ABC News commentator George Stephanopoulos has a previously undisclosed connection to President Obama – the two were part of a small group at Harvard University that met for a period of three years purportedly to promote involvement with U.S. community institutions.
Participants at the research project, which took place between 1997 and 2000, included scores of individuals with ties to Obama, including several activists who were later appointed to positions in the Obama administration. Other participants were instrumental in promoting Obama’s political career.
Just yesterday, Stephanopoulos was the subject of conservative criticism for pointed questions he asked Republican presidential candidates while hosting Saturday night’s New Hampshire debate.
Stephanopoulos is best known as the chief political correspondent for ABC News and the co-anchor of the ABC morning news program, Good Morning America. He also returned last month as host of the Sunday morning news program, This Week.
Prior to joining ABC News, Stephanopoulos was a senior political adviser to the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign of Bill Clinton and later served as Clinton’s White House Communications Director for two years.
However, an overlooked detail of Stephanopoulos’ work history is his participation alongside Obama in Harvard’s Saguaro Seminars, a long-term research project aimed at significantly increasing Americans’ connectedness to one another and to community institutions.
The project and its relationship with Obama was exposed in the recently released book, “Red Army: The Radical Network that must be defeated to save America,” by reporters Aaron Klein and Brenda J. Elliott.
Saguaro’s signature effort was the 1997-2000 dialogue “on how we can increasingly build bonds of civic trust among Americans and their communities.” The dialogue resulted in a study being published in 2000 recommending Americans participate more with community groups.
In “Red Army,” Klein and Elliott detail how the idea for the Saguaro Seminars begins with author Robert D. Putnam, who is attributed with charting the “decline of civil engagement in the USA over the last 30 years or so.”
In a January 2001 review of Bowling Alone, David Moberg explains at In These Times, a socialist-style magazine, that Putnam defines social capital as connections among individuals and “ ‘community’ adapted to a large-scale capitalist society.”
Social capital, Moberg explains, is “more abundant in small communities than in big cities, but networks that constitute social capital develop in churches, unions, PTAs, neighborhood clubs, fraternal organizations and even bowling leagues (which have declined in the United States, thus ‘bowling alone’).”
“[At Saguaro Seminars] we find a number of people who have either been instrumental in promoting Obama’s agenda or have used their positions of influence on his behalf,” write Klein and Elliott.
In 1992 Obama served on the founding board of Public Allies, an organization dedicated to training a cadre of community organizers. Public Allies cofounders Vanessa Kirsch and Katrina Browne, at Obama’s suggestion, interviewed his wife, Michelle Obama, to head a new Chicago office. Michelle Obama served as executive director from spring 1993 until fall 1996.
Obama left the Public Allies board when Michelle was hired, although he served on the Public Allies national board from 1997, when both he and Vanessa Kirsch participated in the Saguaro Seminars.
A second Saguaro Seminar member close to Obama is Reverend Bliss W. Browne. In December 1995, Browne’s United Imagination Network, also called Imagine Chicago, a collective of five elementary schools and one high school, was one of the first thirty-five school networks and their partners to receive school improvement funds from the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, or CAC.
The CAC was founded by Weatherman domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, who served as the group’s director. With Ayers, Obama served as president of the CAC board of directors from 1995 to 1999. He continued as a member of the board until 2002.
Also at the Saguaro Seminars with Obama and Stephanopoulos was Martha Minow, then-dean of Harvard Law School.
Minow is the daughter of Newton Minow, the former chair of the FCC, who serves as senior counsel at Chicago’s firm Sidley Austin. It was Martha Minow who reportedly recommended Sidley hire Obama for a summer job in 1989, after his first year of law school.
