Appearing on Wednesday's "Good Morning America," former top Democratic aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos assured viewers that Barack Obama can now move on from his multiple failed cabinet officials. Referring to individuals such the (now) former Health and Human Services nominee Tom Daschle, who resigned on Tuesday due to tax problems, Stephanopoulos asserted that "the good news is, even though the President was forced to apologize so many times yesterday, is that these nominees now are gone. They've chosen to withdraw. So, the President can move on."
He added, "This was running the possibility of really hurting his reformist image. He can move on from that." Of course, just three days ago, on Sunday's GMA, Stephanopoulos touted a different message. He allowed that Daschle's nomination might be slowed down, but also predicted, "I don't think it's going to imperil it, though." He also forecasted, "The key is going to be those Republicans and, of course, is this the last of the bad news for Senator Daschle? If he gets some Republican support, this is the last of the bad news, I believe he will be confirmed."
Back on November 24, 2008, Stephanopoulos enthused over the greatness of Obama's unfolding cabinet. Talking to GMA co-host Robin Roberts, he raved, "We have not seen this kind of combination of star power and brain power and political muscle this early in a cabinet in our lifetimes." (The MRC has been heavily covering the controversy, first revealed last week by Politico, that Stephanopoulos has been having daily phone conversations with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. See an MRC press release for more.)
In fairness to ABC, Wednesday's "Good Morning America" did portray the resignation of Daschle and Nancy Killefer, who had been nominated to the new Chief Performance Officer position and also had tax problems, as a "real stumble," according to co-host Roberts. The show also featured clips of everyday Americans complaining about the tax problems of Obama nominees.
"So, we wanted to let you sound off on paying taxes, playing fair and the Obama nominees who did not," Roberts explained. In a previous segment, reporter Jake Tapper lectured the President, "Lesson one, just because you're cool with the cabinet nominee's problems does not mean the American people will be."
[Thanks to MRC intern Mike Sargent for transcribing the Sunday George Stephanopoulos segment.]
A transcript of the February 4 segment, which aired at 7:03am, follows:
ROBIN ROBERTS: And as you just saw in Jake's piece, people, of course, critical of politicians who do not pay taxes, especially as tens of millions of Americans prepare to write a check to the IRS in the next few months. So, we wanted to let you sound off on paying taxes, playing fair and the Obama nominees who did not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to see everybody held to the same standards that my family is held to. As a citizen of the United States, we're forced to pay our taxes on time. We file our income tax- our paperwork. We have to send our check in or they come and knock on our door.
SECOND UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel that if the average person who goes to work has to pay taxes, and I know how much I pay, I feel that politicians should have to pay their fair share, too.
JON STEWART: Now, Geithner is the only one who has been approved. Daschle and Killefer have withdrawn their nominations. So, let that be a lesson to the kids out there. Pay your taxes, or you'll never rise any higher than treasury secretary.
ROBERTS: And now, for the bottom line, we turn to chief Washington correspondent, and host of "This Week," George Stephanopoulos. And, George, a few chuckles here in the studio, because everyone from Jon Stewart to folks on the street, as you just heard, outraged about what they're seeing with these nominees. The first real stumble for this administration.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: That's right. And that's why the good news is, even though the President was forced to apologize so many times yesterday, is that these nominees now are gone. They've chosen to withdraw. So, the President can move on. This was running the possibility of really hurting his reformist image. He can move on from that. But there were two other questions raised by these withdrawals, especially the withdrawal of Senator Daschle yesterday. What will it do to the overall effort to reform health care this year? In many ways Senator Daschle was uniquely positioned and a uniquely powerful advocate for that cause. And number two, will these stumbles embolden the President's opponents on this economic rescue plan, the stimulus package?
ROBERTS: Well, let's talk about that. Because, this does come on the heels of him going to Capitol Hill, and trying to push tough his stimulus package. Does this bolster the Republican opposition?
STEPHANOPOULOS: It has. And the President is going to have to agree to some changes right now. There is a bipartisan group working, now on changes that would bring down the overall level of this bill. It's led by three people, really. Senator Susan Collins of Maine. Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine. Those are moderate Republicans. And Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. White House and Senate sources tell me that the President is going to be meeting individually with each one of these senators today, to see if they can work towards some kind of agreement to take out some of the spending programs in this package, which aren't considered to give you the biggest job bang for the buck. The biggest job bang for the buck. There will still be some differences with this group. The President doesn't want to bring the package down as far as some of the senators want to go. But they're be working intensively on a compromise today.
ROBERTS: As we heard at the end of Jake Tapper's piece, the President taking on another hot-button issue, executive pay, for these- some of the bank executives. A salary cap, if you will.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Absolutely essential for the President to have any hope of getting support for his announcement, likely to come next week, of new rescue plans for some of these troubled banks. There's so much anger out there about executive pay, about the fact that a lot of the banks and insurance companies are still taking junkets, even though they're getting government money. This was an absolute precondition to getting public support for this broader rescue package, which is likely to come next week.
ROBERTS: As always, George, appreciate the bottom line. Thanks so much. Have a good day.