Who says the long sound bite is dead? According to an MRC analysis, "Good Morning America" devoted over 26 minutes of its two hour time slot on Monday to a fawning town hall meeting with Senator Hillary Clinton.
Even more incredible is the fact that GMA host and event moderator Robin Roberts allowed Clinton to talk uninterrupted or unchallenged for almost 18 of those 26 minutes. During some of these long soliquies, the former First Lady repeatedly plugged her campaign website. ABC promises that future town hall meetings will include other presidential candidates, including, one assumes, Republicans. Will Mitt Romney or Sam Brownback be allowed to give what amounts to a campaign speech?
During the two hour show, "Good Morning America" devoted 26 minutes and 54 seconds to the Hillary Clinton event. Of that time, the New York Senator spoke for 17 minutes and 38 seconds.
Certainly, candidates should be allowed to speak freely at these events. After all, that’s what they are for. But Mrs. Roberts allowed Clinton free reign to talk for as long as she wanted and rarely challenged or questioned her statements. For example, during the 7:30 segment, the Senator gave this three and a half minute answer to a question from an audience member:
Robin Roberts: "We want to talk about, and people here want to talk about the details, perhaps, of your health care plan. Senator Edwards has a detailed plan out there. Just this weekend, Governor Bill Richardson outlined his detailed health care plan. And we have somebody here, Jerry Foxhoven, with your question for the Senator."
Jerry Foxhoven (Director of Middleton Center for Children's Rights): "Good morning, Senator. I'm the director of the Middleton Center for Children's Rights here at Drake University Law School. And former Senator Edwards has sent out to thousand of Iowans this DVD. And he tells us that 47 million Americans, including 44,000 Iowa children, are without health care. And he's given us some details of his plan to solve that problem. If you're elected as President of the United States what would you specifically do to make sure that no American has to choose between bankruptcy and basic health care?"
Hillary Clinton: "Well, thank you. And thanks to, to the children's right work that's done at Drake. You know, I was a child advocate and worked on behalf of children for many years before my husband was ever president and I'm well acquainted with the work you do there. You know, many of the features that any of our health care plans will have are going to be the same, because there are only a couple of ways we can get to universal health care coverage. We can build on the existing employer system, which is what I proposed doing back in ‘93 and ‘94. It’s what Senator Edwards has proposed doing. It’s what many people think is the most practical thing to do because a lot of people are satisfied with their health care, they just don't like the cost. And they think we could do better to making sure the quality was uniformly high across our country. The other big way of doing it, which a few of the other candidates in the Democratic primary are advocating is to move towards a system that would have Medicare for everybody, you know, kind of a single payer system, where we would try to get the cost down because you wouldn’t have all the overhead and administrative cost that go with the private insurance market. You know, I think we have to have a uniquely American solution to health care, because we're different kind of country than anybody else. I mean, we are bigger, and more diverse and people like their choice and their idea they want to know who their doctor is and what hospital they can go to. So, I think we will move towards requiring employers to participate, the way Massachusetts does, or the way California is considering, and if you don't insure your employees, then you're going to have to pay some kind of a per employee amount into a fund, so that everybody can be given insurance. But we're also going to make it possible for us to lower cost. And the reason I haven't sent out a plan and said, ‘Well here's exactly what I think we should do,’ is because during this campaign I want the ideas that people have. I want to hear from you who have different perspectives about what you think will work. And I also up want to invite you to go to my website, HillaryClinton.com to see some of the proposals I've made that I think are essential to get cost down. One quick one: You know, we don't have information technology in health care the way we need to. If you go to the bank, you can stick in your card, you can get money out. It’s almost a miracle. Well, if you go to your doctor, or you go to the emergency room, they’re going to say, what’s your name, what's your history, what are you allegoric to? And you may have done that a hundred times in your life and if you go visit family in New York or Florida and something happens to you, you got to start over again. So, I've been fighting to get electronic medical records for every American. The reason is I think it will save us money, time. It will avoid duplication. An independent study says we'll save $100 billion if we did this. So, I hate to put more money into our national health care system until we get the cost down and we have a better system to take care of you. So, I have lots of ideas and, as I say, go to HillaryClinton.com. You'll see some of those ideas about what I’m working on. And we’re going to have universal health care when I'm president. There's no doubt about it. We're going to get it done."
Another example arose during the 8:30 half hour. Roberts read an e-mail that gingerly questioned Clinton’s plan for universal health care. After the Senator's long answer, the GMA host failed to follow up with any challenge of her own, and, instead, simply segued into other opportunities for Hillary Clinton to give long, uninterrupted speeches:
Robin Roberts: "So, Senator, We're going to get to some of the e-mail questions that we have, starting with Tiffany in L.A. who says, ‘One of the most common arguments against nationalized healthcare is that the quality of care and research will be negatively impacted. If healthcare is nationalized, what will be done to ensure and/or improve the quality the quality of care?’"
