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George Stephanopoulos Repeatedly Warns Dean: Opposing ObamaCare Could Harm President

Former Democratic operative turned journalist George Stephanopoulos on Wednesday pleaded with Howard Dean, warning that his opposition to the current health care bill could harm Barack Obama. The new Good Morning America co-host fretted, "The President's poll numbers at new lows. And a lot of leading Democrats believe that if this bill goes down, it will cripple the Obama presidency." [Audio available here.]

As though he was a representative of the Obama administration, Stephanopoulos challenged, "Are you prepared to do that?" Dean, the former Democratic National Committee Chairman announced his opposition (from the left) on Tuesday and Stephanopoulos seemed beside himself: "You say this is a big bailout for the insurance companies. But you saw Senator Harkin is for it. Others liberals like Sherrod Brown, Jay Rockefeller, are for it. Are you saying they're all selling out?"

A phrase that the new anchor used twice was "the President says." Repeating White House talking points, he argued, "The President says this is going to cover about 30 million Americans." Later, he parroted, "You said time and time again, that's the key to health care reforms, controlling costs. The President says this bill does it." How about highlighting some conservative opposition to the legislation?

Stephanopoulos took over GMA on Monday. Since then, his big interviews in the 7am hour have been top Obama aide David Axelrod, liberal Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dean. When will Stephanopoulos feature a conservative guest?

A transcript of the December 16 segment, which aired at 7:06am EST, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We turn now to Governor Howard Dean. He is in Washington. Good morning, Governor.

HOWARD DEAN: Good morning. How are you, George?

STEPHANOPOULOS: I'm doing well, thank you. You call this the collapse of health care reform. But, you see this now, united Republican opposition. The President's poll numbers at new lows. And a lot of leading Democrats believe that if this bill goes down, it will cripple the Obama presidency. Are you prepared to do that?

DEAN: Of course not. That's one of the problems. We've gotten to the stage, George, and you know this better than most, in Washington, where passing any bill is a victory. And that's the problem. Decisions are being made about the long-term future of this country for short-term political reasons. And that's never a good sign. There are some good things in this bill. The problem is, we're now committed to a solution using the private insurance companies. And you will be forced to buy insurance. If you don't, you'll pay a fine. And 27 percent of the money that you put in will not go to your health care. It will go to CEOs, who make $20 million a year. This is a bigger bailout for the insurance industry than AIG. And not one person- excuse me- a very small number of people will get any insurance at all until 2014, if the bill works.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But- Well, excuse me. The President says this is going to cover about 30 million Americans. And a lot of your fellow progressives and liberals are onboard. Listen to Senator Tom Harkin.

SENATOR TOM HARKIN (D-Iowa): I plead with all of my progressive friends, now is the time to get over this hurdle. If this bill, Rachel, were so bad, why are 40 Republicans on the hill going after it day after day after day and trying to kill it?

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say this is a big bailout for the insurance companies. But you saw Senator Harkin is for it. Others liberals like Sherrod Brown, Jay Rockefeller, are for it. Are you saying they're all selling out?

DEAN: No. Of course I'm not saying they're selling out. These are wonderful people. And, as I said, there's good things in the bill. But the problem is, there has to be a line beyond which you think the bill's bad for the country. I think at this point, the bill does more harm than good. I don't believe there's going to be the money around in five years for- because the insurance companies are charging so much. The pre-existing conditions piece, which- has disappeared, essentially. The fine print in this bill allows the insurance companies charge you three-times as much if you're older than they do if you're younger. This is an insurance company's dream this, bill. And I think it's gone too far. It's a shame. But bad decisions were made along the way. And, now, we're in the last week of this. And this is the Washington scramble. And I think it's ill-advised.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Except that, as you say, if you look at the fine print of the bill, older Americans are going to pay more. But the American Association for Retired People supports the bill. The President has pointed out it does cover 30 million Americans. It does have a patients bill of rights for those that have insurance. And it begins to control cost. Look what it's doing to control health care costs. A tax on these health care- Cadillac health insurance plans, new incentives for doctors and hospitals to focus on quality. And new Medicare panels to try to get these costs under control. You said time and time again, that's the key to health care reforms, controlling costs. The President says this bill does it.

DEAN: George, I don't see- You named a whole bunch of bureaucracies and promises. I see little cost control in this bill at all. I really don't. Look, I want health care reform. But the choices have been taken away for the American people. The special interests, basically, made a lot of demands on the people passing this bill. And everybody has to decide for themselves. I think Jay Rockefeller and Tom Harkin and Dick Durbin are fantastic human beings. I think they're wonderful, wonderful people. But, in Washington, you get into this crunch where bad- good money gets thrown after bad- good money gets thrown after bad- and good policy gets thrown after bad policy. And at this point, I think, the bill is not worth passing in its present form. There's a lot of different things you can do. One of the things you could do is take some of the things in this bill, community health center money, wellness and prevention money, the exchanges, which are a good way- which was done in Massachusetts, to help people buy health insurance. But the fundamental part of this bill that's been decided is, that we will only do health insurance through the private sector for the future. And you will not have a choice as an American, to get into other kinds of systems which work better. And I think that's a mistake. And it always happens in the last week where people go too far, water down things too much. Give too much to the special interests. That's where we are with this bill today.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question. Any chance you can succeed here? Can you convince your fellow Vermonter, Senator Bernie Sanders, to vote now?

DEAN: Well, I honestly think this thing will pass the Senate and go to the House. The problem is, there's not a lot of room to fix it in the House because the four Senators who balked on this, who represent the insurance industry, are not to support going to support the conference committee my job is not to convince- what I think is right. All along. I've, you know, put up with a lot of stuff I didn't like because I thought, at the end of the day, what was good about the bill outweighed what was bad the bill. I don't believe that anymore.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay, Governor Dean. Thanks very much for your time.

-Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center.