ABC's Gibson Bemoans 'Hope' of Immigration Deal Defeated by 'Polarization'

ABC's Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos on Friday night lamented the lost “hope” in the defeat of the compromise “immigration reform” bill as Gibson fretted about how “polarization” killed it. “Immigration bust,” Gibson teased World News: “Is there still hope for immigration reform after a highly touted deal falls apart?” He then led the newscast by repeating his “hope” line: “Many had great hopes for the compromise.” Turning to George Stephanopoulos in Iowa, Gibson proposed: “The left and the right opposed it. So you've got this polarization that killed the bill, and also the President's strength wasn't enough to keep it alive.” Stephanopoulos agreed as he held conservatives most culpable: “This was driven by the wings on either side. Liberal Democrats who didn't like the guest worker program, probably even more important, conservative Republicans who thought this program was amnesty, they drove this process, they killed the bill.”

That prompted Gibson to ruminate: “So it makes you wonder, right now, the way things stand, if our political system is really equipped to attack and solve the big problems?” Stephanopoulos confirmed: “Certainly not this big problem, Charlie, even though, as I said, a majority of Americans support it.”

But that's a pretty slim majority, as ABC News polling chief Gary Langer reported in a June 4 summary of an ABC News/Washington Post poll:
Overall, a narrow majority, 52 percent, favors giving illegal immigrants the right to live and work in the United States legally if they pay a fine and meet other requirements, as Bush, in a compromise plan with Democrats, has proposed. But Republicans around the country oppose the idea by a 10-point margin, 53 percent to 43 percent.
Of course, it's hard for the public to know what's in the bill, particularly the automatic legalization of all illegals in the country, when the major media give it so little coverage. The latest evidence of the lack of media interest: Neither the CBS Evening News or NBC Nightly News uttered a syllable Friday night about the immigration bill and CBS and NBC gave it just a couple of sentences Friday morning. ABC's Good Morning America, however, aired a segment, naturally one hostile to opponents. For details, check Scott Whitlock's item: “ABC’s Cuomo Slams Tancredo for Spreading 'Scary' 'Anti-Immigrant Sentiment.'”

In fact, the majority shares the perspective of conservatives against the deal. A late May New York Times poll asked: “Should illegal immigrants be prosecuted and deported for being in the U.S. illegally, or shouldn’t they?” 69 percent said they should be prosecuted, 24 percent said they should not. See Tim Graham's NewsBusters post for more on that poll and the selective reporting of it by the New York Times.

This is the second night in a row ABC has rued the demise of the bill. My June 7 NewsBusters item, “ABC Frets Over Demise of 'Landmark' Immigration Deal; NBC Sees 'Extremes' at Fault,” recounted:
ABC's Charles Gibson fretted Thursday night over the likely impending demise of the “landmark” immigration deal as George Stephanopoulos blamed conservatives and on NBC Chip Reid faulted “extremes on the left and the right.” Gibson teased World News: “Tonight, the landmark compromise on immigration is in big trouble on Capitol Hill. Some Senators saying if we can't pass this, we can't pass anything.” Gibson proceeded to assert that the bill “was considered the best hope for doing something on immigration.” After a story from Jake Tapper on the debate in the Senate, Gibson expressed frustration to George Stephanopoulos: “What's so counterintuitive to me, George, is that a lot of the Senators who think and say most strongly that something has to be done to reform immigration are the ones who are voting for these killer amendments.” Stephanopoulos held conservatives responsible: “They are getting a lot of cross pressures, Charlie, particularly on the conservative side.”

Meanwhile, on the NBC Nightly News, Chip Reid described how Democrats are opposed to the temporary worker program because of how it may take jobs from Americans and Republicans are opposed to what they consider “amnesty” for illegals -- both mainstream views in the two parties. Yet Reid applied an “extreme” tag: “You've got the extremes on the left and the right trying to kill the entire bill, rather than except the provisions they detest.”

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the June 8 segment on ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:
CHARLES GIBSON: One of President Bush's top domestic priorities, immigration reform, appears to be dead, killed by the Senate last night. A compromise plan that would have tightened border security and put many illegal immigrants on the road to citizenship was soundly defeated in the Senate. Many had great hopes for the compromise. So why did it go down to defeat? George Stephanopoulos is in Des Moines, Iowa, tonight. George, they needed 60 votes to keep this bill alive, and they fell 15 votes short. That shows it didn't have a whole lot of support?

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: In the end, it didn't get that close, Charlie, although the blame game is in full swing today. Republicans say they could have had a deal come together if Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader, had just given them another night to put it together. Democrats say they gave the Republicans every single chance, but conservatives were just determined to vote no. Neither side is giving up hope yet, but the chances of this coming back together right now are very slim.

GIBSON: George, doesn't this really show how polarized right now our political system is? The Senators supporting this were mostly in the ideological center. The left and the right opposed it. So you've got this polarization that killed the bill, and also the President's strength wasn't enough to keep it alive.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Even though a majority of Americans support the idea of immigration reform as outlined, and you had stalwarts on the left like Teddy Kennedy behind it, and the President himself behind it. This was driven by the wings on either side. Liberal Democrats who didn't like the guest worker program, probably even more important, conservative Republicans who thought this program was amnesty, they drove this process, they killed the bill.

GIBSON: So it makes you wonder, right now, the way things stand, if our political system is really equipped to attack and solve the big problems?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Certainly not this big problem, Charlie, even though, as I said, a majority of Americans support it. President Bush is not giving up. He was making phone calls today, he's going to Capitol Hill next week to try to talk this up. He's going to take to the airwaves again. But as one senior Republican aide told me tonight, the chances of this actually getting resurrected this year are below 25 percent.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center