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ABC Touts Democratic 'Battle Cry' to 'Win One for Teddy' on Health

ABC displayed "Battle Cry" on screen, beneath HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, as anchor Charles Gibson teased Thursday's World News: "Health care reformers hope to win one for Teddy, but the opposition is largely unmoved." Gibson introduced the story by asserting "some of his allies in Congress harbor hopes that his death might generate a change of heart among opponents," but it may not come to be: "If that is to be the case, there are few signs of it yet."

Reporter Jonathan Karl noted continued opposition amongst those at town hall meetings, yet ran soundbites from three Democrats who demonstrated how "many prominent Democrats are hoping to turn an outpouring of goodwill into political magic." For instance, "the most senior Senator, Robert Byrd, said yesterday, 'my heart and soul weeps' at the loss of the Senator Kennedy and called for naming the health care bill after him, a view wildly held b by Democrats."

Karl recalled "the tactic has worked before. After the assassination of John Kennedy, President Johnson invoked his memory to revive the long-stalled civil rights bill." This year, however, while "win one for Teddy" is "already becoming a rallying cry here on Capitol Hill, Karl concluded, "the divisions run deep and will not be easily overcome, even with all that obvious good will for Senator Ted Kennedy."

ABC's piece matched what NBC aired on Wednesday night, complete with the same recollection of how President Johnson used President Kennedy's memory to push legislation. "NBC Exploits Kennedy to Push ObamaCare: 'National Sorrow Has Created Political Momentum Before,'" recounted:

Proffering how "national sorrow has created political momentum before," Wednesday's NBC Nightly News devoted a story to the hope of Democrats that Senator Ted Kennedy's passing will propel ObamaCare to victory. Noting how Kennedy was "passionate" about more government in health care, from Hyannis anchor Brian Williams proposed "ironically, the fact that he did not live long enough to see a possible overhaul of the system" raises the question: "Will this be the very thing that might break the log jam over getting it done? Or not?"

With "final Fight" as the on-screen heading, reporter Kelly O'Donnell asserted that "looking forward, the emotional impact of Kennedy's passing could become a factor now" as "Democrats are saying respect for Kennedy could change minds now." Leading into a clip of President Lyndon Johnson using President John Kennedy's assassination to push for civil rights legislation, O'Donnell delivered the "national sorrow has created political momentum before" formulation, recalling:

Within months the Civil Rights Act passed with young Senator Kennedy's help. Today, a similar suggestion from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "Ted Kennedy's dream of quality health care for all Americans will be made real this year because of his leadership and his inspiration." And outside groups were even more direct. The seniors lobby, AARP, wrote: "As Congress seems poised to act this fall, Senator Kennedy will no doubt be watching." And the service workers union said: "Let us continue his cause. Let us take action this year to pass health care reform."

From the Thursday, August 27 World News on ABC:

CHARLES GIBSON, IN BOSTON: Even though he was away from the Senate for much of the last year, until just days ago the Senator was actively involved in the health care reform debate, on the phone with colleagues. Some of his allies in Congress harbor hopes that his death might generate a change of heart among opponents. If that is to be the case, there are few signs of it yet. Here's Jon Karl. JONATHAN KARL: Could Senator Kennedy's death inspire newfound unity on health care reform? If last night's town hall meeting in Phoenix is any indication-

WOMAN TO JOHN McCAIN: No compromises, Senator. Nuke it now.

KARL: -the answer seems to be no. But many prominent Democrats are hoping to turn an outpouring of goodwill into political magic.

SECRETARY OF HHS KATHLEEN SEBELIUS: They'll ask themselves, what would Teddy do?

KARL: Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the pitch today in Washington.

SEBELIUS: If people are truly inspired in honoring his legacy, the best possible legacy is to pass health reform this year.

KARL: The most senior Senator, Robert Byrd, said yesterday, "my heart and soul weeps" at the loss of the Senator Kennedy and called for naming the health care bill after him, a view wildly held b by Democrats.

CONGRESSMAN ED MARKEY: Senator Kennedy's spirit will infuse the Congress towards the goal of providing coverage for all those people who he cared for.

KARL: The tactic has worked before. After the assassination of John Kennedy, President Johnson invoked his memory to revive the long-stalled civil rights bill.

TAD DEVINE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: What President Johnson did ten, by telling the Congress and the people of America, that it was time to finish an unfinished agenda, was exactly the right thing to do. And I think it's the right thing to do again.

KARL: But Republicans, even those close to Senator Kennedy, are not buying it.

SENATOR ORRIN HATCH: Frankly, I'm getting a little bit upset at some of these people trying to take advantage of this and saying we now have to pass health care reform because of Ted. Well, Ted wouldn't want it passed if it wasn't good.

KARL: And as for the most vocal opponents, they are unlikely to be swayed by naming a bill after a great liberal stalwart. "Win one for Teddy" is already becoming a rallying cry here on Capitol Hill. But, Charlie, the divisions run deep and will not be easily overcome, even with all that obvious good will for Senator Ted Kennedy.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center