The Corner

Culture

Interchangeability

People have been saying, “Hey, Jay, what do you think about George Stephanopoulos? Should he be the chief anchorman at a major news network? Should he be moderating presidential debates and all that?”

Actually, no one has asked me such a thing, but I want to give my opinion anyway. And to begin, I’d like to tell a story.

In 2008, Gwen Ifill of PBS was scheduled to moderate the vice-presidential debate (Senator Biden versus Governor Palin). It transpired that she had a book due out on Inauguration Day: The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama. Ah. Obviously, the book’s viability depended to some degree on an Obama-Biden victory. Obviously, Ifill had a rooting interest, and a conflict of interest.

Republicans said, quite rightly, “There ought to be a different moderator!” I dissented a bit. Or rather, I was fairly relaxed about the matter — and my reasoning went like this:

“Sure, Ifill has a book coming out. And her colleagues don’t, probably. But what difference does it make?” (Here I was anticipating Hillary Clinton on Benghazi.) “She would be replaced by someone much like her — neither better nor worse — and we might as well stick with her. Frankly, they’re pretty much interchangeable, these ‘mainstreamers.’”

In any case, Ifill went on to moderate the debate.

And now to Stepho. Yes, he was a Clintonista. Yes, his stonewalling of the media in 1992 was outrageous (as was the media’s willingness to be stonewalled). Yes, it is a little galling that he has risen to the heights of the American media.

Yes, it was annoying to see him hector Peter Schweizer, the author of Clinton Cash, over pro-Republican bias. Stephanopoulos had donated to the Clinton Foundation, a fact he had not discussed. After some controversy, he withdrew from his scheduled moderation of a Republican presidential primary debate.

But here’s my point: Is he all that different from his colleagues? The late Peter Jennings was the big star at ABC News. To my knowledge, he had never worked for the Clintons or any other politician. But his Left bias couldn’t have been clearer.

If it’s not George Stephanopoulos, it’s someone else, who has the same basic outlook. Again, what difference does it make? Either it’s Stepho belaboring birth control, or it’s the guy or gal in the next office over.

What I like is acknowledgement of bias. That, we can all live with. It’s the pretending — the pretense of objectivity and dispassion — that is tough to take.

A final word, for those interested in political archeology: Diane Sawyer once worked for Nixon. She has been in broadcast news since the ’70s. I wonder whether she has voted Republican since her twenties. It seems to me she quickly “grew,” as Tip O’Neill and every other Democrat used to say. Anyway, ABC News is not without Republicans, or former ones . . .

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