George Stephanopoulos

In response to the massive criticism of the ABC Presidential Debate, George Stephanopoulos has said, "Overall, the questions were tough, fair, relevant, and appropriate." This is not true. For the issue is not just about the bias towards gossip and gotcha-questions--(over which people may differ as to whether they are fair, relevant and appropriate).

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Far be it for me to justify last night's debate performance by ABC hosts Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. (I was an early and loud critic!) But a YouTube that Obama supporters are circulating surely takes reasonable criticism too far. It's a parody of "In Memoriam," a recurring feature on ABC's "This Week" (the show Stephanopoulos hosts). In the segment, ABC acknolwedges recent deaths--of celebrities as well as American soldiers fighting abroad--by showing their names and playing mournful music in the background.

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I don't know if he reads the Stump, but on ABC this morning George Stephanopoulos asked Hillary about something I blogged on last week: Whether it's true, as her husband has implied, that she urged him to intervene in Rwanda in 1994. For reasons unknown, Hillary refused to comment on Rwanda when the New York Times asked her about it last week. But today she played ball. Stephanopoulos opened by saying that Bill has "suggested" she pressed him to intervene, then played a clip in which Bill said, "I think she clearly would have done that." "Is that true?" Stephanopolous asked.

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Latter-Day Skeptics

Mormons against Romney.

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What distinguishes the politician from the political agitator is a lively concern for his own job security. Politicians sometimes say what they believe, but they don't usually say things that might jeopardize their political future. Until recently, Chuck Hagel was a consummate politician, and a successful one at that. He defeated a popular sitting governor in his first Senate race in 1996 and won reelection, in 2002, with 83 percent of the vote.

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Big Spender

Tommy Thompson sees an opening. As the national debt nears the $9 trillion mark, Democrats and Republicans may be sympathetic to a presidential aspirant who will actually do something to rein in spending, rather than just pay lip service to the idea of a balanced budget. And so Thompson, the former Republican governor of Wisconsin and secretary of Health and Human Services, officially threw his hat into the ring this month as a deficit hawk who will bring "Midwestern values" to the White House.

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GOPtopia

Surry Hill. So reads a plaque at the end of the long, winding private road that leads to the crown jewel of McLean, Virginia: the 18,000-square-foot mansion that Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers and his wife Edwina call home. To get there from Washington, you drive across the Potomac River and along a parkway that, in the summer, is canopied by lush green trees. Shortly before the guarded entrance to the CIA, you turn off McLean's main road and then down a private lane, passing through brick gate posts adorned with black lanterns and into a grand cul-de-sac. A massive brick Colonial with majestic

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Island Mentality

Guantnamo Bay, Cuba The detainee, by all appearances, is resigned to his fate. Throughout his hearing, he remains stoic, not once even shifting in his chair, let alone jostling the restraints that bind his wrists and ankles. His tan jumpsuit indicates his compliance with the camp guards. (The infamous orange jumpsuits are reserved for "problem" detainees.) When the panel of American military officers asks if he wants to submit additional statements on his behalf, he declines.

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Notebook

INHERIT THE WIND Billy Tauzin of Louisiana was one of the most venal politicians ever to sully Capitol Hill. As Michelle Cottle chronicled in these pages ("Cajun Dressing," October 6, 2003), the Republican representative used his perch on the House Energy and Commerce Committee to shill for almost every big business in America--until a business broke enough laws to spark public outrage, at which point Tauzin would hold showboat hearings and recast himself as a consumer champion.

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Race to the Bottom

It would seem, on the face of it, that the only thing standing between George W. Bush and the presidency is a persistent reservation about his intellect. The doubts have crystallized around a reporter's now-famous pop quiz, in which the Texas governor could not identify various difficult-to-pronounce heads of state. Bush, according to many in the press, needs to wonk himself up, and fast. He needs to cocoon himself with all those Stanford Ph.D.s and reemerge with a deep, studied interest in the stability of Central Asia and the efficacy of scattered-site housing.

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