CBS’s Rodriguez Acts Like Obama Campaign Spokesman

Maggie Rodriguez, CBS While speculating on John McCain’s upcoming vice presidential running mate, who we now know will be Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, on Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez explained: "I found myself at one point last night thinking how difficult it must be for John McCain to watch such a huge celebration in honor of his opponent, especially on the eve of his 72nd birthday, which is today, and which he will be celebrating in Dayton, Ohio, where he will formally announce his vice president." In a later segment, Rodriguez declared: "John McCain didn't waste anytime trying to steal Barack Obama's thunder. He's decided on a running mate, and he will announce it today."

Later in that segment, Rodriguez talked to McCain communications director Jill Hazelbaker and asked: "But he needs to make a splash somehow, especially after last night. 85,000 screaming supporters witnessing an historic nomination. That's significant. How do you top that?" When Hazelbaker responded by pointing out that "what is holding him [Obama] back in this election, is the idea that he does not have the experience or the judgment to lead." Rodriguez interrupted: "But Jill, he answered...I disagree because he [Obama] answered, very directly, every criticism that John McCain has made about him from his readiness to be president, to his celebrity status, and everything in between, he gave very direct answers." Despite such strong defense for Obama, Rodriguez will be anchoring Early Show coverage at the Republican convention next week.

Prior to that exchange, Rodriguez asked Hazelbaker: "Does he [McCain] need an out of the box choice like a Joe Lieberman or a woman?" Of course, now we know with Sarah Palin, that is exactly what McCain did.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: Who will it be? John McCain picks his running mate, but will his choice please the Republican base?

7:01AM TEASER:

SMITH: And, of course, the other big speculation is about what the Republicans are going to do next week when you're in St. Paul, Maggie.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Harry, I found myself at one point last night thinking how difficult it must be for John McCain to watch such a huge celebration in honor of his opponent, especially on the eve of his 72nd birthday, which is today, and which he will be celebrating in Dayton, Ohio, where he will formally announce his vice president. Of course, we are in Ohio this morning, and we will be speaking with the McCain camp about the VP choice ahead.

7:09AM TEASER:

SMITH: Maggie, speculation -- I mean nobody -- this is almost like a week or so ago when nobody really knew for sure about Barack Obama's veep choice.

RODRIGUEZ: Yep, we'll know soon enough and we know it won't come via text message. We're all waiting for that rally in Dayton, Harry.

7:14AM TEASER:

RODRIGUEZ: Up next, John McCain chooses a running mate.

7:17AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: John McCain didn't waste anytime trying to steal Barack Obama's thunder. He's decided on a running mate, and he will announce it today. CBS News Capitol Hill correspondent Chip Reid is in Dayton, Ohio. Good morning, Chip.

CHIP REID: Well, good morning, Maggie. This is the basketball arena in Dayton where John McCain will appear with his running mate later today. There's been a lot of rumor, a lot of speculation, a lot of teasing by the campaign, but we're still waiting for an announcement of exactly who it will be. Arriving in Dayton Thursday night, John McCain was no help for reporters seeking the identity of his running mate.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Who is it, Senator?

REID: For much of the day, rumors and speculation swirled around McCain's good friend of two decades, Tim Pawlenty, the Republican Governor of Minnesota. But if he knew, he also wasn't talking.

TIM PAWLENTY: That's a question that will be answered by the McCain campaign.

REID: Pawlenty, an Evangelical Christian and anti-tax fiscal conservative would please the Republican base, but he's not well known nationally. And his low key campaign style has some McCain advisers pushing for Mitt Romney, who has aggressively campaigned for McCain and whose successful business career could help McCain on the economy. Romney is by far the first choice of delegates to the Republican convention, but during the Republican primaries, McCain and Romney didn't even try to hide their mutual disdain.

MITT ROMNEY: I'm not going to be a vice president to John McCain either.

REID: The most controversial choice would be independent Senator Joe Lieberman, one of McCain's closest friends, and like McCain, a stalwart defender of the war in Iraq. But on issues like abortion and gay rights, Lieberman is a liberal and choosing him would infuriate conservatives. Some of whom have already threatened to walk out at the convention if Lieberman is chosen. Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge may also be on the short list, but he, too, supports abortion rights. And a wildcard may still be under consideration is Meg Whittman, former CEO of Ebay. Some Republicans want McCain to pick a woman to highlight the fact that Barack Obama bypassed Hillary Clinton. Now, this is going to happen sometime around noon. A lot of people already waiting in line, but they, too, have no idea just who it's going to be, although many of them have very strong opinions. Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: CBS's Chip Reid in Dayton. Thank you Chip. Also joining us this morning in Dayton is Jill Hazelbaker, national communications director for John McCain's presidential campaign. Good morning, Jill.

JILL HAZELBAKER: Good morning, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: I know you will tell me this is John McCain is going to make the choice to make and to announce. But I just want your opinion. Do you think John McCain needs a VP who's going to complete the resume like a Mitt Romney or a Tim Pawlenty, or does he need an out of the box choice like a Joe Lieberman or a woman?

HAZELBAKER: Well, I know that John McCain is going to make the choice from his heart. He's going to choose someone who can be a partner in governing. He's going to choose someone who brings character and principle to the table and who shares his priorities. And I'm confident that he's going to make a great pick.

RODRIGUEZ: But he needs to make a splash somehow, especially after last night. 85,000 screaming supporters witnessing an historic nomination. That's significant. How do you top that?

HAZELBAKER: Well, Senator Obama gave an electrifying speech. There is no question that he has an incredible talent. What was disappointing about his speech last night was that he used an historic occasion to launch a series of bitter and negative and personal attacks, Maggie. Senator Obama, what is holding him back in this election, is the idea that he does not have the experience or the judgment to lead.

RODRIGUEZ: But Jill, he answered-

HAZELBAKER: And I don't think he did anything to solve that problem last night.

RODRIGUEZ: He -- I disagree because he answered, very directly, every criticism that John McCain has made about him from his readiness to be president, to his celebrity status, and everything in between, he gave very direct answers.

HAZELBAKER: Well, Maggie, I'm going to leave that to the American people to decide, but it's very clear that the early days of this convention were about people questioning Barack Obama's experience, his judgment, and his readiness to lead.

RODRIGUEZ: Quickly, have you made a decision about what to do about Gustav?

HAZELBAKER: Well, we're monitoring that situation very closely. Our hearts go out to all of the people in the Gulf region. It's a very concerning situation and we're going to be watching it closely.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright, Jill Hazelbaker, thank you.

HAZELBAKER: Thank you.

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