CBS ‘Early Show’ Guest: GOP ‘A Restricted White Men's Club’

On Friday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith analyzed Thursday’s Democratic debate with Democratic strategist Joe Trippi and the left wing editor of "The Nation," Katrina Vanden Heuvel, who called the debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama "a historic first," while referring to Republicans as the "Grim Old Party" and "a restricted white men's club." Vanden Heuvel went to say that, "You also had a sheer -- the difference in policy knowledge and competence between Obama and Clinton and the Republican field to me was staggering."

This analysis of the Democratic debate followed Thursday’s analysis of Wednesday’s Republican debate, which featured Smith and CBS Political Correspondent and former Robert Kennedy speech writer, Jeff Greenfield, with no Republican guests.

Later in the Friday segment, Vanden Heuvel used a prior "Early Show" news brief about a suicide bomb attack in Iraq to claim "Yeah, I mean, you have a surge that isn't working. Look at the piece you just did." Smith made a feeble attempt at balance by replying, "Well that's arguable." Vanden Heuvel went on to shill for Obama "You have McCain of endless war -- of endless war without accountability and you have two candidates, Obama arguably wants to end this war and end the mind set that brought us into this war."

On NBC’s Januray 22 "Today," Vanden Heuvel was similarly unchallenged when she said to co-host Meredith Vieria:

You know what struck me was we are at a moment in this country's political history, when the conservative movement is intellectually, politically and morally bankrupt...interestingly Reagan becomes a focus at a moment when the conservative movement is dead...The conservative movement is dead. Let's get Reagan out of our minds!

On the "Early Show," Vanden Heuvel saw the debate as a great way of bashing Republicans:

But, you know, Hillary Clinton had a good one on the dynastic question, 'it may take another Clinton to clean up after a second Bush’...And Obama was very smart in taking down Romney and McCain, ‘down on the road somewhere the wheels came off the Straight-Talk Express.’

Smith fawned over how well Clinton and Obama got along: "I don't know, here's a picture of the two of them after the debate was over. And it looks like -- it almost like -- looks like Gustav Klimt "The Kiss." Look at that, oh my gosh."

Vanden Huevel, while happy about the Republican bashing, was upset that there was not enough discussion of doom and gloom at the debate and Smith agreed:

VANDEN HEUVEL: You have an imploding economy, thousands of people losing their homes and, and --

SMITH: Okay, and how do they run a debate and nobody talks about the economy --

VANDEN HEUVEL: Alright, you know why, broken schools. But because where are the questions in the debates? We’re at – the media has so trivialized. You thought it was "American Idol" at the Kodak.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: The presidential debate for the history books. And the opponents come out hugging? Will they be the ticket?

7:15AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's debate last night was one for the history books, but instead of anger and finger-pointing, they were positive and friendly. CBS News Correspondent Jim Axelrod reports.

JIM AXELROD: If you expected fireworks in the first head-to-head showdown between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, you would have been disappointed.

BARACK OBAMA: I was friends with Hillary Clinton before we started this campaign. I will be friends with Hillary Clinton after this campaign is over.

AXELROD: Frequently nodding in agreement with each other --

OBAMA: I'm not bashful about it.

AXELROD: -- Clinton and Obama looked more like running mates than rivals.

OBAMA: We both want to emphasize prevention.

HILLARY CLINTON: We're having such a good time. We are, we are, we're having a wonderful time.

OBAMA: Any of the solutions that Senator Clinton just talked about are solutions that I agree with.

AXELROD: Focusing on health care and Iraq, the two saved their strongest swipes for Republicans.

CLINTON: The differences between Barack and I pale in comparison to the differences that we have with Republicans.

AXELROD: It was enough to prompt the question would they be running mates? There was good cheer, even in their evasion.

OBAMA: You know, I'm sure Hillary would be on anybody's short list.

CLINTON: Well, I have to agree with everything Barack just said.

AXELROD: At debates end a fitting gesture, Barack Obama helping Hillary Clinton out of her seat. Maybe it was the nasty and divisive campaign in South Carolina last week, but Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both seemed intent on creating a much more cordial atmosphere heading into Super Tuesday next week. Jim Axelrod, CBS News, Los Angeles.

