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August 24, 2012 11:41 AM Deconstructing A “Devastating” Interview

By Ed Kilgore

So Republicans—even the normally clear-eyed David Frum—are gloating today over an Anderson Cooper interview of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz that supposedly leaves her shivering in embarrassment and exposed as a liar. Cooper badgers Wasserman-Schultz endlessly for “misquoting” an L.A. Times story in order to suggest (wrongly, Cooper says) that Romney and his campaign control the Republican platform language on abortion. How could that be, asks Cooper? Isn’t this the same language the GOP platform has had for years? CNN had a reporter in the room, and he didn’t see no “control” of abortion language by Romney Folk! Ah, these lying politicians….

Man, if this is a “gotcha” moment, then the definition of “gotcha” has been debased to the vanishing point. As someone involved in Democratic conventions (including on two occasions the platform process) for a long time, I can confidently assert that it is a fact, of which the entire CNN staff appears ignorant, that not a sparrow falls to the ground in the drafting of a national party platform that is not approved by the nominee and his or her staff. That Team Mitt did not choose to publicly challenge the traditional “constitutional ban with no exceptions other than life of the mother” language does not absolve it of responsibility for it. Romney’s extraordinary “flexibility,” shall we say, on the abortion issue over the years is hardly news, but the basic point that Romney is indeed complicit in an extremist platform if he doesn’t bother to explicitly distance himself from it is sound, even if Anderson Cooper doesn’t “get it.”

All I’d fault Wasserman Schultz for is letting herself get dragged down in the minutiae of this silly argument passing for tough journalism. “Rape and incest” exceptions notwithstanding, her basic point, that there is a vast gulf between the views on the right to choose of the two major-party candidates, is incontrovertible. It holds true for roughly 99.99% of the legal abortions currently performed in the United States, which Romney, Ryan, and all but a small handful of GOP pols want to ban by any means that come to hand, from discouragement and harassment of providers right on up to the constitutional amendment the platform endorses and the appointment of Supreme Court Justices determined to abolish reproductive rights altogether.

You’d think in the course of spending all this time “Keeping Them Honest” by rooting around in the pine straw of this issue, Cooper might have looked for the trees if not the forest.

Anyway, here’s the video; you can judge for yourself if this is, as Frum suggests), a triumphal example of the potential power of cable TV journalism.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • SecularAnimist on August 24, 2012 11:47 AM:

    I am shocked -- SHOCKED, I tell you! -- to see that the handful of giant corporations that own virtually all of America's mass media are shilling for the GOP.

  • Eli Rabett on August 24, 2012 12:03 PM:

    Wasserman Schultz is an idiot whose only joy is throwing other Democrats under the bus. Eli will happily contribute to anyone who primaries her next go round.

  • beejeez on August 24, 2012 12:04 PM:

    All perfectly valid points, Ed. But I do have some issues with Debbie W-S as party spokeslady. She strikes me as too often given to rote sloganeering and too easily rattled; I never see her without thinking that her arguments could be delivered more persuasively. I like the idea of a woman having this role; I just think Debbie's not the right gal.

  • steve on August 24, 2012 12:06 PM:

    Obama is a great communicator. So is Bill. Hillary is good. The Congressional Dem's suck at communicating. Harry Reid is the worst. Wasserman Schultz is not great. This is a big reason the Dem Congressional organization is weak. Dem's need better rep's.

  • Mimikatz on August 24, 2012 12:07 PM:

    The vast majority of women seeking abortions do not do so because of rape or incest. Women know this. The only reason to include those reasons in addition to "to save the life of the other," which ought always to be an exception, is to avoid seeming heartless and inhumane. So women know that the GOP wants to ban the vast majority of abortions, and probably hormonal birth control if they could. Cooper may not get it, but women do, and are sharing the information. It will leave a mark, make no mistake.

  • Norm DePlume on August 24, 2012 12:09 PM:

    Seemed to be two arguments going on: the platform issue, and her (mis)quoting LATimes in fundraising letter. I'll stipulate your take on how platform gets written -- never been there -- but seems to me Cooper "won" on (mis)use of LATimes quote. She seems to be saying end justifies means, so who cares about accuracy.

  • howard on August 24, 2012 12:14 PM:

    i'm sorry: david frum has his moments, but he is not normally clear-eyed, and he is currently on a roll of trying to re-ingratiate himself with right-wingers.

  • jr on August 24, 2012 12:21 PM:

    All you need to say is: "Anderson, if you want to do some real investigative journalism, try to find a position on abortion (or any other issue) that Mitt hasn't verbally taken over the years."

  • Anonymous on August 24, 2012 12:22 PM:

    So Republicans—even the normally clear-eyed David Frum—are gloating today over an Anderson Cooper interview...

    Republicans love lying so much that for them it's an art form. I'll assume their only complaint of Wasserman Schultz isn't her stretching a quote to round out a campaign e-mail looking for money, but rather her lack of style when confronting Cooper. She had the doubling down technique part but lacks the raised voice, heavy spit out of the mouth, and pithy remarks like "Cooper you may as well put a Romney bumper sticker on your forehead".

