Rare Sight: ABC Airs Spot on GOP 'Who's Most Conservative?' Fight
ABC host Diane Sawyer and 2008 Republican contender John McCain engaged in a friendly conversation on Monday about who would be the most conservative GOP candidate, certainly a rare sight on network television. Amazingly, the interview, which took place on "Good Morning America," didn't frame the quest to be the most right-leaning contender as a bad thing. Sawyer began by asking McCain about this "verbal brawl" among Republicans for the conservative crown. She then quizzed McCain over his contention that Mitt Romney isn't authentic in his current positions and wondered, "Is he a con artist? Is that what you were saying?"
Sawyer allowed McCain ample time to question Romney's pro-life credentials and to bring up past disparaging remarks the former Massachusetts governor made about Ronald Reagan. The GMA host even laughed at McCain's joke that "Time flies when you're having fun" on the campaign trail. On Monday, Sawyer did question some of McCain's attacks on Romney, but, in general, the show's coverage of the former governor has been harsher in tone. In June, reporter Dan Harris wondered if "uncomfortable questions" about the candidate's Mormonism would torpedo his White House Bid. In April, co-host Robin Roberts grilled Romney about the source of his fund-raising and fretted about how much money was coming from Utah.
On April 3, 2007, Roberts repeatedly quizzed the candidate about Mormon connections to his financial totals. Citing a New York Times article, she pounced, "So, where is the money coming from, Governor?" Apparently not getting the right answer, Roberts followed up with another religious themed question:
Robin Roberts: "You say the money is coming from all the states. The ‘New York Times’ this morning is reporting that 15 percent of the money raised in your campaign is coming from the state of Utah. Many speculate that it has something to do, of course, with your being a Mormon. Does your, does your religion factor in at all in your campaign and in your fund-raising?"
A transcript of the October 15 segment, which aired at 7:11am, follows:
Diane Sawyer: "We turn now to the race to '08. Believe it or not, 90 days until the actual voting begins. And the fight this morning over which Republican candidate makes the best Republican. Over the weekend, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney said that he does-- is someone who speaks for real Republicans. And senator John McCain fired back at that. Joining us this morning is Senator John McCain. Good morning to you, senator. Before we get to the Republicans unleashed this morning though, I want to ask you about a big headline in the Washington Post about Iraq. It says that there are some generals now who say it's time to declare victory over al Qaeda in Iraq, that the surge has been that effective. Do you agree? Is it time to say victory. We won?"
Senator John McCain: "No, I wouldn't do that, Diane, because I do believe that there's resiliency, there's still a lot coming in from Iran over the border. There's still suicide bombers coming in through Damascus airport and into Iraq. There's still a lot of challenges, but the success has been very substantial, contrary to the predictions and the beliefs of many pundits. Again, I strongly believe that this surge could work. It is working, but I still think there's a lot way to go. But I hope we're at a position where we could consider, again, turning more and more of the responsibilities over to the Iraqi military, as they become more capable. But I think the biggest mistake we could make is to think this thing is pretty well under control. I don't think it is yet."
Sawyer: "Well, let's turn, though, to the opposite end of the spectrum. Because as you know, former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq General Ricardo Sanchez has said the surge can't be sustained. The force levels can't be sustained and that in fact it's just making sure there's no defeat, but it's not achieving victory. He had blistering words and here they are."
General Ricardo Sanchez: "The latest revised strategy is a desperate attempt by the administration that has not accepted the political and economic realities of this war. There is no question that America is living a nightmare with no end in sight."
Sawyer: "No end in sight. Can this surge be sustained beyond April and should it be?"
McCain: "Well, we have already announced that we'll be back down to previous levels, and I hope that the situation will warrant further reductions. I hope that's the case. I certainly can't say that should happen now. It's always been an enormous strain and one of the toughest parts of this conflict is Rumsfeld's and others failure to have enough troops in the military, in the Army and the Marine Corps and enough boots on the ground. That was obvious to me very early on when I bitterly complained about it. And I honor General Sanchez's service to the country, but I gotta tell you, I was in Baghdad and looked at him and Mr. Bremer way back, four, five years ago and said, 'You don't have enough troops on the ground.' At that time, he defended, he defended the strategy that was then failing. And before the armed services committee he also spoke glowingly about the strategy which was then failing and before the Armed Services Committee. He also spoke glowingly about the strategy that was then failing. I honor his service, but I strongly disagree, and I wish he had spoken up in that fashion while he was still on active duty."
Sawyer: "Let's turn now if we can to what constitutes an effective brawl among Republicans, a verbal brawl, anyway. You had some harsh words for Governor Mitt Romney after he talked about being a real Republican. Here they were."
McCain [Speech footage]: "So you'll understand why I'm a little perplexed when Mitt Romney now suggests that he's a better Republican than me, that he speaks for the Republican wing of the Republican Party. You might not always agree with me on every issue, but where hope you know, I'm not going to con you."
Sawyer: "Is he a con artist? Is that what you were saying?"
McCain: "No, but I think it's important to be honest with the, with the American people. Governor Romney, when he was running in Massachusetts, said he didn't want to return to the Bush/Reagan years, declared himself an independent. Said he supported Paul Tsongas, a Democrat, for president. In other words, took very liberal positions. Proclaimed his pro-choice credentials, and the fact is we ought not to claim some position that frankly others are good Republicans as well. Your record is what you have to stand on."
Sawyer: "Well-- But-- We looked at his exact words. Did he suggest he's a better Republican than anyone else? 'Cause, again, let's listen. He was pretty careful about the fact he is a candidate, a Republican."
Mitt Romney: "Conservatives in the states that have heard me time and again recognize that I do speak for the, if you will, the Republican wing of the Republican Party. And I intend to be a candidate that is a real Republican through and through. And on that basis, I think w we reignite the excitement in our party."
Sawyer: "Did he say he's the best Republican?"
McCain: "Everything that I got from his remarks is proclaiming himself as the candidate that is the real Republican. Look, we're all Republicans that are running. But the fact is we have got to run on our record. And his record when he was in Massachusetts had many positions, most positions in direct contradictions to the ones he proclaims now, including being ardently pro-choice, including saying he didn't want to go back to the Reagan/Bush years, which is obviously not something most Republicans believe in, and supporting Democrats for various offices. So, look, this debate is about our records. This is about being honest with the American people. And if you're really going to get their respect, I think you have to respect them first."
Sawyer: "All right, Senator McCain. We thank you for joining us this morning. Again, 90 days until it gets real out there."
McCain: "Time-- Time flies when you're having fun."
Sawyer: "[Laughs] It was good to have you with us this morning."
McCain: "Thank you."