GMA Anchor to McCain: Would You Prefer Hillary or Obama to Win in ‘08?

On Wednesday’s "Good Morning America," co-anchor Chris Cuomo interviewed GOP presidential candidate John McCain. In the piece, Cuomo quoted a congressional colleague who called the Arizona Senator’s position on Iraq "arrogant and self delusional."

The ABC host also wondered if McCain needed "rose colored glasses" to see progress in the war and prompted the ‘08 contender to choose which Democrat he’d like to see in the White House. All of this stood in stark contrast to the fawning, sycophantic "town hall" meeting that "Good Morning America" hosted with Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Monday.

During that event, GMA co-host Robin Roberts told Clinton her plan for universal health care was ahead of its time and generally tossed softball questions. And she certainly didn’t ask the New York Senator if she’d prefer Mitt Romney or John McCain in the White House.

During the segment, which aired at 7:06am on March 28, Cuomo, the son of former Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo, wanted to know, if McCain were to lose the election, which Democrat would he prefer in the White House. Hillary or Obama?:

Cuomo: "Let me ask you to speculate. If a Republican doesn’t win in the next presidential election and it has to be a Democrat by default, who would you rather see in the White House? Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?"

McCain: "[Laughter] Stop, Chris. I- I- [Laughter] I envision no scenario where we won’t have a Republican President and I look in the mirror every morning and say that."

Cuomo: "But if it is that terrible day when you wake up and sure enough--"

McCain: "Oh, Chris. I- I don’t contemplate that seriously. I have no– You really don’t know that much about candidates until you go through a campaign and that’s what campaigns are for and that’s what debates are for, so we can evaluate the candidates. I respect Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, Senator Edwards, many others who are running."

Exactly what kind of an answer did Cuomo expect from such a question?

Earlier in the piece, Cuomo cited Hagel’s "delusional" remark and dismissed McCain’s notion of progress in Iraq:

Chris Cuomo: "And a few minutes ago, Senator McCain joined us to talk about that landmark Senate vote on Iraq. So, Senator McCain, thank you for joining us this morning. So, you lost the vote of what you were calling the ‘Date Certain to Surrender Act.’ Interestingly, your friend Senator Hagel calls the position you were putting forward arrogant and self delusional. How big a blow is this vote to you and your campaign?"

Senator John McCain: "Those who voted yesterday give us no alternative after we, quote, ‘withdraw’ the troops, or surrender, depending on how you look at it. And I know what’s going to happen, and that is, the area will deteriorate into chaos and we will see them follow us home. And that’s what they say, not what I say."

Cuomo: "Well, you've been saying that more recently, Senator. You’ve been saying we're seeing progress in Iraq. Difficult to make a statement like that when, just today, we're getting reports of in one, one place, Tal Afar, 100 people dead in just the last day, the same town the President used last year as an example of freedom taking hold. Do you have to be looking at Iraq through rose colored glasses to see progress?"

McCain: "No, I think you look at facts on the ground. And the facts on the ground are that there’s pedestrian malls in Baghdad. There are neighborhoods that are calm, Anbar province, the sheikhs are cooperating with us and violence is down there. Large parts of the country are under control. The Maliki government is moving forward with legislation on oil revenues and de-Baathification that will be helpful. The Iraqi military are fighting side by side with us. Is it tough? Is difficult? Is it still very dangerous? Of course. But significant progress is being made and that will become clearer and clearer as we move forward."

Cuomo: "Do you believe that your position on the war in Iraq may be behind why you’re having trouble fund-raising? The gap in the polls with Mr. Giuliani?"

McCain: "I have no idea, nor do I care. Nor can I let it effect me. Any political ambition of mine pales in significance to the sacrifice that’s already been made by these brave Americans. What I’m worried about is losing this war and then they’ll follow us home and then we’ll have a lot more to worry about than politics."

Cuomo: "But you should care because you’re running for President so the polls must be something to keep an eye on, no?"

McCain: "No, I shouldn’t. No, I shouldn’t care about that aspect of it because this is a far greater issue than anyone’s political ambitions. I would far– I would much rather lose a campaign than lose a war. And I know what’s right. My life and my experience and my knowledge and my background, I know about war. I’ve seen the face of war. And I know that we are making progress there and I know the consequences of failure."

Interestingly, During Clinton’s town hall meeting, GMA host Roberts didn’t bother asking Clinton about any disruptions in her quest for the White House. (Except when she wondered if it's unfair for other Democrats to attack Mrs. Clinton's war vote.)

Cuomo’s next question was also somewhat revealing. When discussing the possible effects of losing in Iraq, the ABC host called it "something we talk about very rarely." Shouldn’t the ramifications of failure be discussed by the media? Or is there a reason the issue is rarely broached? Cuomo continued:

Cuomo: "That is a very frightening prospect and when you say you know what’s going to happen if you leave, something we talk about very rarely, hopefully you can address, I know where you are on who will leave, where are you on who should stay, Senator? With all the work that’s going to need to be done? All the rebuilding, all the bases, all the man power that will be needed in Iraq for many years to come, if you’re President, do you keep Americans on the ground there?"

McCain: "Sure, but the key to it, Chris, of course, is casualties. We’ve had Americans on the ground in South Korea for 50 years, but it’s peaceful there. And I would remind you that Iraq is, if we could get things under control, a very wealthy country, oil rich country so that they could then take up these expenses and even maybe repay us. The key to it is whether we can get the area secure and we are making progress. We’ve got a new strategy. Our American soldiers and Marines are out there living with the Iraqi military, embedded in these areas. Many neighborhoods are calm. Is it still very dangerous? Of course, we still only got two of the five brigades on the ground there that are going to be there. I believe we are going to succeed and I have seen signs of it and I’m very proud of the men and women who are serving and I think it’s not appropriate of us to tell them that they are coming home 18 months from now. If you really want ‘em home, bring them home now."

Cuomo: "Let me ask you to speculate. If a Republican doesn’t win in the next presidential election and it has to be a Democrat by default, who would you rather see in the White House? Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?"

McCain: "[Laughter] Stop, Chris. I- I- [Laughter] I envision no scenario where we won’t have a Republican President and I look in the mirror every morning and say that."

Cuomo: "But if it is that terrible day when you wake up and sure enough--"

McCain: "Oh, Chris. I- I don’t contemplate that seriously. I have no– You really don’t know that much about candidates until you go through a campaign and that’s what campaigns are for and what debates are for, so we can evaluate the candidates. I respect Senator Obama, Senator Clinton, Senator Edwards, many others who are running."

Cuomo: "Let me ask you one final, serious question here Senator. Given the recent developments with Tony Snow and Elizabeth Edwards and their cancer, as a cancer survivor, how often do you think about your health, especially given what you’ve fought through?"

McCain: "Sure. Other forms of cancer are much more difficult to contemplate and complicated. I just get regular check-ups and I’ve been fine for eight years now."

On Monday’s GMA, co-host Roberts promised that there would be many more town hall meetings with presidential candidates. If Wednesday’s grilling of McCain is any indication, GOP candidates should not expect the same friendly treatment that Hillary Clinton received.

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