During NH debate, co-moderator Spradling "revved up the Republican attack machine" on Obama

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN

During the ABC News-Facebook debate, co-moderator Scott Spradling invited the Republican presidential candidates to openly criticize a Democratic candidate, asking them, "[W]hy not vote for [Sen.] Barack Obama" if he were the Democratic presidential nominee. However, neither he nor ABC News' Charlie Gibson offered a similar opportunity to the Democratic candidates.

During the January 5 ABC News-Facebook Republican presidential debate, Scott Spradling, a news anchor for Manchester, New Hampshire-based television station WMUR, asked each of the Republican presidential candidates, "[W]hy not vote for [Sen.] Barack Obama [IL]" if he were the Democratic presidential nominee. But while Spradling invited the Republican candidates to openly criticize a Democratic candidate, neither he nor debate moderator Charlie Gibson offered a similar opportunity to the Democratic candidates. Indeed, rather than ask such a question, during the Democratic debate later that evening, Spradling asked Obama to respond "to what the Republican candidates for president laid out in arguments for you not being elected president." Spradling added, "I revved up the Republican attack machine. Please respond."

Further, in answering Spradling's question, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney falsely asserted that Obama "wants the government to take over health care." Spradling had asked Romney for "specifics" on why voters should not choose Obama over him:

SPRADLING: Governor Romney, I'm going to stay with you. In Charlie's health care dialogue in the first half, you mentioned "Hillarycare." This group has aimed a lot of partisan firepower at Hillary Clinton, but I'd like, if you don't mind, to adjust the outcome for a minute and walk down this road with me.

Let's say that Barack Obama is the nominee -- he won the Iowa caucus. We have a WMUR poll out just tonight that shows it's tied here in New Hampshire, 33 to 33 -- and I'd like to know from you, why, against you as the nominee down the line, why not vote for Barack Obama? And not just because he's a Democrat -- you're not allowed to say that. I'd like to hear some specifics on why not him.

ROMNEY: Well, we have very different views on a whole series of issues, and I could take you through them one by one. One would be health care, for instance. He wants the government to take over health care, spend hundreds of billions of dollars of new money for health insurance for everyone. That'll be -- that'll break the bank.

"If you think," as the comedian said -- P.J. O'Rourke -- "If you think health care is expensive now, just wait 'til it's free." All right. So that's not the right direction.

In fact, Obama's health care plan does not mandate that the government "take over health care" as Romney asserted. His plan allows individuals to keep their private health insurance if they so choose, while it also "addresses the large gaps in coverage that leave 47 million Americans uninsured." From Sen. Obama's "Plan for a Healthy America":

Under the Obama plan, Americans will be able to maintain their current coverage if they choose to, and will see the quality of their health care improve and their costs go down. The Obama plan also addresses the large gaps in coverage that leave 47 million Americans uninsured. Specifically, the Obama plan will: (1) establish a new public insurance program, available to Americans who neither qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP nor have access to insurance through their employers, as well as to small businesses that want to offer insurance to their employees; (2) create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help Americans and businesses that want to purchase private health insurance directly; (3) require all employers to contribute towards health coverage for their employees or towards the cost of the public plan ; (4) mandate all children have health care coverage; (5) expand eligibility for the Medicaid and SCHIP programs; and (6) allow flexibility for state health reform plans.

While live-blogging the Republican debate on The New York Times political blog The Caucus, reporter Katharine Q. Seelye described Spradling's question to the Republican candidates regarding Obama as a "[g]reat question." She went on to briefly sum up each of the GOP candidates' responses, including Romney's claim that "Obama wants the government to take over health care," without noting that Romney's claim was false. In her live blog of the Democratic debate, Seelye did not note that the Democratic candidates were not given a similar opportunity to criticize one of their Republican counterparts.

From ABC News' January 5 broadcast of the ABC News-Facebook Republican debate:

SPRADLING: Governor Romney, I'm going to stay with you. In Charlie's health care dialogue in the first half, you mentioned "Hillarycare." This group has aimed a lot of partisan firepower at Hillary Clinton, but I'd like, if you don't mind, to adjust the outcome for a minute and walk down this road with me.

Let's say that Barack Obama is the nominee -- he won the Iowa caucus. We have a WMUR poll out just tonight that shows it's tied here in New Hampshire, 33 to 33 -- and I'd like to know from you, why, against you as the nominee down the line, why not vote for Barack Obama? And not just because he's a Democrat -- you're not allowed to say that. I'd like to hear some specifics on why not him.

ROMNEY: Well, we have very different views on a whole series of issues, and I could take you through them one by one. One would be health care, for instance. He wants the government to take over health care, spend hundreds of billions of dollars of new money for health insurance for everyone. That'll be -- that'll break the bank.

"If you think," as the comedian said -- P.J. O'Rourke -- "If you think health care is expensive now, just wait 'til it's free." All right. So that's not the right direction.

But there -- so we could talk about issues, but the biggest difference, I think -- and it's going to be true for me and others who talk about it -- is that this is a time where America wants change. Washington is broken. That was the message coming out of Iowa. I've heard it across the country. Washington is broken. Not just the White House, not just Congress -- Washington can't get the job done on immigration, on lowering taxes, on fixing schools, on getting health care, on overcoming radical jihad. They want change.

Barack Obama looked at several senators steeped in long history in the Senate and completely blew them away in the Iowa caucus. It's a message of change.

And when we sit down and talk about change -- Barack Obama and myself, in that final debate, as you're positing -- I can say, "Not only can I talk change with you, I've lived it. In the private sector for 25 years, I brought change to company after company. In the Olympics -- it was in trouble -- I brought change. In Massachusetts, I brought change. I have done it."

GIBSON: I'm --

ROMNEY: "I have changed things, and that experience is what America is looking for." You look at that debate --

GIBSON: I'm just going to try to keep us on time.

ROMNEY: -- with Barack Obama; I'm looking forward to head-to-head.

Posted In
Elections
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine, 2008 Elections
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