ABC Rues How Conservatives and Citizen Journalists Are Derailing Obama's Agenda
Published: 9/8/2009 9:15 PM ET
ABC's World News on Tuesday night bemoaned the impact of conservatives and citizen journalists in derailing President Barack Obama's agenda. Pivoting from the reaction to Obama's address to students, anchor Charles Gibson observed "today's speech was really the latest target of some conservative groups taking on the President" and "their tactics are having an impact."
Reporter Dan Harris asserted "the conservative echo chamber is not new, but," he fretted, "this White House is operating in a vastly accelerated media environment where you no longer need to be in the presence of reporters to make news, as we saw with the health care furor at those town hall meetings." Journalistic veteran Tom Rosenstiel marveled: "Today you can arrange that protest yourself, photograph it with a hand-held cell phone, and if you can then generate enough views of that video on YouTube, you can make something into national news." That's because, Harris insisted, "the mainstream media love a good fight, even if the charges are unfounded."
Though Harris acknowledged "some of the conservative complaints do play into larger concerns" about Obama, he relayed how "critics say the White House has been simply unprepared to deal with the ferocity of the conservative push-back."Gibson next cued up how in an interview with Good Morning America's Robin Roberts, to air Wednesday, President Obama regretted "more moderate Republican voices are not being heard." In the single soundbite, Obama expressed "frustration" that the voices of "the traditional leaders, the Bob Doles of the world" have been "shouted down on that side."
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the Tuesday, September 8 World News on ABC, following the lead item on Obaam's presentation to school students:
CHARLES GIBSON: And today's speech was really the latest target of some conservative groups taking on the President - whether the subject is health care reform, his economic plan, or something as seemingly noncontroversial as staying in school. And as Dan Harris reports, their tactics are having an impact.- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center
DAN HARRIS: If you want to get a sense of how quickly a controversy can ignite, check out this play by play. On August 26th, the White House officially announces that President Obama will be addressing students. The next day, a conservative Web site [Ron Paul's Daily Paul] criticizes the speech without even knowing what the President will say exactly. Just days later on September 1st, the Chairman of the Florida Republican Party slams the speech as "indoctrination." By September 2nd, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are all over it.
KEVIN MADDEN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: A lot of that opposition begins to feed itself. One person becomes 100 people. 100 people become 1,000.
HARRIS: The conservative echo chamber is not new, but this White House is operating in a vastly accelerated media environment where you no longer need to be in the presence of reporters to make news, as we saw with the health care furor at those town hall meetings.
TOM ROSENSTIEL, PROJECT FOR EXCELLENCE IN JOURNALISM AND FORMER LA TIMES REPORTER: Today you can arrange that protest yourself, photograph it with a hand-held cell phone, and if you can then generate enough views of that video on YouTube, you can make something into national news.
HARRIS: And that's because the mainstream media love a good fight, even if the charges are unfounded. But there's something else going on here as well. Some of the conservative complaints do play into larger concerns about this President, concerns that show up in his slipping poll numbers on health care reform and big government spending.
DAVID CHALIAN, ABC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Even unfounded criticism is finding a home because there's a resonance on the larger issue for many Americans of too much government in their lives - auto bailouts, bank bailouts, government-run health insurance.
HARRIS: Even though Team Obama ran such a successful presidential campaign, critics say the White House has been simply unprepared to deal with the ferocity of the conservative push-back.
MADDEN: You have to be aware of the opposition that is going to arise, and have a plan to deal with it.
HARRIS: The White House is clearly hoping that tomorrow's big speech to Congress will create a new narrative, the comeback. Dan Harris, ABC News, New York.
GIBSON: The President, in an interview with Robin Roberts of Good Morning America to be broadcast tomorrow morning, made reference to all this in the context of health care, saying more moderate Republican voices are not being heard.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, IN GMA INTERVIEW: Part of the frustration I have is that, on the Republican side, there are wonderful people whose voices, I think, are tamped down, and, you know, the traditional leaders, the Bob Doles of the world, those voices have been, I think, shouted down on that side, and I hope that the Republican Party can rediscover that voice.
GIBSON: George Stephanopoulos is joining us now. George, the President may yearn for more moderate Republican voices, but it seems less and less likely he's going to get much Republican support on health care reform.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: It does, Charlie. The last bipartisan negotiations are just about at an endpoint, likely to break down tomorrow finally, and the Democrats in the Finance Committee will have to try to come up with a majority on their own. But what the President, I think, was trying to do in that interview with Robin Roberts, what I think he will do tomorrow night, is reach out to the voters who are attracted to that kind of sensibility. Independent and moderate Republican voters who either voted for President Obama last year or were open to him at the beginning of this year, but are starting to pull away, he wants to get them back tomorrow night by convincing them that he's going the extra mile on bipartisanship.
GIBSON: But he keeps saying we have to do something, the status quo is unsustainable. The problem becomes what you do when you get into details. And he has to come up with a bill and they still haven't, that they know can get enough Senate votes and more than half the House votes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's exactly right, Charlie. And to do that, he is going to have to, again, move more to the middle. Tomorrow, I think he will be more specific than he's ever been in the past. I think he will actually identify many of the ideas that he's talking about that are Republican ideas and may even come up with some new ideas that have been supported largely by Republicans, like malpractice reform, again, to try to show that he is working hard to make this system work, and if he ends up having to go with Democrats alone, he had tried his best to get Republicans on board.
GIBSON: Alright, George Stephanopoulos in Washington, thanks.