NBC's Mitchell Avoids Tough Questions with Pelosi, Asks About Hillary and 'Setbacks' on 'Reproductive Rights'

NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent and MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell sat down for an interview with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday’s Andrea Mitchell Reports. But instead of asking the Democratic leader tough questions about issues facing the House of Representatives this summer, Mitchell instead chose to lob softballs at the former speaker of the House – giving Pelosi an opportunity to hype Hillary Clinton’s potential run for president and blast Republicans for assaults on “reproductive freedom.”

Mitchell teased the interview at the beginning of her program by weighing Pelosi’s “new initiative on women being launched” that Thursday against the “new restrictions on [women’s] rights to reproductive freedom” that have women “feeling besieged.” Of course, Mitchell ignored the fact that many of these abortion restrictions are popular with Americans, perhaps because Mitchell is an outspoken – and fierce – pro-choice advocate.

It was clear from the beginning of the interview that Mitchell was not going to deliver any difficult questions to Pelosi. Mitchell wistfully recalled Pelosi’s election as speaker, when the California Democrat “had all the children coming up on the podium,” turning that gush into a question about feminism:

Do you think of yourself as more of a Sheryl Sandberg “Lean In" kind of person, or an Anne-Marie Slaughter “Women Can't Have It All” at the same time?

Mitchell later asked Pelosi if she was “ready for Hillary.” Of course, the NBC reporter could have simply read Pelosi’s comments from only three weeks earlier, when the former speaker argued Hillary would be the most qualified presidential candidate “in decades.”

But Mitchell probably wanted to hear it for herself, apparently enjoying the sweet sound of one liberal politician puffing up another liberal politician:

MITCHELL: So if she were to choose to run, if she decides to run, would you be a Hillary Clinton supporter?

PELOSI:  I have a habit of supporting people when they decide to run, and I've said very positive things about –

MITCHELL: You've left little doubt of where you stand when it comes to Hillary Clinton.

The liberal Mitchell rounded out her gooey interview with Pelosi by setting the Democrat up for an assault on pro-life Republicans:

And there have been so many setbacks in legislatures and capitals around the country on reproductive rights and women’s health issues. Where do you see that?

Mitchell has shown her liberal bias on the Lean Forward network before, so this interview was nothing new. But it appears that, when questioning a fellow left-winger, Mitchell quickly checks her journalist hat at the door, so she can don a campaign one instead.

See the transcript – which includes Mitchell’s questions and portions of Pelosi’s responses – below. Although some of Pelosi’s responses are omitted or shortened in the transcript, no omissions are intended to alter the substance of Pelosi’s answers. You can watch the full interview here.


MSNBC
Andrea Mitchell Reports
July 18, 2013
1:08 p.m. Eastern

ANDREA MITCHELL [on program, not with Pelosi]: Now, 165 years after women first kicked off their campaign for the vote and other rights in Seneca Falls, New York, women are now feeling besieged – particularly by new restrictions on their right to reproductive freedom and health care in states across the nation. In Texas today, Rick Perry signed it [the abortion bill] into law. I sat down with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi to talk about her new initiative on women being launched this hour on Capitol Hill.

(...)

MITCHELL [with Pelosi]: You spoke of Seneca Falls. We actually found an illustration, editorial cartoon of the first women’s rights convention back in 1848. You might be interested in the Seneca Falls cartoon, it said here: “representing feminist speaker denouncing men at the first women’s rights convention in July of 1848.” [Laughing.] You're a mother, you're a grandmother. When you became speaker, you had all the children coming up on the podium. Do you think of yourself as more of a Sheryl Sandberg “Lean In" kind of person, or an Anne-Marie Slaughter “Women Can't Have It All” at the same time? Where do you come down on these sort of debates?

(...)

MITCHELL: Women in politics. Senator Gillibrand suggested that having more women in the Senate has made a big difference.

HOUSE MINORITY LEADER NANCY PELOSI: Yes, indeed.

MITCHELL: Where there is a critical mass talking about sexual assaults in the military, in a way that is getting action and getting a response for the first time.

(...)

MITCHELL: Senator Gillibrand told me that in the Senate, at least, she's found that women come together across party lines, that they find areas of agreement and that they work better among each other than some of their male colleagues. Have you found that in the House?

PELOSI: We used to be. Right now there is a pretty hard line between parties in the House, because there's a right-wing ideological anti-government attitude on the part of the Republicans. But there are some issues that hopefully we can come together on. I hope it would be better. It used to be better.

(...)

MITCHELL: [Missouri Senator] Claire McCaskill has signed on to [the] Ready for Hillary [Super PAC]. Are you ready for Hillary?

PELOSI [laughing]: I think the country is ready for Hillary. I certainly hope that she will choose to run. I think if she does, she will win. I think – and when she does, I think she'll be the best-prepared person to enter the White House in decades, with all due respect to everybody else.

(...)

MITCHELL: So if she were to choose to run, if she decides to run, would you be a Hillary Clinton supporter?

PELOSI:  I have a habit of supporting people when they decide to run, and I've said very positive things about –

MITCHELL: You've left little doubt of where you stand when it comes to Hillary Clinton.

PELOSI: Well, I'd be absolutely thrilled. But the thing about Hillary – I'd be thrilled because she would be the first woman president. But separate and apart from the fact she's a woman, she would be a great president, and that's really the standard that we have to hold everyone to.

MITCHELL: So despite all of her virtues and her experience, you've got a sitting vice president who's been a senator longer than almost anyone and has had enormous experience. Yet, if those two people were running against each other for the nomination, Hillary Clinton would be the person who resonates more with you?

PELOSI: Well, Hillary Clinton has run for president before. That makes a tremendous difference. I highly recommend it to women, if you want to be in politics in any way, run for president because you will have a built-in public relations campaign for yourself.

(...)

MITCHELL [on program, not with Pelosi]: But as we just heard, Nancy Pelosi made it abundantly clear who she's backing in 2016, if Hillary Clinton does decide to run.

(...)

MITCHELL [on program, not with Pelosi]: More now of my exclusive interview with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, on the battle over tougher gun laws, her reaction to the Zimmerman verdict, and – as Texas Governor Rick Perry signed those new restrictions on abortion clinics into law only today – reproductive freedom.

MITCHELL [with Pelosi]: Now, you mentioned gun safety. I interviewed Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly recently and they were frustrated, frankly, that they haven't seen more leadership from the White House in getting legislative action all these months after Newtown.

PELOSI: I hope they're not frustrated with the White House, because I know that this is a high priority for the president. He has said very clearly, we're not backing down on this and so it is a question of what the timing is to come back with a background check bill supported by, what? Eighty percent, ninety percent, depending on the poll?

MITCHELL: Some people wonder why he couldn't persuade four Democratic senators, including one who was actually, Max Baucus actually decided to leave the Senate. Doesn't the president of the United States have enough clout?

PELOSI: That would not have been enough. In other words, the focus on the Democrats when ninety-something percent of the Democrats voted for the bill and ninety-some percent of the Republicans voted against the bill. I think there's some room for getting some votes on the Republican side, as much as I would have liked the Democrats to vote for it. It still would not have been enough. One of the things – one of the statements that people make is, well it’s not going any place in the House, so why would we take the political jeopardy of doing this if it is not going any place? Well, I would disabuse them of that notion. We are never going away.

MITCHELL: You’re not giving up on guns.

PELOSI: We are never going away until we can pass this background check bill, because it will affect so much in terms of gun violence prevention in our country. Even more than banning assault weapons. How many people? Five hundred and some people – as horrible as it is, and as obvious as it is that they should be banned, nonetheless the background check protects more people.

MITCHELL: What was your reaction to the George Zimmerman verdict in the Trayvon Martin case?

(...)

MITCHELL:  And immigration. Are you giving up hope, or do you think Democrats could support a piecemeal approach if it has some path to citizenship?

PELOSI: I never give up hope. Let's just put that aside. I never give up hope. We have to have an immigration bill. The status quo is totally unacceptable.

MITCHELL: Is border security enough?

PELOSI: When you say border security – is that an immigration bill? No, that’s not an immigration bill.

MITCHELL: Right. If the Republicans come up with something that just spends more money on controlling the border, but doesn't have a path to citizenship?

(...)

MITCHELL: And there have been so many setbacks in legislatures and capitals around the country on reproductive rights and women’s health issues. Where do you see that?