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CNN Hosts Debbie Wasserman Schultz, But Host Soledad O'Brien Tosses Softballs

Hosting the chair of the DNC on Tuesday's Starting Point, CNN's Soledad O'Brien could have grilled her about any number of relevant issues like gas prices, the GSA scandal, or President Obama trailing Mitt Romney in polls on the economy. Instead she simply teed her up with softball questions and left the tough questions to conservative panel member Will Cain.

The method was not unlike O'Brien's April 4 interview of the liberal Van Jones, where she failed to ask Obama's former green jobs adviser about the administration's recent scandals involving green energy companies like Solyndra. The two interviews showed a definitive hesitance on O'Brien's part to ask tough and pressing questions of her liberal guest.

O'Brien began her interview by citing two election polls, one in New Hampshire and the other in Arizona, and simply asked Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.) to "assess" them. Schultz, obviously, proclaimed positive news for President Obama and derided Republicans as "extremist."

And O'Brien ended the interview by once again setting her guest up for a soundbite. She played a clip of conservative rocker Ted Nugent slamming Schultz as a "brain-dead, soulless, heartless idiot," and asked her to respond. Liberal comedian John Fugelsang, also on the panel, reached over to shake Schultz's hand.

O'Brien did mention a quote from former New Hampshire governor and senator Judd Gregg (R) criticizing the current politics of Washington, but again let Will Cain grill Schultz. "Interesting suggestion?" she said of Gregg's proposal to have Congress vacate Washington until the election. O'Brien then let Will Cain jump into the discussion, where he grilled Schultz on her willingness to work with Republicans on tax cuts and budget matters.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on April 24 on Starting Point at 7:48 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

[7:48]

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Let's take a look at a couple polls because I think they're a pretty read on where President Obama and former Governor Mitt Romney are. Let's start with Arizona. First, you can see there, it has Romney ahead, 42 to 40 percent. And then if you look at the New Hampshire poll, I think it's coming to us from MUR, WMUR. It has Obama ahead 51 percent to 42 percent for Governor Romney. Give me your assessment of these polls.

(...)

O'BRIEN: Let's talk a little bit about what John Boehner said yesterday. He was talking about the chances for losing the House. Here's what he said. Excuse me.

(Video Clip)

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER (R), OHIO: I say there's a two in three chance that we win control of the House again, but there's a one in three chance that we could lose. And I'm being, myself, frank.

(End Video Clip)

O'BRIEN: I'm being frank. He thinks one in three chance. Would you put their numbers at the same place where he's putting his numbers?

(...)

CAIN: Because Congresswoman, he didn't say he expected to lose the House. He recognized it as a possibility, in fact, a one in three possibility. So after 2010 now when you guys got absolutely hammered you have 25 seats up, can you give us a number? What's your number? What are the odds you do retake the House?

(...)

CAIN: Well if his prediction comes true, you guys lose. He says they've got a two-thirds chance to keep it?

(...)

FUGELSANG: Congresswoman, one of the big complaints against the Democratic Party in recent years has been that they've allowed the Republican Party to set the tone in the whole debate, to set the narrative. To call the Affordable Care Act "ObamaCare," et cetera, et cetera. What is the President and the re-election campaign going to do to try to reframe the entire narrative and convince independents that this guy has been on their side all along?

(...)


FUGELSANG: Well in fairness, the American people did vote for increase on taxes on wealthy in 2008 and it was President Obama himself in the compromise who extended the Bush tax cuts. Is there going to be any effort to call this "Bush's tax increase" since they were designed to expire in 2010?

(...)

O'BRIEN: I want to throw in what former governor and former senator too, of New Hampshire, Judd Gregg had to say. He said this, "If Washington" – he's suggesting everyone should just go home until the election, which I thought was kind of an interesting proposal.

"If Washington was vacated, it would be a more honest expression of the reality of the status of governance for the next six months. It might help the American people believe that there is some integrity to the situation." Interesting suggestion? Will Cain, you want to chip in.

CAIN: Well I think that's an interesting quote you put up also recognizing the amount of work that you guys have to do over the next six months. You have what is equivalent of all of the Bush tax cuts expiring. You have the budget resolution. You have to come together on those forced cuts. I think the total package has amassed over $4 trillion. Larger than any stimulus ever passed, larger than any tax cut's ever been passed. Why aren't you guys working on it yet? Why are you waiting until supposedly after the November election to address these issues?

SCHULTZ: You guys? Well maybe when the next time you ask me –

CAIN: I'm not in Congress.

SCHULTZ: But Speaker Boehner is the leader of Congress and controls the agenda with Eric Cantor about what comes to the floor –

CAIN: I'm not in Congress. I'm asking you because you are a member of Congress.

SCHULTZ: I'm a member of Congress in the minority unfortunately, which I plan to help change in November, but the people who control the agenda right now in the House of Representatives are the Republicans. Ask them why they haven't brought a single jobs bill to the floor since they took over the majority. Ask them why they're getting ready to allow the student loan interest rates to double.

CAIN: So if the House put out a package right now to extend the Bush tax cuts you'd be on board with that, you're saying?

SCHULTZ: No, I'd be opposed to it.

CAIN: So you would be obstructing that.

SCHULTZ: The Bush tax cuts add $700 billion to the deficit. Why would we extend them? We need to continue to focus on President Obama's agenda, giving tax breaks to the middle class. The 18 different tax breaks he's given to small businesses –

CAIN: That's what I'm clari – all of the things that are coming up before the end of the year, you're not interested in working on those right now.

SCHULTZ: They aren't going to come – they expire actually after the election. That's when we'll have an opportunity to address them again.

CAIN: The last two months of the year.

SCHULTZ: Well, I – look, the Republicans, I certainly hope, don't send the President an extension of the Bush tax cuts because again, it adds $700 billion to the deficit. That's certainly not the approach we should be taking if we want to reduce the deficit and continue to move our economy forward. We need to make sure we're not pulling revenue out of the economy. We have to put more revenue into it.

O'BRIEN: I want to ask you a question before we run out of time here. Ted Nugent was going back and forth, was visited eventually by the Secret Service, and had this to say about you, which I'm sure you heard. Listen to it.

(Video Clip)

TED NUGENT: Wasserman Schultz is such a brain-dead soulless, heartless idiot that I could not be more proud that this soulless, heartless idiot feebly attempts to find fault with Ted Nugent. Because I am on the right track, and she just encourages me to stand stronger.

(End Video Clip)

O'BRIEN: I'm sure you could answer this –

FUGELSANG: I want to shake your hand for that.

(Laughter)

O'BRIEN: I'm sure you could answer this in 5 minutes, but I need a quick response from you. What do you think of that? And what did you think when you heard it?


-- Matt Hadro is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center