starts. I was particularly encouraged by the fac that-

STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you want him to do exactly?

CARVILLE: I want to make changes. Yesterday was a change. How do I know? You know, they come in and say they have a communications problem. Well, then fire the communications people. But you have got to identify something. You can't have the kind of year they had and say we're going to keep doing things the way we did them. You have got to do things differently. That happens in every organization. And, I think- yesterday, it happened in this organization. And I suspect it's going to continue to happen. We can't afford as Democrats- go ahead. I'm sorry, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: No. While this is all happening, you have got this new book Confidence Man from Ron Suskind, painting a picture of an economic team wracked by division. Some sexism in the White House with the President saying is not always fully in control. How does that portrait strike you? Does it square with what you've seen? And how would you advise the White House to handle this book?

CARVILLE: Well, first of all, the President has appointed two women to the Supreme Court. His Secretary of State is a woman. His chief domestic policy adviser is a woman I don't know what happened in certain meetings in the White House. But that's, I think that's a charge against the President that is pretty shallow. You know, making economic policy is hard. And in the Clinton administration there was a lot of back and forth, there always is. To what extent that is, I don't know. And they can't do anything about what's in that book. What they can do is between now and the election- I think yesterday was a start toward that. I think if he shows that kind of aggressiveness and makes some changes in some personnel and gets different people in there, I think he can do quite a bit better. But it was pretty bad. This is the Buffett vision, as opposed to the Limbaugh vision. That's as simple as you can make this thing.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay. We only have a few seconds left. What about the fact of a primary challenge? Is it good for the Democrats? And will it happen?

CARVILLE: No. Don't you think Ralph Nader has done enough damage to the country? I mean, he was single handedly responsible for electing George Bush. Maybe the man ought to consider retiring.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's the last word this morning. James Carville, thanks very much.

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