SMITH: In January, by the way, Obama raised $32 million. Clinton reported raising almost $28 million from October to December. Joining us now are Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher of The Nation Magazine. Good morning to you both. Katrina I want to start with you. For millions of Americans, especially these people voting Tuesday, Super Tuesday, this is where they're really tuning in. This is where they really want to make some determination, which one do I like best? Which one do I want to help get the nomination? Did they learn anything last night?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL: Well, I think what you learned is the striking, staggering difference between the Democratic field and the Republican field. You look at that stage. I know it's been said, but this is a historic first, African-American, a woman. You look at the Republican field as the Grim Old Party, it's like a restricted white men's club. You also had a sheer -- the difference in policy knowledge and competence between Obama and Clinton and the Republican field to me was staggering. So I think people tune in and see that.

SMITH: Because if you look at the debate from two nights ago when there was this grousing between Romney, McCain and on and on --

VANDEN HEUVEL: Yeah, I mean, you have a surge that isn't working. Look at the piece you just did.

SMITH: Well that's arguable.

VANDEN HEUVEL: You have McCain of endless war -- of endless war without accountability and you have two candidates, Obama arguably wants to end this war and end the mind set that brought us into this war. So I think that those are real differences and that's what people are tuning into.

SMITH: Okay Joe Trippi, so this ends up being not about -- this ends up being about the general election less than about Super Tuesday, at least for the take away for the general audience. How about you as you're watching, as somebody who engineers campaigns, did one candidate or the other say, boy that --they came out in front? I'm not sure I saw it.

JOE TRIPPI: No, not at all. I think they both came in with a clear strategy. I think the Clinton campaign believes they've got a strong lead -- or strong enough lead going into Super Tuesday that they didn't want to, you know, rock the boat by doing something controversial. The Obama campaign clearly believed -- and I think they're right -- that they've got big momentum coming off of Senator Kennedy's endorsement earlier in the week.

SMITH: And the money.

TRIPPI: And they want to carry that momentum without shaking things up either. So I think they both came and basically sitting on where they're at and going to let their organizations and their ads carry the day on Tuesday.

SMITH: Were you a little surprised though -- were you a little suprised Joe, that somebody didn't at least --because there's no take-away sound bite, there's no take-away --

VANDEN HEUVEL: I disagree.

SMITH: The only thing -- the only, well --

VANDEN HEUVEL: I think, I mean, there was a good one, Obama -- what was interesting was their jabs were more focused on the Republicans. But, you know, Hillary Clinton had a good one on the die dynastic question, 'it may take another Clinton to clean up after a second Bush.'

SMITH: Okay.

VANDEN HEUVEL: And Obama was very smart in taking down Romney and McCain, 'down on the road somewhere the wheels came off the Straight-Talk Express.'

SMITH: I don't know, here's a picture of the two of them after the debate was over. And it looks like -- it almost like -- looks like Gustav Klimt The Kiss. Look at that, oh my gosh. This is -- I think that was the take away from last night.

VANDEN HEUVEL: But Harry here's a thought. Why was there no take-away? You have an imploding economy, thousands of people losing their homes and, and --

SMITH: Okay, and how do they run a debate and nobody talks about the economy --

VANDEN HEUVEL: Alright, you know why, broken schools. But because where are the questions in the debates? We’re at – the media has so trivialized. You thought it was American Idol at the Kodak.

SMITH: Right, okay, go ahead -- go ahead Joe.

TRIPPI: Harry, I think -- I sort of disagree. Look, I think what was laying down there, Obama was laying down throughout the debate that there was a big difference, judgment versus experience. I mean, Hillary Clinton kept pushing experience, experience, experience. You saw it on the Iraq war where he really, that's the one place where I think he was very effective making his case, that it's judgment, not experience that we need. That was the underlying battle throughout the night. I'd give it a little push maybe to Hillary, actually, throughout, you know, on maybe a one-point win, but nothing really big happened last night.

SMITH: Joe Trippi, thank you very much. Katrina, as always, a pleasure.

VANDEN HEUVEL: Thank you.

TRIPPI: Thank you, Harry.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC