CBS’s Schieffer: Obama Cabinet ‘Bunch of Flaming Moderates’

Bob Schieffer and Harry Smith, CBS On Thursday’s "CBS Early Show," co-host Harry Smith talked discussed the Obama transition with Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer, who observed: "...a lot of people said this is going to be a very extremist president and all that, that he's a very liberal Democrat, but as we have seen in appointment after appointment, he's hewing to the center. He's picking a bunch of flaming moderates here, when you come right down t it.

"Now some liberal Democrats may not like that, but he's getting praised generally across the board here." Smith agreed: "Yeah, Bob, I would guess that the only people who really feel like they have their feathers ruffled are, maybe, the liberal Democrats."

In reality, Obama’s pick for secretary of state, New York Senator Hillary Clinton, has a lifetime American Conservative Union voting score of 9. Obama’s pick for commerce secretary, New Mexico Governor and former Congressman Bill Richardson, had an ACU score of 18 while in Congress. Obama’s chief of staff, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, has a score of 16.

One would think that "a bunch of flaming moderates" would have ACU ratings around 50, voting liberal only about half the time, not 80% of the time or more. Obama’s attorney general pick, Eric Holder, helped pardon convicted tax evader Marc Rich as deputy attorney general under Bill Clinton. Finally, Obama’s Homeland Security pick, Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, was an attorney for Anita Hill, who claimed to be sexually harassed by then Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

In a report that preceded Schieffer’s analysis, correspondent Chip Reid explained how Hispanics were upset that Obama had not named any Latinos to his administration beyond Bill Richardson. However, Reid did find that: "...the cabinet makeup is garnering some unexpected praise from other groups." A clip of former Minnesota congressman Vin Weber was played: "Republicans are very happy with these choices. They think it means a more centrist, in some cases even conservative, Obama Administration."

Schieffer also remarked on how well the Obama transition was going: "And I also have to say I think it's going very, very well...this transition, Harry -- and I've watched a lot of them -- is going more smoothly than any that I can recall. I mean, you haven't had any embarrassing gaffes so far, the leaks that have come, have all come true. I think this is one of the better transitions that we've had."

Schieffer brushed aside the concerns of Hispanics that Reid had reported: "You heard these complaints from various Hispanic spokesmen. That is really the only real blip here, the only real problem that we've seen surface as Barack Obama's begun to name his cabinet. And my sense is, and what I hear is, that will be taken care of." Schieffer also ignored the melodrama that preceded Hillary Clinton’s nomination involving Bill Clinton’s international financial dealings. He also left out Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell’s recent open mic gaffe about Obama’s Homeland Security pick, Janet Napolitano, saying she had "no life." That gaffe was discussed in the 7:30AM half hour of the show.

Smith later joined Shieffer in praising Obama’s smooth transition: "...every time I turn on the news, the only person I'm really seeing, the only person who looks like they have their hands on the wheel, it looks like the president-elect." Schieffer responded: "Well, again, you know, throughout this campaign, as you saw in debate after debate, the thing that seemed to impress people, it certainly impressed me, was the composure of Barack Obama. People want a president that they can be proud of, they want a president that they feel comfortable with in time of crisis. We have yet to see Barack Obama show any sense of being rattled."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:04AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: President-elect Obama has selected New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as his commerce secretary. And while there is diversity in Mr. Obama's cabinet, some Latinos complain it is not diverse enough. CBS News correspondent Chip Reid is in Washington with more. Good morning, Chip.

CHIP REID: Well, good morning, Harry. Barack Obama says diversity is important, but he says his number one criterion is getting the best person for the job. He says that's exactly what Bill Richardson is. During the campaign, presidential hopeful Barack Obama spoke the language of the Latino community, literally.

BARACK OBAMA: Si se puede. Yes, we can.

REID: And they listened. 67% of Hispanics voted for Mr. Obama, up from 53% who voted Democratic four years ago.

