Appearing on Monday’s special town hall edition of "Good Morning America," 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards endured a much tougher line of questioning from Diane Sawyer than Hillary Clinton received during a similar event in March.
Although Edwards received more air time, 38 minutes to almost 27 minutes, Senator Clinton had the advantage of friendly questions from the audience and a less critical interviewer in Robin Roberts. Below are a sampling of Sawyer’s queries to John Edwards during his July 16 appearance. The subject was the former trial lawyer’s plans to withdraw from Iraq:
Diane Sawyer: "What does that say to the Iraqi people? Where does that leave them? What if ethnic cleansing begins? Do you send troops back in? What do you do?" ...
Sawyer: "Do you think there is a real possibility though of a regional calamity if American troops pull out of Iraq, which is the White House’s argument." ...
Sawyer: "What is the plan to control civil war, except going back in?"
Now, Sawyer certainly pitched her share of softball queries to Mr. Edwards, including asking about his iPod and bad food on the road, but there were also some tough questions from the audience. In the 7:30 hour, a doctor challenged the former Senator on teachers' unions and another individual wondered about that famous hair cut:
Dr. Patrick Quinlan: "Affluence changes everything for everybody. My question to you is do you have the interest and the ability to lead fundamental change in our public education system? Do you have the courage and the ability to confront the educational establishment, including some of your key constituents like teachers' unions to put the interests of students and employers first?" ...
Laura Stepneski (phonetically): "Good morning. Um, Senator, I was just wondering since you're on this national poverty tour, how do you justify spending $400 on a haircut?"
Senator Edwards: "I don’t. [Laughter] No excuses. But can I just tell you, you know, some lessons you learn the hard way? I've learned my lesson. I got a very cheap haircut a few days ago and I'm going to keep getting cheap haircuts."
In comparison, during the March 26 town hall meeting with Hillary Clinton, Robin Roberts told the former First Lady that her 1993 health care plan was "ahead of its time." Additionally, audience questions were uniformly friendly. For instance, one query came from a man who actually worked with Hillary Clinton in ‘93:
Robin Roberts: "Somebody that was there, and wants to ask you what is different now, between what happened then, and he is Dr. Steve Eckstat. He is, he works at the free clinic of Iowa. Doctor?"
Hillary Clinton: "Hello, doctor."
Dr. Steve Eckstat: "Morning. In 1993, I was a member of the Clinton Health Care Task Force when we were attempting to provide universal health care coverage of all Americans. We were unsuccessful, unsuccessful then and now the number of uninsured, 80 percent of whom are working families and individuals, has risen from 23 million in 1993 to over 46 million. If elected president, Senator Clinton, would you be willing to try again to provide universal health care coverage for all Americans and make that at priority for your administration?"
What could account for the disparity in how Edwards and Clinton were treated? Is it possible that the New York legislator attached some conditions to her ABC appearance? [Special thanks to MRC intern Michael Lanza for transcribing parts of the Edwards special.]