ABC Loves McCain: Is That Democracy?

ABC political reporter Linda Douglass worried in Wednesday's Washington Post about her reaction to Sen. John McCain's frank interview style: "I have never seen a candidate allow himself to be videotaped at length like that, with no aides watching, listening, taking notes or telling you to cut. He's clearly winning us all over, and we have to be careful about that."

But ABC's morning show hasn't been careful about its feelings for McCain:

Since August 16, Good Morning America has offered the McCain campaign nine interviews - six with the candidate, one with wife Cindy, and two with campaign manager Rick Davis.

Eight of them have been aired in the 73 days since September 27, or one every nine days. The last three came ten days apart: Davis on November 29, McCain on December 3, and Davis on December 6.

By contrast, in the same time frame, Gary Bauer gained one interview on the office-fraternization rumors on September 30. Laura Bush appeared on November 19, although George W. Bush last showed up on May 10. Steve Forbes hasn't made the show since he was forced to rebut he was a "crackpot" on June 1. [See box.] Orrin Hatch and Alan Keyes have not been interviewed.

Candidates who left the field didn't do much better. Dan Quayle had one interview on March 5. Elizabeth Dole appeared on April 20 and after she withdrew on October 21. Lamar Alexander and John Kasich never did.

Good Morning America has labored to get McCain the floor on whatever occasion he seems to need them. Perhaps the oddest occasion came on August 16, after an Iowa straw poll. Despite the fact that McCain refused to participate, he was the only candidate ABC interviewed. When McCain explained that polls show two-thirds of Americans weren't paying attention to the campaign, co-host Charles Gibson replied: "Senator, you make a very good point." Other highlights:

September 27: McCain Throws In His Hat. Co-host Diane Sawyer tried to bait him into attacking Bush on his silence about Pat Buchanan.

October 12: The First and Only Town Hall. McCain appeared for "the first in our series of Times Square town meetings." They haven't held another one for the GOP yet.

December 3: The New Hampshire Debate. Again, after a debate, McCain was the only hopeful to get ABC's platform.

December 6: The Medical Records. ABC News hired expert Richard Spodak to view McCain's medical records. On December 6, Gibson asked him about the rumored dangerous-temper rumors: "Is there anything to back that up?" Spodak replied: "I didn't find anything in the records to suggest that at all."

ABC claims to stand for democracy. Diane Sawyer has suggested that the money employed by Steve Forbes and George W. Bush is undemocratic. But is it democratic to allow only one candidate the floor? - Tim Graham