  • stormskies on August 24, 2012 12:22 PM:

    Cooper knows the actual truth about the party platform and who controls it in the end .. which is why this garbage is, as SecularAnimist pointed out, just the corporate media running cover for the corporate automaton called buffoon Romney ...

    Cooper should keep his pants down for his boyfriends .. not buffoon Romney ...

  • Charles on August 24, 2012 12:37 PM:

    It would be nice if Wasserman Schultz had the presence of mind to point out that Romney has also been for the personhood amendment as well as pro-choice.

    The man says anything that he thinks will get him elected. The issue is not so much abortion, but rather that Romney is a sociopathic liar.

  • mmm on August 24, 2012 12:44 PM:

    I agree with beejeez that Debbie W-S just parrots the talking points, nothing very original at all. I've stopped listening to her because everything she says is what you've heard before. And the Shirley temple curls have got to go. Get with the 21st century, girlfriend.

  • GlassesOfJournalism on August 24, 2012 12:49 PM:

    First off, Wasserman Schultz sucks. I really wish we would find someone else.

    Second, Anderson Cooper's Serious Glasses are Very Serious.

  • Tobie on August 24, 2012 12:57 PM:

    I agree with all Ed's points...but Debbie Wasserman Schultz has to go as a spokesperson for the party. She is not quick on her feet and comes off as pugnacious by repeating the same line over and over again. She could have answered Cooper's question in any number of ways--for instance by pointing to Romney's support of a personhood amendment or by noting how many times he has flip-flopped and changed positions, or by stressing how much influence a presidential candidate has on a party platform. This is the second time she bombed in a CNN interview. The other is with Wolf Blitzer concerning Medicare coverage for people 55 and over. I know she's a committed dem and may even be important in pulling the caucus together. But she's a liability for the party on TV and should be replaced with someone who can dance circles around journalists like Cooper and Blitzer. It's embarrassing that these two dopes can dance circles around her.

  • Ron Byers on August 24, 2012 12:59 PM:

    Would the DNC please hire a competent spokesperson. Please, please, please.

    Debbie Whatshername Shultz's only skill is gleefully throwing Democrats under the bus. She doesn't even being to understand how to stand up to a light weight like Anderson Cooper. She has no business appearing on cable news.

  • mb on August 24, 2012 1:22 PM:

    How hard would it have been to write and email showing how bad Romney is on women's rights without misquoting someone? Seems like that should be pretty simple.

    I, like others here, will not miss Debbie W-S. My understanding is that she will be replaced after the election. I wish it were feasible to replace her now.

    That being said, Anderson's act here is, in a word, absurd.

  • Iggy on August 24, 2012 1:33 PM:

    Breaking News: GOP platform set to music; Romney to sing policies at convention!! http://euraputz.com/2012/08/24/366/

  • TCinLA on August 24, 2012 1:35 PM:

    When was the last time Little Gloria Vanderbilt's sweet little boy ever "got" anything?

    There's a reason why he works for the Cretins' News Network.

  • DisgustedWithItAll on August 24, 2012 1:48 PM:

    I think W-S did fine. Cooper found a nitpick to pick. And he picked his nose. An example of extraordinarily fine journalism like the extraordinarily fine laws we have in this country: get caught fucking the world economy and you'll get tax payers covering your losses and ridiculous bonuses; get caught stealing a candy bar and you're looking at 6 months.

    I have a question because I know longer watch CNN: Has the truth seeker Mr. Cooper found time to take on the Team Romney campaign strategy of utter complete lies? My guess is no, but somebody let me know if I'm right or wrong.

  • jjm on August 24, 2012 1:59 PM:

    Anderson probably doesn't care all that much about the abortion issue, given his own orientation.

    Well, Ryan just said that rape is just another method of conception. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/08/24/ryan-on-abortion-exceptions-rape-is-just-another-method-of-conception/

    He must be counting those who commit spousal rape. Why else does he love rapists so much that he wants them to be fruitful and multiply?

  • c u n d gulag on August 24, 2012 2:00 PM:

    Cooper, like Matthews, feels "honor-bound" once in awhile to make a few Democrats look as big a group of fools as Republicans.

    We all love "good" Matthews/Cooper, and hate "bad" Matthews/Cooper.

    The problem in this case is DWS herself.
    She's a terrible spokesperson.
    She's spouts the D usual talking points, coming across as a D version of a R idealogue, and is either slow on her feet, or too lazy to prepare if she thinks it might be an easier interview than the one she'd get at FOX.
    And she's also sucked on FOX, which she SHOULD know will be as highly partisan as possible.

    Either way, she sucks, and needs to go.

  • Thomas on August 24, 2012 2:50 PM:

    This would be a problem if anyone actually watched CNN.

