ABC's George Stephanopoulos giddily appraised President Obama during Thursday's Good Morning America: "It's clear, listening to the President last night, that he knows his stuff. He knows health care policy." He also predicted that the passage of the Democrat's health care "reform" plan was "closer" after the presser, despite his later admission that it had been delayed until after August.
The This Week anchor appeared early in the 7 am hour to analyze the press conference. GMA anchor Diane Sawyer first asked: "Closer to a health care bill this morning or further away?" Stephanopoulos replied: "Closer - and it's clear - listening to the President last night, that he knows his stuff. He knows health care policy. I also think he made a strong case against the status quo. We just couldn't keep doing what we're doing right now."
The only negative remark that the former Clinton administration official made was in analyzing the President's success in forwarding his plan. Stephanopoulos hinted that the blame belonged more with Congress: "I think he was less successful...in selling what he wants to do in part because...he doesn't have a single plan to sell right now."
Sawyer and her ABC colleague at least demonstrated the unwieldiness of the multiple-plan situation by displaying the physical size of the bills that are currently making their way through the halls of Congress. It was at the end of this extended exchange/struggle over the bulk of the several proposal that Stephanopoulos admitted that "it is clear the House and the Senate are not going to pass the bills by the August recess- certainly not the Senate. And if the Senate doesn't go, the House won't either."
The two concluded the segment with the question of the recent arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates arrest. The This Week host, despite his earlier glowing over the President's performance on the health care issue, gave another negative analysis about Obama: "I think he was doing fine up until that point, when he said the police acted stupidly- the most vivid words of the press conference...Now, is this going to hurt him in any real way? Probably not- but it did take the focus...off what he wanted to discuss last night, which was health care, health care, health care." Just moments later however, Stephanopoulos did compliment the Democrat on one aspect of his comments on the issue: "I think when he made the joke about- listen, if I did this, I'd get shot- I think that was a real, human, solid moment. Then he just sort of crosses that line when he says the police acted stupidly."
The full transcript of the segment from the Thursday, July 23 Good Morning America:
DIANE SAWYER: And to get 'The Bottom Line' on all that was said last night, ABC's chief Washington correspondent, host of 'This Week,' George Stephanopoulos. Closer to a health care bill this morning or further away?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Closer- and it's clear- listening to the president last night, that he knows his stuff. He knows health care policy. I also think he made a strong case against the status quo. We just couldn't keep doing what we're doing right now. I think he was less successful in- in selling what he wants to do- in part because, Diane, he doesn't have a single plan to sell right now.
SAWYER: They don't have the bills out there and consolidated-
STEPHANOPOULOS: They have several bills.
SAWYER: Several bills- and to show everyone at home what we're talking- the dimension, literally, of what we're talking about here- we brought them in- and I don't know if I can lift them from this angle, and I'll probably go over on this. So, this is the House bill.
STEPHANOPOULOS House- Energy and Commerce (Committee)- but they're still working on that. It hasn't passed.
SAWYER: This is the one- this is the Senate health bill, right?
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's the health bill. That's passed out of the committee.
SAWYER: Ok, I'm going to try it here. This is the Senate Finance Committee bill?
STEPHANOPOULOS: They're still negotiating it out- there's no bill yet-
SAWYER: You have to help me.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And yet, you want me to pick it up.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And then finally, you have the House Ways and Means (committee bill).
SAWYER: House Ways and Means-
STEPHANOPOULOS: That has passed the committee.
SAWYER: Right- so everybody at home can see, in this stack alone is what- some place in here is a health care bill?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Only two of them have passed out of committee. The third one is being considered by a House committee. The fourth is being negotiated by the Senate Finance Committee, and eventually, they got to get all these out. Now, the president wanted this to happen by the August recess.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It is clear the House and the Senate are not going to pass the bills by the August recess- certainly not the Senate. And if the Senate doesn't go, the House won't either-
SAWYER: So they're coming back on September 8th from their recess, and that's when they have to make this happen by the end of the year, he believes or-
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that's why what's likely- you know, the president had this press conference prime-time last night. He's going to have to do this all over again. He is going to have to speak to the country in September, when they actually have a single bill to sell.
SAWYER: Right, instead of this- and by then, I will have done upper-body strength training and be able to lift some of these.
SAWYER: Let's go to Professor Gates- Henry Louis Gates- Skip Gates, as he's known to his friends- the whole incident. Were you surprised that the president took a stand on a local police matter?
STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, it was a fascinating thing to watch, because it was clear that- psychologically for the president, the press conference was over. He had answered all of the health care questions. At one point, he seemed to think that it was- actually, everybody said- no, let me take one more. They knew this question was going to be coming in some fashion. You saw the president confess- listen, I have a personal interest in this case. I know Skip Gates. I think he was doing fine up until that point, when he said the police acted stupidly- the most vivid words of the press conference- and that's clearly a case where he was taking sides in the dispute, even though he confessed that he wasn't there. Now, is this going to hurt him in any real way? Probably not- but it did take the focus of- off what he wanted to discuss last night, which was health care, health care, health care.
SAWYER: And it's going to go on for several days.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Certainly in Cambridge- no question about that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The police officer this morning is saying, I'm not apologizing. I'm not taking anything back. And, of course, none of us were there. None of us know exactly what happened in that house that night.
SAWYER: Sort of thing- everybody who works inside the White House- when he does that, goes (deep breath)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, I think- a combination. I think when he made the joke about- listen, if I did this, I'd get shot- I think that was a real, human, solid moment. Then he just sort of crosses that line when he says the police acted stupidly.
- Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.