ABC Parrots Dem Talking Point: Will Thompson’s ‘Thin Record’ Hurt ‘08 Bid?
On Thursday, all three network morning shows covered the announcement that former Senator Fred Thompson would be entering the 2008 race for the White House. And while CBS downplayed the news and NBC’s Chris Matthews wondered if Thompson "has the stuff" to run for the White House, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos was the only individual to introduce what will apparently be a new Democratic talking point. Appearing on "Good Morning America," the "This Week" anchor claimed Thompson "can also expect questions about his one term in the Senate, whether it’s a thin record or not. Democrats are already raising questions about that."
Who would those Democrats be? Will Barack Obama, who, until 2004 was an Illinois state senator, broach the issue? Or perhaps Hillary Clinton, who only gained her Senate seat in 2000, will bring up the subject of experience. Thompson, despite Stephanopoulos’ claims, was not a one term Senator. He won a special election in 1994 and a full term in 1996. He served longer than both those candidates and also Republicans such as Mitt Romney, who can claim just one term as governor of Massachusetts. Perhaps Obama and Clinton assume that the media will simply ignore such facts.
Although the GMA piece, which aired at 7:11am on May 31, was generally positive, the segment also included a moment where Stephanopoulos, a former top aide to Bill Clinton, appeared to contradict a previous ABC report:
George Stephanopoulos: "A lot of Republicans, a lot of conservatives, look at Fred Thompson and they see Ronald Reagan, a great communicator, a clear conservative with crossover appeal to non-Republicans and Democrats."
Yet, on Wednesday’s "World News," reporter Jake Tapper cautioned that Thompson will face questions about his liberal positions on issues such as abortion and campaign finance reform.
Over on CBS, the "Early Show" barely covered Thompson, relegating his announcement to a news read. (Although co-host Harry Smith did find time to continue his gushing interview with Al Gore.)
On NBC’s "Today" show, reporter David Gregory focused on how the former Tennessee Senator would alter the race. Echoing Stephanopoulos, he asserted that Thompson’s entry means the "quest for the label of most conservative" is now up for grabs.
"Hardball" host Chris Matthews also appeared on the NBC morning show and, responding to a question from co-anchor Matt Lauer about Mr. Thompson’s health, launched into a mild version of an attack he has previously made on the ex-Senator:
Chris Matthews: "Well that's a fact, the, I mean the work ethic is an issue. The health thing is always a question mark and apparently it's in remission, so it will move on. But the question of juice. Does he have the MSG? Does he have the stuff to go out there and pound the pavement for three or four more months and get into this race?"
Fred Thompson supporters should be wary of the coverage their candidate will receive from Matthews. During a May 16 appearance on "Gregory Live," one of the many MSNBC substitute shows for the cancelled Don Imus program, the "Hardball" host provided a much less restrained critique of the above argument. He ripped into Thompson as simply too old:
Matthews: "Certainly if Fred Thompson is their idea of a hero, they are desperate. He is not Ronald Reagan. He seems to be uninterested in the campaign. I, I think his first campaign pledge for something would be, ‘Will somebody get my slippers?’ I mean, he looks like a guy about to retire, not about to enter a race for president."
Although Mr. Matthews would probably object to jokes about whether a woman, such as Hillary Clinton, can do the job of president, age jokes are apparently just fine.