  • Kevin Moore on August 24, 2012 3:12 PM:

    Do not ask the party's choice to lead the nation about the party's platform. That's just not cricket.

  • Th on August 24, 2012 3:33 PM:

    Cooper reminded me of the brat in 3rd grade who always went on and on any time the teacher misspelled a word on the chalk board.

  • Tom Dibble on August 24, 2012 3:37 PM:

    Ugh, Debbie.

    Anderson: You do acknowledge that Mitt Romney supports abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother.

    Shoulda-Been: No, I don't. I acknowledge that he has claimed that, but I also acknowledge that he has voiced support for a Personhood Amendment in several states and Federally which would eliminate all such exceptions, and that he has allowed the National Republican Platform to continue to inveigh against all exceptions. I acknowledge that he has claimed he supports those exceptions, but also that his opinions on abortion have been undergoing a massive rightward lurch over the past decade since he ran for Massachusetts governor fully supporting abortion rights, and so there is no telling where he is at now.

    End of interview.

    Misquoting the LA Times? Cooper may have had a point there (I haven't looked into that at all). If he does, that was stupid on DWS's part and she should acknowledge it then get back to the main issue (rather than not acknowledging and claiming it doesn't matter).

    Poor performance, Debbie. Let's do better next time around.

  • TQ White II on August 24, 2012 5:21 PM:

    I am as hard-core a liberal as you will ever know and I agree that Mitt is 100% responsible for the Republican platform.

    However, Wasserman-Schulz did not merely misquote the Times, she completely reversed their meaning. If Mitt's team did that, we'd be screaming – and he has and we did.

    Cooper was not doing some sort of hatchet job on her. He caught her in a lie and she should have copped to it.

  • Thymezone on August 24, 2012 7:35 PM:

    Let's keep things in perspective. Nobody really pays any attention to Anderson Cooper.

  • mudwall jackson on August 25, 2012 11:05 AM:

    my guess is everyone will have forgotten about this 'outrage' by saturday afternoon.

  • Kenneth Almquist on August 26, 2012 7:51 PM:

    @TQ White II:

    The interview did create the impressiopn that Wasserman Schultz "she completely reversed [the] meaning" of the LA Times article, but that's only because both Wasserman Schultz and Anderson Cooper performed poorly in that interview.

    The LA Times article states that the plaform is "a carefully crafted sales pitch by the victorious campaign [meaning the Romney campaign, which won the primary]." It tells us that the Romney campaign is "in charge." It quotes one member of the platform committee as saying that the platform is "a document for Mitt Romney to live by," to explain why she won't compromise on the language that the Romney campaign wants in the platform. In short, the LA Times article supports the contention that Romney is responsible for the content of the Republican platform.

    Let's now turn to the statement that Anderson Cooper quoted from the LA Times article, with a bit of text prepended for context: "Ron Paul delegates are making a diligent effort to wedge the defeated presidential candidate’s libertarian ideas into the party document.... There is no doubt about who is in charge, of course. Delegates for presumptive nominee Mitt Romney are voting down substantive changes to the platform language that was written at the direction of Romney's campaign."

    Whoever drafted the fundraising letter presumably interpreted this as saying that all of the language in the platform "was written at the direction of Romney's campaign."

    Another possible interpretation is that the "substantial changes" are what were "written at the direction of Romney's campaign." This interpretation is plausible if you only look at the single sentence quoted by Anderson Cooper, but is clearly wrong if you look at the sentence in the context of the full article.

    A third possible interpretation is that only some of the platform "was written at the direction of Romney's campaign." Ron Paul delegates only attempted to make changes to some parts of the platform. Possibly other portions of the platform, which Ron Paul delegates did not attempt to change, were not written at the direction of the Romney campaign. This is a plausible interpretation, or at least I don't think that the author of the LA Times article intended to rule this interpretation out. I think the point that the author swas trying to make was that the Romney campaign has control over the content of the platform. Whether or not this control is accomplished by having every word of the platform be written at the direction of the Romney campaign is a level of detail (or hairsplitting) that I don't think the article was attempting to address.

    My judgement is that by quoting the LA Times article in a way that didn't acknowledge that the third interpretation was possible, the fundraising letter changed the meaning of the quote in a very subtle way, but not enough to constitute a substantial misrepresentation of the article.

    In contrast, I think that Anderson Cooper does misrepresent the contents of the LA Times article in a substantial way by saying thing such as that the quote in the fundraiser is "completely incorrect," and that Wasserman Schultz "misquoted [the LA Times] to back up a position."

  • Gerry Orton on November 09, 2012 1:48 PM:

    Right on, Ed.
    Would that the Anderson Coopers be better informed. Quite possibly then, the Anderson Coopers could put the Frums on the hot seat.

  • Gerry Orton on November 09, 2012 1:56 PM:

    Right on, Ed.
    Would that the Anderson Coopers be better informed. Quite possibly then, the Anderson Coopers could put the Frums on the hot seat.