On Monday’s "Good Morning America," the ABC program extended its habit of offering copious amounts of time to Democratic political contenders. GMA devoted 10 and a half minutes of coverage to promote former Vice President Al Gore and his new book, "The Assault on Reason."
This is the same network that, in March, featured 30 minutes of softball questions with Senator Hillary Clinton in a "town hall" style meeting, a campaign gift that the network has yet to offer to a Republican presidential candidate.
The May 21 segment contained an odd disconnect as Gore proceeded to accuse the media of focusing on unserious, silly subjects and Diane Sawyer mostly accepted, or did not disagree with criticism of the medium. The ABC host prefaced a question about the former Vice President losing weight by saying, "But to dig not-very deep, once again, at my peril here-" Gore proceeded to interrupt and hector Ms. Sawyer over wondering about such things. "Well, listen to you. Listen to you," Gore began. He continued:
Diane Sawyer: "I just want to say one more time, Donna Brazile, your former campaign manager, has said if he drops 25 to 30 more pounds he's running. Lost any weight?"
Al Gore: [Laughs]: "I think, you know, millions of Americans are in the same struggle I’m in on that, but look-- Listen to your questions, you know, the horse raise, the cosmetic parts of this."
Would Diane Sawyer pleasantly submit to such correction from a conservative who believed the media to be biased? (And Gore may complain about cosmetic issues, but it was just last year that GMA, in another interview, touted his "passion." In a third piece, reporter Claire Shipman hailed him as "the comeback kid.")
Earlier in the segment, which began at 7:07am, reporter Jake Tapper set the tone for the Gore interview by dutifully repeating his phraseology. Recounting the former Vice President’s complaints about the media, Tapper stated:
Jake Tapper: "Gore also attacks the paralysis of the conversation of democracy, even using brain studies to show the effect of the media focus on matters frightening and shallow, not truly important, as with debate coverage seven years ago focusing on his sighing, not his arguments."
The paralysis of the conversation of democracy? Isn't that an overly loaded term to use without even offering the standard "so-called" preface?
During the interview, Mr. Gore discussed President Bush and Sawyer pressed him about over for a run for the White House in '08. However, the veteran politician spent much of the segment repeatedly critiquing the media for focusing on the frivolous and the GMA host mostly responded sheepishly, trying not to draw additional ire:
Sawyer: "Well, I want to come back to that thesis because part of it involves our jobs in television news. And I want to deal with that. But nonetheless, Mr. Vice President, it is going to be very hard for people to read this book and say this is not a political because this is a book that really does go to the current administration. My question–"
Gore: "Just as one of many examples of how our conversation of democracy has turned toward these buzzwords and phrases. Like the frame for the discussion, the logo, ‘Campaign ‘08,’ That’s not what this is about. You know, for anybody who has asked the question, has something gone wrong in our country? This book is about that. It’s about what’s gone wrong and how we can fix it."
After pressing Gore briefly on Iraq, Sawyer returned to politics and attempted to placate the ex-Vice President on his thesis that the media only focuses on the frivolous and political horse races:
Sawyer: "Not to come back to this and fall into your thesis that the press only wants the horse race of the political campaign–"
Gore: "But, back to the horse race."
Sawyer: "Back to the horse race. Because you do say that the most effective way to change America is as President. There’s no question. That’s the most effective way."
Gore: "It’s one way."
Sawyer: "It’s one way. Well– And I just wonder, when will you make a decision? And what will it be that causes you to make that decision, if you're waiting and watching?"
Gore: "Well, you know, I'm not pondering it. I’m not focused on that. I'm focused on how to solve the climate crisis and in order to solve the climate crisis, I'm convinced we have to address these cracks in the foundation of democracy, these basic problems, with, with the way we're approaching decision making."
In the aforementioned weight question, Sawyer came back to the topic one last time by admitting that the question was at her "peril":
Sawyer: "But to dig not very deep, once again, at my peril here."
Gore: "Well, listen to you. Listen to you."
Sawyer: "I just want to say one more time, Donna Brazile, your former campaign manager, has said if he drops 25 to 30 more pounds he's running. Lost any weight?"
Gore: [Laughs]: "I think, you know, millions of Americans are in the same struggle I’m in on that, but look, listen to your questions, you know, the horse race, the cosmetic parts of this and– Look, that’s all understandable and natural, but while we’re all focused on, you know, Britney and K-Fed and Anna Nicole Smith and all this stuff, meanwhile, very quietly, our country has been making some very serious mistakes that could be avoided if, we the people, including the news media, are involved in a full and vigorous discussion of what our choices are."
After the weight query, Sawyer teased a follow-up segment with Gore later in the show. Oddly, the piece never aired. The GMA host promised that the future interview would look at "his thesis about all of us in the television news and what’s going on in America." Make of that what you will.
In addition to offering over 10 minutes to Al Gore and broadcasting a 30 minute town hall meeting with Hillary Clinton, "Good Morning America" has also devoted eight and a half minutes to a liberal environmentalist who doesn’t use toilet paper. And yet, conservatives and Republicans are still waiting for the first town hall segment with a GOP candidate.