Hillary Clinton: "Well, I want to make clear that there is a difference between having a health care system that provides quality, affordable health care to every American, and having a national health care system where there's only one source of care and the government runs it. That is what's called a single payer system. And the single payer system can be done in a variety of ways. Medicare is a single payer system. And most people on Medicare are satisfied. They wish that, you know, there were a few more things covered, or maybe they would like to have more a little more access to a particular specialist. But in general, survey after survey says that people on Medicare are satisfied with Medicare. So when we talk, let's, let’s be really clear. Because there's a lot of misinformation, and frankly, a lot of scare tactics about what universal health care would mean. And I'm an expert on this and I have the scars to show from what we went through in ‘93 and ‘94. And so, that's why I started by saying we have to reduce costs, and improve quality no matter what we do. If we kept the system we had, it's very hard to do that because there are no incentives to change what people are paid to do. Give you a quick example: If you're pre-diabetic or diabetic, it's hard to find insurance that will actually pay for you to go to a nutritionist, or pay for you to go to a podiatrist to check your feet, but they will pay for you to have your foot amputated. Now, that’s just backwards. It costs more money. It causes a lot more hospitalization. It's wrong. So, what I'm arguing is, we need to improve quality, and reduce costs. And one of the first way to do that is to get electronic medical records so we know what we're doing. I talked to one of the people here during the break who's a nurse here at the VA here in Iowa who says they've seen big improvements in quality, which is what all the research says, because the VA now uses electronic medical records. We need to have that in private health care, every doctor’s office, every hospital. That costs some money, but it will save us about $100 billion a year. So, I think we can do what needs to be done to reduce cost and redundancy and duplication, as well as improve quality by focusing on wellness and prevention, continuing research. I’d like to see us get back to funding the NIH. Under the Bush administration, we've begun to cut the NIH. So, you know, Tiffany, I understand why you would ask that question because, you know there are a lot of people who are going to have to change and maybe they won't make quite as much money in the kind of situation I foresee. And that, that causes them to get a little anxious and, kind of, raise all these scare tactics."
Roberts: "Going to turn now to young adults, because they make up the vast majority, the largest group of uninsured Americans."
Clinton: "That’s Right."
Roberts: "So, we got together a group of young people in California and one of them has a question for you, Senator."
Angelica Jones: "Hello Senator Clinton, my name is Angelica Jones and I'm the Executive Vice President of Associated Students at Cal State University, San Bernardino and I wanted to know if there are any incentives for students in your health care plan?"
Roberts: "For students, want to know--"
Clinton: "How can students be covered? I think a couple of different ways. First of all, a lot of young people are not covered because they were on their parents plans, then they reach an age limit, because a lot of insurance companies won't cover you if you're on your own or you hit 21. I think as long as you're a dependant, and especially if you have any health problems, your family should be able to keep you on their policy. In fact, I've introduced legislation so that young people who have illnesses or injuries are not cut off of their parents policies and parents can continue to carry them. But many young people, when they start to work, they go to work for employers who don't provide them health insurance and a lot of young people don’t think they don't need it, because they're healthy. The problem is that even though that's true in general, you are not immune from accidents or from illness. And when that happens, a lot of young people are really in a difficult spot. So, I think if we had choices of health care plans, again, going back to some thing like the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan a lot of healthy young twenty somethings would say, you know, ‘I'm healthy, I'm going to get the minimal benefits with a catastrophic policy, so that if I'm in a car accident or something like that happens to me.’ That makes perfect sense, if you're a single person taking care of yourself, but it's really important that everybody be insured. Otherwise, if something does happen to you, the rest of us pay for it and you may not get the health care that you need. So, I think we can get the cost down for young people and I would like to do that because I’d like to provide that option to them."
Roberts: "A lot of people feel like they're rolling the dice every morning about their health care. They can’t afford it. And two thirds, did you all realize this? Two thirds of Americans who do not have health insurance are working."
Clinton: "That’s right."
Roberts: "Two thirds! They’re working and can’t afford the insurance. You are going to continue this conversation online at ABCNews.com. You've agreed to answer some additional questions. So thank you very much for that and thank you all as well."
Since "Good Morning America" has allowed Hillary Clinton to turn a town hall meeting into an extended infomercial, it will be very interesting to see how their anchors treat conservative, Republican candidates.