Former Clinton adviser and current “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos mercilessly grilled Democrat presidential candidate John Edwards Sunday on a number of issues, including his numerous flip-flops when he was a U.S. senator.
At first glance, one would think that Stephanopoulos must have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, or, given that there was a Republican presidential debate Thursday, forgot that Edwards was actually a Democrat.
However, upon reflection, recognizing Stephanopoulos’ ties to the Clintons, maybe this was a calculated attack on a political rival.
If you think this might be a stretch, just take a gander at the following questions asked by ABC’s chief Washington correspondent, and consider the last time you saw him or any other liberal media member grill a Democrat like this (video available here):
- You know, a lot of Democrats still in the Senate think that your position [on Iraq] is cynical political theater. How do you respond?
- But all that means that the funding is going to run out at some point. The Democrats don’t have the votes. And the President’s not going to budge. And do you think the Democrats should be saddled with the idea of completely cutting off funding for the troops?
- You know, Senator Dodd, he’s also running for President. His campaign shot back at your statement saying it would be better if you had stayed in the Senate to fight instead of carping (?) from the sidelines. How do you respond to that?
- Wouldn’t you be in a better position to help stop the war if you had stayed in the Senate instead of, you left the Senate, and now that’s held by someone who wouldn’t vote the same way you vote?
Pretty astounding questions from a devout Democrat to a devout Democrat, wouldn’t you agree? Could the following questions be the reason for the grilling:
- Senator Clinton has not signed on to your approach. Instead, she introduced a bill this week, and others have as well, that would “deauthorize” the war funding, the war resolution. Take a look. (Video of Sen. Clinton.) Why is that proposal, as your campaign said this week, just noise?
- You have also said that by next year, you want all combat troops out of Iraq. Senator Clinton would leave a residual force, several thousand troops inside Iraq in order to train Iraqi troops, guard the borders, and probably most important, prevent a genocide. And that’s what I want to focus on. You’ve been outspoken on the need to fight genocide in Darfur, but if we pulled out completely from Iraq, a lot of people believe there would be a Shiite genocide perpetrated on the Sunnis. How would you stop that if all the combat troops came out?
- And if you faced [genocide in Iraq], would you send American troops back in?
- Why have you never been to Iraq?
- You expect to get there before the voting begins next year?
Notice any questions about how his positions differed from Sen. Barack Obama’s? Why such focus on Hillary’s views, and how Edwards differs?
Regardless, as hard as it might be to believe, the grilling was going to get even more intense:
- You know, there’s been a lot of talk in this campaign. You’ve said several times now that you made a mistake in voting for the Iraq war resolution. But Scott Lehigh of the Boston Globe last month wrote a story that said that you did not counsel that kind of candor during the 2004 campaign. Here’s what he wrote. He said (with graphic on screen): “[A]ccording to several Kerry-Edwards campaign aides, Edwards argued repeatedly that the two should stand by their votes, even after it had become apparent that Iraq had neither weapons of mass destruction nor collaborative ties with the Al Qaeda… ‘I specifically remember Edwards having a very distinct take,’ says one person in attendance… ‘We should stand by our votes, say we would vote that way again. If you admit a mistake, it shows weakness in time of war. That’s what the Republicans want us to do.’” So, do you think you’ve compounded your mistaken vote by refusing to be candid in the last campaign?
- So, you no longer believe that admitting that mistake is a sign of weakness in any way?
- There seems to be a pattern of that in this campaign, and your opponents have pointed out several issues where you’ve taken different positions from which you took in the past. Pointed out that you voted for the “No Child Left Behind Act” back when you were in the Senate. Now you call that a mistake. (Graphic on screen listing “Edwards’ ‘Mistakes’”.) You voted for free trade with China back when you were in the Senate. Now you say you wouldn’t do that. You voted for, when you were in the Senate, storing nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Now you say you’re against that, of course the Nevada caucuses are going to be quite early this time. In the Senate, you voted for bankruptcy reform. Now you say that was a mistake, you realize it hurts the poor. That’s a lot of mistakes admitted on big issues for a single term in the Senate. How do you explain it?
- Let me ask you a question I asked Mitt Romney though a few months ago, because he’s faced similar questions about shifting position on issues. How do you convince voters that these are not conversions of convenience? A lot of people look at the stances you took in the Senate, sort of carving yourself out as a hawkish new Democrat. Now, times have changed, and you’re casting yourself as an ultra-liberal in the primaries. How do you convince voters these are not conversions of convenience?
- Back in the last campaign, you were also a strong critic of offshore tax shelters. Here are you in the Vice Presidential debate. (Video of Edwards discussing Halliburton, and how tax loopholes should be closed.) But, in 2005, you went to work for the Fortress Investment Group whose hedge funds were incorporated in the Cayman Islands, and that brought tax advantages. One of your former advisers told the Washington Post, “That work raises the question: Is John Edwards the guy he says he is?” What’s the answer?
- But don’t you see a contradiction between saying we should get rid of the offshore tax shelters and working for a company that takes advantage of them?
- What did you do for Fortress, and how much did they pay you?
Amazing. Can you recall the last time a Democrat candidate was so questioned? Yet, Stephanopoulos wasn’t finished:
- Senator, let me turn to the issue of taxes. You’ve proposed reversing the Bush tax cuts for people earning over $200,000 a year in order to pay for healthcare. And last week, at the Democratic convention in California, you went farther and said we should consider new taxes on excess profits and excess income. What is excess income?
- But you did cite another tax on excess income. Does that mean you’re open to raising taxes on the wealthy beyond reversing the Bush tax cuts?
- So, just to be clear, in order to reduce the deficit, and pay for our other programs beyond healthcare, you would raise taxes beyond reversing the Bush tax cuts, maybe even back to the level before President Clinton was president?
Incredible. Think Edwards had any idea what he was walking into this morning? Furthermore, and maybe more important, can you imagine Stephanopoulos grilling Hillary this way?