Inside Media: Election 2008 with Juan Williams

November 01, 2008

Guest: Juan Williams

What a difference a year makes. In November 2007, the banner issue of the presidential election was the Iraq war.

"Today, the No. 1 issue is the economy," said Juan Williams.

A regular panelist on "Fox News Sunday," Williams said that "a year ago, it was all about the war, but right now the war is not among the top five issues of concern for American voters."

According to Williams, as the stock market and banking crisis intensified in September, Sen. John McCain’s early lead in the polls weakened.

"The question became, who do you trust to handle the economy — the Democrats or the Republicans? It became a central point for voters," he added.

McCain’s decision to suspend his campaign to assist in the economic bailout also backfired.

"McCain wanted to portray himself as someone who could take a difficult stand during a crisis and lead effectively, and by contrast, suggest this younger Democratic nominee really wasn’t in a position to lead," Williams said.

But the Republicans in the House of Representatives handed McCain a tough blow, voting against the proposed $700 billion rescue plan.

"McCain then had to go and participate in his first debate without being able to claim victory for his efforts," Williams said.

Looking back at the lengthy election season, Williams said covering the candidates presented its share of challenges, including accusations of bias.

"There are a lot of people in the mainstream media who view Obama [possibly taking office] as an historic moment, so they weren’t questioning him aggressively. I thought that was sort of patronizing. I said, ‘treat him like a candidate,’" he said.

In the end, Williams believes his role as a journalist is to ask tough questions.

"I grew up in reporting, with 20 years at The Washington Post. It’s my job to push the candidate to be his best, not to coddle him," he said.

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