While covering Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday, ABC's Martha Raddatz described the Syrian dictator as "looking poised and immaculately dressed." This light-hearted description is reminiscent of some of the softball questions asked by Diane Sawyer on February 5, 2007. The then-Good Morning America anchor dished with the man who, in August, allegedly used chemical weapons on his own people: "You like video games?...Do you have an iPod?"
After the dictator announced that he did, Sawyer sounded more like an Access Hollywood host: "And you're a country music fan. Faith Hill? Shania Twain?" She then moved on to the topics of what films Assad enjoyed. The fan of chemical weapons and gassing his own people touted The Pursuit of Happyness. He blurbed, "It tells you a story...Maybe there's many beneficial things to learn from, about real life." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Sawyer also got personal regarding Assad's study in Britain:
DIANE SAWYER: And you met your wife there? But you decided to marry when you were there?
BASHAR AL-ASSAD: No. After I came back.
SAWYER: After you came back.
ASSAD: Yeah, yeah. We decided together. I didn't decide, we decided.
SAWYER: I stand corrected.
The next day, February 6, 2007, Sawyer offered a fawning interview with Asma Assad. The co-host praised Mrs. Assad as an every woman: "After the small wedding, she stayed private, spending three months traveling quietly, sometimes anonymously in jeans and a t-shirt to meet the people of her country, take note of hopes and needs, sitting among the farmers to ask about their crops, and devise plans for micro-loans she passionately tries to promote today."
A more modern assessment would be less charitable towards Mrs. Assad:
She was the long-legged London beauty who brought a touch of glamour to a one-party state steeped in repression and violence.
As her country crumbles, Asma - who met her future husband when they both lived in London - splashed out on a collection of Bohemian crystal chandeliers each costing in the tens of thousands of dollars from Prague, according to The Mail on Sunday.
She also regularly orders Western food in bulk for her three children as she doesn't want them to eat only Syrian food, according to an insider. And in photographs posted on her Instagram account, she is shown wearing a new blue $150 Jawbone UP on her right wrist - a device designed to help wearers keep track of how many steps they take and calories they burn.
She also has splashed out more than $400,000 on furniture from an up-market London boutique.
In fairness to Sawyer, she did eventually press Bashar al-Assad on human rights. On February 6, the anchor informed, "But Bashar Assad inherited a - government with a long history of censoring the press, of imprisoning outspoken critics of the government. And human rights organizations sent me a list of names."
"May I give you the names," Sawyer added.
She wondered, "But, you were educated in England, and you saw press freedom, political freedom, why not have complete democracy here? Why not have Western-style democracy in Syria?"
Too bad so much of the two day interview was given over to fluff and fawning about iPods and the cute story of how Assad met his wife.