On Thursday’s "Good Morning America," ABC host George Stephanopoulos provided another example of the close relationship that the "This Week" host has with Bill and Hillary Clinton. After playing a debate clip of the New York Senator publicly disagreeing with her husband over a question about torture, Stephanopoulos revealed to co-host Robin Roberts, "My e-mail started going off the minute after that exchange happened. All the Clinton people."
Stephanopoulos, a former top aide to Bill Clinton, explained that Mrs. Clinton’s operatives "were thrilled" with the retort and "they like any moment where she can show that, actually, she's the one in charge. He's not pulling the strings." In other words, the Clinton camp e-mailed the ABC anchor, told him the debate moment they most appreciated and Stephanopoulos dutifully highlighted it the next day on "Good Morning America." This isn’t the first time the veteran journalist has touted his continuing ties to the Clintons. In March of 2005, he boasted to (then) MSNBC host Don Imus that he talked with liberal political operative James Carville "every day."
During his GMA appearance on Thursday, Stephanopoulos also described the previous night’s Democratic debate as "pile-on Hillary night." Despite all of the criticism from her fellow Democrats, he charitably observed that Hillary "kept smiling, stayed above the fray." Stephanopoulos’s assessment: "I don't think they drew any blood last night."
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:09am on September 27, follows:
Robin Roberts: "Now, the Democratic debate in New Hampshire. The gloves really came off last night and front-runner Hillary Clinton took most of the hits. So, how did she do? Did she hold her own or did the other candidates make some much needed progress in their regard? ABC chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos joins us now with that bottom line. Good to see you, George."
George Stephanopoulos: "Hey, Robin."
Roberts: "Boy, as we said, the gloves came off."
Stephanopoulos: "Did they. It was pile on Hillary night. You know, she went into this debate last night 20 points up in New Hampshire. So every single candidate on that stage felt they had to take a shot at her on Iraq, on health care, on experience. Take a look."
Former Senator John Edwards: "I heard Senator Clinton say, on Sunday, that she wants to continue combat missions in Iraq. To me, that's a continuation of the war. I do not think we should continue combat missions in Iraq."
Senator Barack Obama (D-ILL): "If it was lonely for Hillary, part of the reason it was lonely, Hillary, is because you closed the door to a lot of potential allies in that process."
Senator Joe Biden (D-DE): "Because there's a lot of very good things that come with all the great things that President Clinton did. But there's also a lot of the old stuff that comes back."
George Stephanopoulos: "You know, she kept smiling, stayed above the fray. I don't think they drew any blood last night. But they are pushing her much harder than ever before."
Roberts: "Well, because time is of essence now and they really have to take after her like that. But, again, once again, her husband, President Clinton is mentioned again and again."
Stephanopoulos: "He's on the stage. Let's just face it. He's on the stage in these debates. And last night, Senator Clinton was asked a question about torture. And she gave a different answer than her husband gave and moderator Tim Russert pointed it out."
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY): "Well, he's not standing here right now."
Tim Russert: "So there is a disagreement?"
Clinton: "Well, I'll talk to him later."
Stephanopoulos: "My e-mail started going off the minute after that exchange happened. All the Clinton people. Now, maybe this was getting into spin mode, but they were thrilled with that. Because they like any moment where she can show that, actually, she's the one in charge. He's not pulling the strings."
Roberts: "All right. So that's the Democrats. Let's take a look at the Republicans right now, because John McCain is getting a real boost in the polls right now."
Stephanopoulos: "You know, two months ago, he was given up for dead. He is back in New Hampshire. There’s a new poll out in New Hampshire this morning shows all the candidates bunched up. Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani in front; John McCain just a few points behind. But he's going on a new offensive in New Hampshire this morning. He's got a new ad that we're going to preview here right now."
John McCain advertisement [announcer]: "The courage to change Washington, fix our toughest problems and restore our trust. The character to put America's interests before his own. New Hampshire, you know who he is."
Senator John McCain (R-AZ): "Live free or die."
Stephanopoulos: "He won New Hampshire four years ago. Of course, that footage of John McCain as a POW. He's also going to take aim at Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani today, saying that tough talk, Rudy Giuliani, managerial experience, Mitt Romney, are not the qualifications to be President."
Roberts: "What do you think the boost recently for him? [sic]"
Stephanopoulos: "He’s a liberated guy. I mean, he’s been out and he’s been back on his home front in New Hampshire, saying what he means. Plus, the fact there's been some progress in Iraq has also helped."
Roberts: "All right, George, thanks, as always, for the bottom line. Diane?"