WASHINGTON – Ever wonder why George Will’s ideological counterpart on ABC News’ “This Week” – George Stephanopoulos – gets to sub in for Sam Donaldson or co-anchor Cokie Roberts, but never Will?

They might as well have put concertina wire around Will at that table. The enmity towards him is palpable. No one ever agrees with his lucid points, and if they do, they would be loath to admit it. What, and lose their good standing among the Potomac liberals?

Now it seems that ABC will put Stephanopoulos in the driver’s seat full-time, nudging aside both Donaldson and Roberts. The Sunday political show will soon be all his – and Hillary’s, or any other Clinton crony who wants free air time during a campaign.

That leaves Will, more than likely, farther out in the cold – if on the set at all.

What qualifies Stephanopoulos, 41, to continue David Brinkley’s legacy – besides his wispy bangs?

OK, he does have some experience in the field. As a top aide to President Clinton, he worked with ABC producers to “kill” the Gary Aldrich story.

Roberts and Donaldson, though frustrated Democratic politicians, occasionally still pass the journalist smell test. No matter how they dress up Stephanopoulos, he’ll always be just a political hack.

And Will, though plainly a Republican, never was so politically active. He has real journalistic experience as a Pulitzer-winning columnist.

If ABC is not biased in favor of Democrats, or against Republicans, as it claims, why is Stephanopoulos more qualified to host its premiere Sunday show?

Here’s what’s really funny: ABC has bent over backwards to try to divorce Stephanopoulos from his sleazy political past – hardly a peep, if anything, about his years in a thoroughly corrupt Democratic administration is heard on air, as if we’d all forget. The new guy? Oh, he’s just one more “objective” journalist in our “news” stable. Trust him.

Yet the panel always makes a point to label poor Will, sitting over there in his bow tie behind the barbed wire, as the right-wing meanie. They might as well have a sign: “Don’t Feed the Rabid Conservative,” even though he’s far more thoughtful in his analysis than any of them.

In a segment on taxes last fall, Will argued, reasonably, for cuts in corporate rates to incentivize more computer investment during the tech recession.

“There it is,” Donaldson bellowed, “conservative to the core.”

Imagine him calling the other George “liberal to the core.” Never. Why expose a good fraud? (Will must have agreed in his contract to hold his tongue about his colleagues’ indefatigable monopartisanship. Either that, or he’s exceedingly polite.)

Yet Will is decidedly more intellectually honest than Stephanopoulos.

In January, for example, Will castigated Bush for acting Clintonian in claiming he didn’t know his father’s Enron pal Ken Lay until he supported Texas Gov. Ann Richards in 1994.

A startled Stephanopoulos exclaimed: “A slap on the wrist by George Will … wow!”

Slick as Stephanopoulos is, people will eventually see through his pretense of objectivity. Viewers will eventually catch on that he picks only innocuous things to criticize Democrats about, or that he sets up Republican straw men just to knock them down. They’ll eventually realize that the show’s agenda and talking points match those of Terry McAuliffe’s Democratic National Committee.

The Clinton machine finally got one of their operatives, the most telegenic and sincere-sounding, in a prestige media position, one that can sway elections and legislation.

ABC producers, who are mostly Clinton Democrats, are no doubt pinching themselves. And ABC front-office honchos no doubt hope the younger, hipper Stephanopoulos will pull up the show’s sagging ratings.

But the American public, already under-served the truth by Washington media, will more than likely continue to tune out “This Week.”

They know that the last thing this country needs is more dishonest people in journalism.

Stephanopoulos was a key official in the most corrupt and unethical administration in U.S. history, as judged by historians of all stripes in a C-SPAN poll. His boss institutionalized lying. Yet the only place he parts way with Clinton is in the trouser-dropping department. There, he exercised poor judgment, Stephanopoulos bravely reveals in his “tell-all” book, in which he purportedly “distances” himself from Beelzebubba.

By parading this political punk as a news correspondent and anchor, ABC News is revealing its own morals and values.

Related columns:

Investigating the old media

My picnic with Bill


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