Martha Minow told Politico’s Carrie Budoff Brown in late August 2008, “So we were in the midst of one of our intensivediscussions about civic engagement. . . . And after one of these ranging discussions, across the political sectors, he (Obama) did this tour de force summary. We just said, ‘When are you running for president?’ It became a joke. We started to nickname him ‘governor.’ ”
Obama named another fellow Saguaro Seminar member, Xavier de Souza Briggs, in January 2009 to serve as associate director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Briggs served as a team leader on the Obama-Biden transition team for the Department of Health and Human Services, Federal Housing Finance Board, and Interagency Council on Homelessness Review.
Also at Saguaro Seminars with Obama and Stephanopoulos was the Reverend Jim Wallis, publisher of Sojourners magazine.
Obama appointed Wallis as to his Advisory Council for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, where Wallis served a one year term.
Obama and Wallis became close at the Saguaro Seminars, Eli Saslow wrote in January 2009 in the Washington Post. Wallis told Saslow: “We hit it off. We had very similar ideas about how faith could contribute to public life. He wanted that to be a major part of his career going forward.”
Wallis is a socialist activist who has championed communist causes and previously labeled the U.S. “the great captor and destroyer of human life.”
The Associated Baptist Press described Wallis as a “politically progressive evangelical and longtime advocate for the poor.” The Huffington Post identified him as a “Christian author and social-justice advocate.”
Wallis began his activism as a protester and then later Michigan leader of the Students for a Democratic Society, the 1960s anti-war group from which Ayers’ Weather Underground domestic terrorist organization splintered.
Sojourners’ official “statement of faith” urges readers to “refuse to accept [capitalist] structures and assumptions that normalize poverty and segregate the world by class.”
Discover the Networks notes how Sojourners originally formed a socialist commune in Washington, D.C., where members shared finances and launched anti-capitalist activism.
Saguaro Seminar member William Julius Wilson, meanwhile, also has ties to Obama.
“Red Army” relates that Wilson participated in the February 25, 1996, town hall meeting on “Economic Insecurity” at the Ida Noyes Hall at the University of Chicago. The meeting, titled “Employment and Survival in Urban America,” was sponsored by the Chicago Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), University of Chicago DSA Youth Section, and University Democrats.
Panelists for the meeting included both Wilson and Obama, who was then running for the 13th Illinois Senate District.
Wilson was a member of the National Advisory Council of the Social Democrats USA (SD/USA). Like the DSA, the SD/USA is a member of the Socialist International, the world’s largest socialist group.
Obama’s favorite correspondent?
Stephanopoulos, meanwhile, has conducted a number of exclusive interviews with Obama.
In May 2007, thirteen weeks after Obama announced his candidacy in Springfield, Illinois, Stephanopoulos conducted Obama’s first Sunday morning interview.
On January 27, 2008, a second interview centered on Obama’s primary win in South Carolina.
Four months later, on April 17, 2008, Stephanopoulos defended his questions asked of Obama about Bill Ayers, during the recent Democratic presidential debate:
Also that year, Stephanopoulos hosted a presidential debate during which he asked Obama about his ties to Ayers.
On January 10, 2010, Obama gave Stephanopoulos an exclusive retrospective on his first year in office. In his second interview of the year with Stephanopoulos, on April 9 on Good Morning America, after he had signed the START treaty, Obama slammed Sarah Palin—after Stephanopoulos set up a question for Obama to tee off:
Politico reported in January 2009 that Stephanopoulos, “has daily strategy and message chats with former Clinton administration alumni: Rahm Emanuel—Obama’s White House chief of staff—and CNN pundits Paul Begala and James Carville.”
The Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell asked at the time, “What’s worse than the liberal media’s sycophantic coverage of President Barack Obama? ABC’s George Stephanopoulos actively helping design and deliver the Administration’s strategy and message—which he is then charged with reporting.”
In an exclusive interview on October 4, 2010, Stephanopoulos and Obama discussed the Democrat rendition of a jobs bill and Congress’s failure to pass it all or nothing.
Last spring, on April 13, Stephanopoulos scored another exclusive interview with Obama to discuss the deficit and the nation’s finances.