George Stephanopoulos’ Contraception Fixation

In last Saturday’s GOP presidential debate, ABC News commentator George Stephanopoulos asked Mitt Romney an unusual question. He wanted to know if the former Massachusetts governor believed that states had the right to ban the use of contraception. When Romney voiced his opinion that the question was both odd and irrelevant since no states or candidates were interested in banning contraception, Stephanopoulos was persistent in trying to get the former Massachusetts governor to answer it. His repeated attempts prompted audible groans from the audience. In the end, Romney essentially denied Stephanopoulous whatever response he was hoping to evoke.

Now, it’s pretty safe to say that the question was not posed due to genuine public interest in the topic. In fact, I would very much doubt that any of the candidates have fielded such a question while talking to voters. So, one might be wondering what Stephanopoulous was trying to get at. To me, it was fairly obvious. He was trying to get Romney’s contraception views on record, and he was doing it under the guise of states’ rights so it wouldn’t sound as obviously partisan. If Romney hadn’t slapped down the question, I’m sure it would have been asked of the other candidates as well.  Why does George care, or think anyone else cares? Well, he most likely doesn’t. But putting forth such a question plays perfectly into a political strategy that the Democratic party found success in during the 2010 elections.

I wrote an entire column on this brainchild back in August, known to Democratic strategists as “The Colorado Model”. The gist of the strategy is to highlight the personal, social beliefs of a rival candidate, form a narrative that the candidate plans on implementing those beliefs into policy if elected, and then promote that narrative with a concentrated, relentless media attack campaign on how that candidate is “too extreme”.

The example I used was the U.S. Senatorial race here in Colorado between incumbent Michael Bennet (D) and challenger Ken Buck (R). Heading into the 2010 campaign, the political environment was looking just as good for conservatives here as it was throughout the rest of the country, thanks to the Tea Party uprising. But the tide began to turn once the Bennet campaign and outside groups focused their efforts almost entirely on the notion that Buck was “too extreme”. They did this by running an almost endless barrage of commercials that cited his personal beliefs on gay marriage, abortion exceptions, and most notably… contraception. Buck never ran on any of those issues, yet they became the focus of the campaign. By election day, few were talking about Bennet’s support of Obamacare and rest of the administration’s unpopular policies. Instead, they were talking about Buck being “too extreme”. This led to a narrow win for Bennet.

To my surprise, Buck actually read my column back in August and contacted me shortly after it had been posted to this site. We had a cordial conversation, and during it, he mentioned that he had actually never expressed an opposition to contraception. I was stunned by that revelation, so I researched it. Sure enough, I couldn’t find a single quote by him that even suggested it.  It was apparently something that had merely been inferred by third-party, deductive reasoning and was never substantiated. Yet, it had been a key factor in the race.

With an issue so sensitive, it apparently doesn’t take all that much to transform a mere assertion into an effective weapon… And George Stephanopoulous certainly recognizes that.

From a logical standpoint, I’m somewhat surprised that ABC News even allows Stephanopoulos to moderate Republican debates in the first place. Sure, I get it… He’s no longer a professional political adviser for Bill Clinton and the Democratic party. He’s now the charming commentator we see on television each morning, yucking it up with celebrities and presenting the news of the day. But something tells me that there’d be some serious criticism over the issue of objectivity if ABC News let Karl Rove moderate a Democratic debate. Really, what’s the difference? Rove is still politically active, but so is George. The Politico reported in 2009 that Stephanopoulos conducts daily strategy chats with former colleagues Rahm Emanuel (Obama’s chief of staff at the time), Paul Begala, and James Carville. If he’s helping to shape the messaging of the Democratic party, why is he helping to shape the questioning at Republican debates?

I guess I’ve got to hand it to the Republican candidates for agreeing to participate in a debate moderated by a seasoned political opponent. It at least brought a little attention to how ideologically-driven the media really is. And that’s always welcome.

