ElectionWatch: ABC's Donaldson: Economy 'Going in the Dumper'; Likens Obama to a 'Kewpie Doll'

     Although he quit working full-time for ABC News in 1999, former ABC reporter and “World News Sunday” anchor Sam Donaldson still is full of opinions when it comes to the economy and politics.

     Donaldson, who is a contributor to ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” and hosts a talk show on ABC radio network, spoke at Nathan’s in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., January 23.

     Donaldson offered his analysis of the January 21 Democratic debate held in Myrtle Beach, S.C.  He told the audience he thought the focus should be on the economy – which he described as “going in the dumper.”

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     “I watched the Democratic debate the other night,” Donaldson said. “At the beginning of the debate they talked about economic stimulus programs. They showed a recognition that we’re going in the dumper. I mean, suddenly the firemen have discovered the firehouse is burning down. Well, it’s too late guys – I mean you should have discovered it when there was a whisper of smoke up there.”

     Donaldson expressed his frustration that the Democratic candidates would stray from their economic message onto national security.

     “Then at the end of the debate, what did they do? They all decided that John McCain is going to be the Republican nominee and that the issue would be national security and they each tried to tell us which one was best,” Donaldson said. “And I thought to myself, ‘Wait a second, you seem to understand the issue may very well be deep recession – who’s going to pull us out economically – and yet at the end, you’ve seem to have forgotten.’”

On the Clintons and Obama

     Donaldson was asked how low he thought the Clintons would go politically.

     “They say the Clintons have no bottom, in terms of how low they’ll go,” said a questioner. “Do you believe that?”

     “Well, I mean – murder? I mean, what are you talking about, ‘no bottom’?” Donaldson said, but didn’t suggest they would go that low. He said, “They’re fighting very hard.”

     And speaking of fighting, he said he thought Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama should have been hitting back all along rather than “standing there like a kewpie doll.”

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      “[S]enator Obama started fighting in that debate I was referred to the other night. It’s a little late, but maybe not too late,” Donaldson said. “He’s got to hit back. You can’t just be standing there like a kewpie doll and smile. I watched two Democratic nominees do it. Mike Dukakis and the last one now – John Kerry. Both of them – the other side just started giving it to them, right in the gut. And, you can decide whether it was above the belt or right below the belt, and they just stood there. ‘Oh the American people won’t believe that.’ And John Kerry went on his sailboat, instead of fighting the Swift Boaters.”

On Ronald Reagan

     Donaldson earned notoriety in the 1980s, when he was the White House correspondent for ABC News, for shouting down President Ronald Reagan. But Donaldson insisted it was because Reagan was “hard of hearing.”

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     “[N]o one ever heard me shout at Lyndon Johnson, or Richard Nixon, although I was not the White House correspondent then when I interviewed him, or Jimmy Carter,” Donaldson said. “Ronald Reagan couldn’t hear well.”

    Donaldson admitted he would be remember for shouting.

    “[T]o ask him you would have to raise your voice,” Donaldson said. “But it will be on my tombstone: ‘He shouted at Ronald Reagan.’”