But the most reliably conservative candidates on the GOP side weren't given the slightest bit of traction on ABC. Take "Good Morning America," which interviewed McCain an astonishing 12 times in six months in late 1999 and early 2000. By contrast, conservative Steve Forbes had one interview, on June 1, 1999. Conservative Alan Keyes was interviewed once, on Martin Luther King Day. The morning after, Forbes came in a strong second in the Iowa caucuses with 31 percent of the vote, and Keyes surprised people in third with 14 percent, ABC awarded an interview to ... liberal John McCain, who had skipped the caucuses entirely, having determined he'd be crushed.
ABC's still at it today. Now, every polling-asterisk Democratic candidate, from Dennis Kucinich to Al Sharpton, is getting more publicity on ABC than Forbes or Keyes. Ironically, that's not to say that all this exposure will actually help the Democrats. Right now, they risk two damaging profiles: They can either look like Bush Lite (Joe Lieberman) or the second coming of George McGovern (Howard Dean).
None of that should matter to ABC. If the network cared, really cared, about informing the public on these candidates' positions, it might start with their voting records.
Consult the lifetime American Conservative Union ratings of the current members of Congress in the race. They all vote against conservatives at least 80 percent of the time: Lieberman (20), Sen. Bob Graham (18), Sen. John Edwards (15), Rep. Dick Gephardt (12), Sen. John Kerry (6) and the hapless Rep. Kucinich (a 13 lifetime ranking, with the only thing saving him from a zero being his pro-life votes, which he's now renounced). Then add a pinch of Sharpton.
This whole field is outside the mainstream, collectively on the fringe left. They uniformly hate cutting taxes. They uniformly support even partial-birth abortions. They uniformly pander to the Sierra Club environmental extreme. They uniformly adore "affirmative action."
Stephanopoulos said Democratic Party leaders wanted this early debate and early South Carolina primary to encourage the idea that "you could get a conservative" through the primaries. Nonsense. There are no conservatives in this field. Democrats worry that none of the candidates is well-known enough to beat President Bush. Instead, they should worry that their candidates will become too well-known.