Author Bio:

John Daly couldn't have cared less about world events and politics until the horrific 9/11 terrorist attacks changed his perspective. Since then, he's been deeply engaged in the news of the day with a particular interest in how that news is presented. Realizing the importance of the media in a free, democratic society, John has long felt compelled to identify media injustices when he sees them. With a B.S. in Business Administration (Computer Information Systems), and a 16 year background in software and web development, John has found that his real passion is for writing. He is the author of the Sean Coleman Thriller series, which is available through all major retailers. John lives in Northern Colorado with his wife and two children. Like John on Facebook. Follow John on Twitter.
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  • artcorvelet

    There had to be a reason. Granted, George ‘The Rubber’ Stephanopoulos is a strange bird, but using his one shot in primetime to make his stand on rubbers? From those of us who do not watch him at all, best to not be remembered in life for just one thing because chances are that one thing is bad.

  • Sunnyr

    Poor little Georgie is making Christiane Amanpour look like a journalistic genius! What a total fiasco. This little Twit should not be allowed to preside over any more Republican Debates and Republicans should let him know they will not participate! He is just a petty Liberal HACK!

  • Joy F Friedberg

    This is an obvious decoy method of the left to muddy the political water and drown out the real and relevant issues that are affecting this nation. Having BO as the commander and cheif is a form of cotraception,cause you’d have to be nuts to face parenthood under him.

  • CCNV

    Another one suffering from ‘short man’ syndrome.

  • Ken Hansen

    “Boxers or Briefs?”

    Remember that gem of a Presidential question? I remember how Newt slapped down that question when it was aksed of him – “shame on you for asking such a question” was the gist of his response. It pretty much stopped the stupid sensationalist questions (for a while).

    I eagerly await some intrepid reporter asking President Obama the same questions, word-for-word – if we, the voters in America, have a right to know every personally-held belief of the Republican hopefuls, don’t we have a need toknow the President’s position on those very same issues? Say, for instance, religon – has he found a new church yet (he insisted four years ago he was a devout christian, until Rev. Wright made the headlines, then suddenly his religion was a private matter and he doesn’t really listen in church anyway.)

    Wouldn’t it be great to know Obama’s positions on the very same topics the GOP candidates are being questioned about?

    • John Daly

      That’s an excellent point.

  • cmacrider

    John: Romney missed his chance. He should have said he only believed in contraception for registered Democrats and in fact would bring in legislation complete with government funding to make the policy effective.

  • Glen Stambaugh

    Of course the object was to reinforce the left’s stereotype of any GOP candidate as being loopy, extremely out of sync and stupid. Glad Mitt didn’t oblige them, and made them look loopy, out of sync and stupid.

  • Shirl

    Hey John, I’ve got a good idea! When it gets to the general election, I think the first debate should be moderated by Sean Hannity, Bret Baier and Greta VanSustren and maybe throw in Rush Limbaugh for good measure. I can guarantee the news media channel hosting this event would break the bank.

  • Mike Jackson

    Hi John (and NOT Bernie),

    Outstanding article. People are getting used to the lame-scream media telling us like it isn’t that most aren’t surprised by startling revelations. Such as 1960’s era USAF letters regarding GWB using non-existent fonts found in MS Office.

    We saw this same tack followed in the 2008 debates where the candidates were asked about everything but the real issues of the time. Why wouldn’t the Dems second favorite cheerleader go back to the same playbook?

    They’re not going to change their stripes or spots now or anytime in the foreseeable future. It was almost refreshing to see Steponallovus back to his true form.

  • Paul Courtney

    John: First, let me congratulate you- nobody has called you “Bernie” lately. Second, this technique was a key part of the attack on Judge Bork’s nomination to the SCOTUS. Bork knew the law, but Ted Kennedy knew a good smear. No doubt Stepho had this in mind, hoping Mitt would slip. Only difference between Stepho and “journalists” is, George got a paycheck from Dems, the rest are satisfied with a pat on the back and an “atta boy” from Dems.

    • John Daly

      Thanks. My favorite was when someone called me Burt.

      • Paul Courtney

        John: That was me! Pleased to be a favorite. It was my own brand of tongue in cheek. Keep on writin.