Stephanopoulos: ‘No apologies’

STEPHANOPOULOS: ‘NO APOLOGIES’…. Following up on an earlier item, ABC News’ “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” will feature yet another interview with John McCain on Sunday. It will be the failed presidential candidate’s third appearance on “This Week” since early May, and his 13th Sunday show appearance since President Obama’s inauguration.

Greg Sargent spoke to Stephanopoulos about this today, and the host presented his defense.

“Our show this week is focused on Afghanistan and foreign policy. Our lead guest is the President’s Defense Secretary (after a week where the President was our only guest). McCain is the leading GOP voice on Afghanistan. We think it’s important for our viewers to hear that perspective…. For a show focusing on Afghanistan, he is easily the right GOP guest. No apologies for inviting him.”

Some of this is reasonable, some of it less so. I’m delighted “This Week” is focusing on Afghanistan and foreign policy, and it’s to be expected that the show would balance the administration’s Pentagon chief with a conservative Republican reaction. (It’s tempting to argue that the conservative Republican perspective isn’t entirely relevant right now, since McCain and his allies have been discredited, have been removed from power, and have no meaningful influence over the policy outcome, but let’s put that aside.)

But there’s no reason to assume that McCain is the “leading GOP voice on Afghanistan.” Not only are there plenty of other Republicans who approach the issue with the same perspective, but McCain has never demonstrated any particular expertise on Afghanistan — on the contrary, he has a record of confusion on the war. During the presidential campaign, for example, McCain was both for and against sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan. His most noteworthy contribution to the debate was arguing in 2003 that “we may muddle through in Afghanistan,” whatever that means.

If McCain is a “leading” voice on the conflict, it’s only because the media keeps calling on him to talk about it. It’s entirely self-fulfilling — the media gives McCain the stage, and justifies the decision by pointing to how often he’s on the stage.

Greg went on to ask Stephanopoulos whether, as a journalist, it’s overkill for the Sunday morning shows to have McCain on 13 times in eight months. Stephanopoulos didn’t want to answer, responding, “No comment on that.”

Perhaps Stephanopoulos will be able to elaborate when he invites McCain back onto the program in October. And then again in December, and February, and….