JOHN TRASVINA [Chairman, National Hispanic Leadership Agenda]: Of the states that changed from Republican states to Democratic states, four out of the nine were key Latino states.

REID: But one month after the historic election, many in the Latino community feel Mr. Obama hasn't yet held up his end of the bargain. On Wednesday, Mr. Obama nominated New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to be secretary of commerce. Seen by some Richardson supporters as a mere consolation prize after Hillary Clinton was picked to be secretary of state.

GEBE MARTINEZ [Political Analyst, Politico.com]: From the very beginning of the transition process, you have really heard only one prominent name mentioned and that is Bill Richardson.

REID: This week's national security team is a particular sore spot for some.

MARTINEZ: There were blacks, there were whites, there were men, there were women. There was no mention of Hispanics.

REID: But the cabinet makeup is garnering some unexpected praise from other groups.

VIN WEBER [Former Minnesota Congressman]: Republicans are very happy with these choices. They think it means a more centrist, in some cases even conservative, Obama Administration.

REID: With nearly seven weeks to go before his inauguration, the president-elect says it’s too early to draw any conclusions about the makeup of his cabinet, which is only half complete.

OBAMA: I think people are going to say this is one of the most diverse cabinets and White House staffs of all time.

REID: Mr. Obama says that in his experience, there is no conflict between diversity and excellence and he's intent on finding both. Harry.

SMITH: Chip Reid in Washington this morning. Thank you so much. Joining us now is Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent and host of Face the Nation. We're going to talk about the transition here, Bob. And people often -- so often talk about the first 100 days of an administration. Has not this first 100 days already started for the Obama group?

BOB SCHIEFFER: I don't think there's any question about it, Harry. And I also have to say I think it's going very, very well. You heard these complaints from various Hispanic spokesmen. That is really the only real blip here, the only real problem that we've seen surface as Barack Obama's begun to name his cabinet. And my sense is, and what I hear is, that will be taken care of. There are obviously going to be more Hispanics in the top levels of this administration, because the president-elect understands that Hispanic support for him was -- was significant.

SMITH: Yeah.

SCHIEFFER: But this -- this transition, Harry -- and I've watched a lot of them -- is going more smoothly than any that I can recall. I mean, you haven't had any embarrassing gaffes so far, the leaks that have come, have all come true. I think this is one of the better transitions that we've had.

SMITH: Yeah.

SCHIEFFER: The problem is the transition is going well. The world is not. The problems out there are getting worse and worse.

SMITH: You know, it's interesting, because he has said so often, President-elect Obama, that there's only one president at a time. But every time I turn on the news, the only person I'm really seeing, the only person who looks like they have their hands on the wheel, it looks like the president-elect.

SCHIEFFER: Well, again, you know, throughout this campaign, as you saw in debate after debate, the thing that seemed to impress people, it certainly impressed me, was the composure of Barack Obama. People want a president that they can be proud of, they want a president that they feel comfortable with in time of crisis. We have yet to see Barack Obama show any sense of being rattled. He recognizes the problems, he lets us know that, but so far, he's pretty much sticking to the plan that he set out, and this is, you know, a lot of people said this is going to be a very extremist president and all that, that he's a very liberal Democrat, but as we have seen in appointment after appointment, he's hewing to the center. He's picking a bunch of flaming moderates here, when you come right down t it. Now some liberal Democrats may not like that, but he's getting praised generally across the board here.

SMITH: Yeah, Bob, I would guess that the only people who really feel like they have their feathers ruffled are, maybe, the liberal Democrats. Bob, thank you so much as always, do appreciate it, sir.

SCHIEFFER: You bet, Harry.

SMITH: Alright, Bob Schieffer.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Pretty ironic, huh?

SMITH: Yeah, indeed. Russ Mitchell is at the news desk this morning. How you doing, Russ?

RUSS MITCHELL: I'm doing just fine. Flaming moderates, you don't hear that too often. [Laughter] Good morning guys and good morning everyone-

SMITH: A new breed.

MITCHELL: The new breed.

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