"Good Morning America" co-host Diane Sawyer and ABC journalist George Stephanopoulos lauded Barack Obama for his handling of the banking crisis on Thursday. Sawyer even saw the government administered stress tests as a "mission accomplished" moment. On the news that many of the banks given billions in bailout money won't need more, the morning show anchor cooed, "So, George, is this the day that this administration can say, on the banking front, they've sailed through the eye of the needle? They've landed a Hail Mary pass?" [audio available for download here]
At this point, Sawyer engaged in some belated bashing of George W. Bush. In an allusion to the banner above President Bush during his 2003 visit to an aircraft carrier, the host held up a sign that read "mission accomplished." She joked, "And dare I say- I had this sign made just for you. Dare they say it?" Joining in, Stephanopoulos, the "This Week" host and former Clinton aide, quipped, "You're the last person who is ever going to hold up one of those signs. I think President Bush ruined it for everybody."
At no point in the Stephanopoulos segment did anyone suggest that Obama's handling of the bank and economic situation might be anything less than superb. In a previous piece that set up the segment, reporter Bianna Golodryga graded all of the bailed out banks a "B" or "A." She cheered the government-released stress tests as a sign of good things to come, saying, "It's a good day. And a lot of these banks aren't requiring as much money as people had feared. So, the market likes this. These banks are not insolvent. And Warren Buffett reminded us of that over the weekend."
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:06am on May 7, follows:
DIANE SAWYER: And If we were ever in need of a bottom line and a big picture, it's today. Here's chief Washington correspondent, host of "This Week," George Stephanopoulos, to bring it to us. So, George, is this the day that this administration can say, on the banking front, they've sailed through the eye of the needle? They've landed a Hail Mary pass? And dare I say- I had this sign made just for you. Dare they say it? [Holds up a sign that reads "mission accomplished."]
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You're the last person who is ever going to hold up one of those signs. I think President Bush ruined it for everybody. But, even though the administration will not put up the "mission accomplished" sign, they agree this is a big, big moment. Here's why. As Bianna was suggesting, none of the 19 big banks now, according to the government, are insolvent. Remember, the first job to fix this economy was to save the banks. The government believes that's possible.
SAWYER: You can really exhale and say the banks have been saved? Today, we can say that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not completely out of the woods. But they believe right now that the government is not going to have to come back to the taxpayers and say we need more money to bail out the banks. The amount of money the government already has should be enough.
SAWYER: And are they ready to say that the taxpayer may make money back now? That they'll get paid back with some interest?
STEPHANOPOULOS: The fund is likely to go up before it goes down. That's exactly right. Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary, says that at least $25 billion should be coming back into the fund from some of the biggest banks, like JP Morgan, like Goldman Sachs. And might be even more than that. Now, a little more might have to go out to some of the smaller banks. But, they believe they will not have to come back to taxpayers for any more money this year. And that clears the decks for a lot of other big items on President Obama's agenda.
SAWYER: As we said earlier, though, there's parallel narratives going on in America right now. You have these improvements, this new confidence on the banking front. And yet, the jobless numbers come out tomorrow. What are they looking for? What is it, 600- Can we put the number up there? 640,000 663,000 job loss. There is it is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's significant job loss. That means the unemployment rate is still going to go up. But, there was a number that came out just yesterday, a preliminary number on unemployment that showed the job loss last month was a little bit lower. Below 500,000. Everyone expects that unemployment is likely to remain high through this year, into next year. But, there are some signs that the rate of job loss is starting to slow. That's good news for the banks and that could start a virtuous cycle. If the banks are healthier, they lend more. They- Businesses invest more. Jobs are created. That's the hope right now.
SAWYER: As we said, if they can just come down to 620,000 they will consider that advancing on the jobless front.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And there's some signs it could be lower than that.
SAWYER: Even lower than that. Okay. Last thing. Going to see a turn now that the banking crisis is this week. Next week, they turn to policy. And you say health care. Watch out for health care.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Health care is the President- the Obama administration's number one priority for the rest of the year. They believe now the decks are cleared on coming back to the taxpayers for money from the banks. They will be able to make a real push for health care this summer. And they are going to drive to get it done before October. And they think the stars are aligning.
SAWYER: All right. I am getting rid of this. [Referencing "mission accomplished" sign.] You're absolutely right. Thanks, George, as always.