Episode 20, with guests George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, and Matt Bennett and Matt Mackowiak on the debt debacle

George Stephanopoulos, Matt Bennett, and Matt Mackoviak are our guests this week.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton.
Original Air Date: July 30, 2011 on SiriusXM Satellite Radio “POTUS” Channel 124.
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Show also available for download on Apple iTunes by clicking here

This week on Polioptics, George Stephanopoulos, anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America” and the network’s chief political correspondent, surveys 20 years of political theater, from the War Room in Little Rock to East Room in Washington.  Adam and I dig into his time in politics and his transition to journalism.

George is a special guest for Polioptics on this, our 20th episode.  He was, at one time or another over the past two decades, a colleague of both Adam and me.  He was, of course, director of communications and then a senior adviser to President Clinton when I worked at the White House.  And later, when George took over anchor duties for ABC’s “This Week,” Adam worked as a producer of the show before he, too, joined the White House staff under President Bush.

But more than that, George’s perspective on what’s going on in Washington today is unique: he was on the staff of then-Majority Leader Richard Gephardt during the budget battles during the Administration of the first President Bush, and was in the thick of the fight during the climactic government shutdown during the Clinton Administration in 1995.

Moving from the White House into T.V. news, George witnessed the end of the Clinton years working with legendary ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, and watched the 21st Century unfold from the “This Week” set for nearly the entirety of George W. Bush’s two terms in office.  In early 2009, with the transition from the 43rd President of the United States to the 44th, George managed his own transition, from Washington to New York, from “This Week” to “Good Morning America,” and the anchor chair occupied by the likes of Joan Lunden, David Hartman, Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer before him.

On his way to New York, George left an impressive visual and paper trail.  As he arrived at the White House, he left an indelible mark as one of the subjects of The War Room, the classic campaign documentary by Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker that redefined the genre.  In this extended clip, we see (a much younger) George, James Carville, Bob Boorstin, Mandy Grunwald and the rest of the Little Rock war room crew in the hours and minutes prior Governor Bill Clinton’s election day triumph over the incumbent President George H.W. Bush.


At the White House, George was never far from the heat of the Oval Office.  In extended comments on one of the most difficult moments of his tenure, he recounts for Adam and Josh his personal strain as he found himself pictured, along with his boss, on the cover of a famous issue of Time Magazine.

As he left the White House, George authored All Too Human: A Political Education, his memoir of what brought him to Washington, his service on the campaign and in the White House, and the events and circumstances that brought him to great heights and challenging valleys as a member of the White House staff.  Now, as a constant presence on the morning television screens across America and as ABC’s chief political correspondent, his approach to reporting and sharing information with viewers continues to be informed by the 20 years of experience that brought him to Times Square.

As the debate on raising the debt ceiling raged in Washington, there was perhaps no commentator who appreciated the stakes from more angles than George Stephanopoulos.  As he left our studio in New York, he readied himself to travel back to Washington to assume a place on the “This Week” set to help analyze the implications of the impending budget deal.

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Also on our show this week, Matt Bennett, a founder of Third Way, one of the most respected Think Tanks in Washington, and Matt Mackowiak, founder and president of the Potomac Strategy Group.

While George Stephanopoulos may be watching Washington from the perch of an anchor chair, these guys are in the thick of the fight.  We call this segment “Going to the Matts” on the budget wrestling match as both Matt and Matt slip out of their partisan veneer and try to offer listeners a behind-the-scene picture of the brinksmanship on Capitol Hill.

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